Everything was set for the big night; today was the 10th Anniversary Gala Concert. But let’s go step by step and talk about of the rest of the day first, as there were a total of 7 events going to be held, most of them at the at the Pałac Krzysztofory, a very centric, well-equipped and convenient place.
The first was at 10:00 a.m. “MASTER CLASS: Sell yourself – how to get work and stand out from the masses” with Chris Brown, to be followed later by 11:00 a.m. “Q&A: Abel Korzeniowski” hosted by Łukasz Maciejewski with composer Abel Korzeniowksi at the Academy of Music in Krakow, that was completely full of music students and fans of film music alike, in a very interesting event.
Changing places, and back to Pałac Krzysztofory, at 11:15 a.m. “MASTER CLASS: The Real Music Wizards Behind the Curtain: the Composer & Orchestrator as a Team” was held with Trevor Morris & David Shipps, where they talked about how it is important to find your own voice and how composing is always a teamwork with many people involved in the process, especially the Orchestrator.
The highlight of the morning arrived at 12:30 p.m. “Q&A: Howard Shore” hosted by Daniel Carlin with Howard Shore. The conference hall was completely full, with people sitting even on the floor. During the event, Howard Shore shared experiences and confessed he composes and orchestrates by himself, and later conducts the orchestra, as he doesn’t want to have his vision of the music spoiled.
A very interesting conference, where unfortunately the host didn’t leave space for questions from the audience, and many of the questions he asked were not very fortunate. After the Q&A a crowd approached Howard Shore for a signature, and he gently took the time to attend most of the people (if not all) in the room.
Overlapping with the Q&A, the “FMF4KIDS: Intergalactic ethnography” workshop for kids 6-12 years old was being held at 1:00 p.m. at The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków with Nina Kulik.
Later at the Pałac Krzysztofory at 2:00 p.m. “PANEL: The Film Market – Welcoming the New Generation” was carried on, hosted by Ray Costa with the participation of Doreen Ringer-Ross, Darren Blumenthal, Shawn LeMone, Jana Davidoff and Christine Russell, followed at 3:30 p.m. by “MASTER CLASS: Music – The Invisible Actor” with Richard Bellis, where veteran composer showed once more how music plays a role as important in the movie, as it was another actor.
At night, the big moment of the festival arrived, the “All Is Film Music – 10th FMF Anniversary Gala” concert, which was being held at TAURON Arena Kraków at 6:00 p.m. There we were going to enjoy more than 3 and a half hours of music!!, with the performances of the Pro Musica Mundi Choir and the Beethoven Academy Orchestra, conducted by the great energy and commitment of Diego Navarro (who had also Brian Tyler, Trevor Morris and Abel Korzeniowski as guest conductors during the concert).
But before talking about the concert in detail, let’s have a look at the full program:
The night started at 6:00 p.m. sharp with the choir and the orchestra taking the stage, and a full arena of nearly 15.000 seats welcoming them with a big applause. After an introduction of the concert and the gala, the first piece started, Symphonic Suite from Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring – Howard Shore under the attentive baton of Diego Navarro, where unfortunately the performance of the solo boy from the choir wasn’t as good as expected, being out of tune in some parts of the theme.
Then Star Wars (Imperial March) – John Williams came, firmly performed, but with a percussion too strong and over-amplified that sometimes overlapped the sound of the rest of the orchestra. Following, a delicious tribute to Carrie Fisher was played with Star Wars (Princess Leia’s Theme) – John Williams, where fantastic Sara Andon’s flute performance gave a new musical dimension to the piece.
Next theme was Finding Neverland – Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, that had the participation of the choir and that was excellently executed. After a brief video message by James Newton Howard, congratulating the festival for the 10th anniversary, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (The Hanging Tree) was performed, with singer Natasza Urbańska, who accelerated too much some passages of the song, but had in overall a good performance, especially when the full chorus joined at the end of the theme.
A piece that I had never heard before came next, Sługi Boże (Humble Servants) – Maciej Zielinski, which really surprised me by its quality, delivering a thriller sensation at the beginning to end with an action mood. A very nice suite that lasted nearly 8 minutes with the performances of Martin Tillman at the electric cell and Michał Dąbrówka at the percussion.
The presentation of the FMF Ambassador Award came next, that was given to Robert Townson, founder of the renowned Varèse Sarabande record label and a strategic partner and collaborator of the festival since its first edition, who has done a tireless work to share and release film music. After the brief ceremony, the concert continued with a good performance of Fargo – Jeff Russo to jump immediately into a fantastic world premiere of Beauty and The Beast – Alan Menken that had again Sara Andon gracefully playing the flute, giving a wonderful, tender and loving touch to the piece.
Arriving to the end of the first part of the concert, when it was approximately 7:10 p.m., Brian Tyler came on stage to conduct a 20-minute selection of his music for big blockbuster movies, including a world premiere of The Mummy. Thor: The Dark World was first, strong, fast and energetic, setting the tone for Power Rangers with some references to the original song, jumping later to nice Celtic arrangements of Assassins’ Creed IV: The Black Flag. And when the audience thought it couldn’t get higher, the power and velocity of Fast and Furious 8 arrived, to later give way to the premiere of The Mummy (Ahamet Theme). The piece was soft, ethnic and melodic, and had the participation of the choir, ending this block with the frantic and fantastic performance of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Wonderful Brian Tylers’ mini-concert, that charged the batteries of the audience just before getting to the intermission.
The first part, that lasted 1 hour and a half and ended at 7:30 p.m., could have been a whole concert by itself, but the night was not over; we still had more to come! The second part started past 8:00 p.m. and after a greeting message from Hans Zimmer, regretting he couldn’t be at the festival this year, Inception (Time) – Hans Zimmer was played. A good beginning that included some interesting guitar parts, going next to Belfer – Atanas Volkov where the composer appeared on stage to play piano, in a very interesting six-minute piece that made me want to listen more of his music.
At 8:15 p.m. the moment for the FMF Young Talent Award came, an award that had 100 candidates from 16 countries, where Polish Paweł Górniak got the first place. This year’s contest consisted in scoring a scene from the TV series The Emerald City and after the award mini-ceremony, Trevor Morris went on stage to conduct the orchestra, first with Pawel’s suite and then to his 10-minute long own suite. Trevor’s suite started soft, and briefly presented the lullaby that’s the main theme for the series, imprinting the melody in the audience’s musical memory. Then it moved quickly into a strong section that lead later to many other rhythm and tone changes during the suite, summarizing the spirit of the TV series and narrating a story by itself. Intelligent, well developed and fantastically orchestrated suite.
Abel Korzeniowski appeared on stage to conduct the next piece, Penny Dreadful, which had two differentiated parts with a brief stop in the middle and then gave way to Diego Navarro, who took the baton again, with energies renewed, to conduct a wonderfully performed and delicious Unfaithful – Jan A.P. Kaczmarek.
Singer Edyta Górniak was the main figure of the next theme Dreamgirls (Listen) – Stephen Trask, with a powerful voice that put a counterpoint to all the score themes we had listened in this second part. And talking about “Dreamgirls”, a big homage appeared next on screen with a giant picture that had 40 portraits of many of the volunteers that make this festival possible, mostly girls. The volunteers are the people that are in charge day by day of conferences, panels, guests, and many other aspects of a big festival like this, making sure everything goes soft and smoothly. They do a wonderful job! But I will comment more about this at the end of the article.
It was 9:00 p.m. and Sean Callery and his “Jazz Band” came on stage, composed of Sean Callery (acoustic piano), Benoit Grey (acoustic bass), Jamie Forsyth (percussion), Przemek Sokół (trumpet) and Szymon Mika (electric guitar) for a nearly 10 minute performance with music from Homeland. It was the third time I had listened to this piece by Sean Callery and his band live (MOSMA, World Soundtrack Awards, and now Krakow FMF), and the performance was excellent, but maybe I liked a bit more the sound it had at the World Soundtrack Awards. Anyway, the band played wonderfully, but unfortunately, the images that were shown on screen during the performance were not adequate most of the time, as they focused either on the TV shows’ clips or on Sean’s face, instead of following his hands at the piano and the rest of his band fellows’ performances.
And after a big applause, Sean Callery stayed on stage to conduct the orchestra to his music for 24 – Live Another Day and Legacy. Next Diego Navarro took the baton again for a world premiere of La La Land – Justin Hurwitz, with Benoit Grey at the acoustic bass, in a suite wonderfully played, where you could see orchestra members smiling while joyfully performed their melodies. Nobody could stay quiet, Diego conducted and “danced”, the orchestra played and moved their heads and the audience was also following the rhythm of the suite with their feet and hands. Fantastic moment and a big ovation from the public!
Arriving to the end of the concert, the moment for the Wojciech Kilar Award came, presented to Howard Shore by Krakow and Katowice’s mayors, with long speeches in Polish, that paused the rhythm of the night with a 15 minute break, which was too long in my opinion and should be shortened in future editions.
And going for the last two pieces of the night, in homage to Howard Shore, Diego Navarro took the baton again, to strongly and precisely conduct The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King (The Lighting of The Beacons) and The Lord of The Rings (The Last March of the Ents/Mount Doom/The Destruction of the Ring) having this last one the full energy of the choir and the wonderful voice of Joanna Radziszewska (soprano solo). Fantastic conducting job and wonderful performance of the orchestra and choir.
And this way, when it was nearly 9:50 p.m., ended a long night full of music, with the public offering an equally long and continuous applause with a standing ovation. The gala, which had musical space for everybody involved in the festival, was perfectly produced and performed, and we all loved it, despite its long duration.
Sunday was the “last” big day of the festival (even if two more days were left, but not as packed with concerts and events as the previous ones). The program this morning was going to be very complete but difficult to follow, as there were many events going on simultaneously in two places (Pałac Krzysztofory and ICE Kraków Congress Centre), and you had to choose, as it was not possible to attend them all.
The morning started at 11:00 a.m. with “PANEL: TV series, film, and video game – co-operation between director and composer” hosted by Jerzy Armata with Mariusz Gawryś, Atanas Valkov, Maciej Zieliński and Marcin Przybyłowicz (Pałac Krzysztofory) but also simultaneously had at 11:00 a.m. “Varѐse Sarabande presents: ‘SCORE’ ” with producer Robert Kraft introducing the movie (ICE Kraków Congress Centre).
At 12:00 p.m. “FMF Youth Orchestra Plays Star Wars” concert was held, performed by the FMF Youth Orchestra & FMF Youth Choir conducted by Monika Bachowska at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre, Auditorium Hall / S1, which I unfortunately missed as I was doing an interview for SoundTrackFest.
At the same time, at 12:30 p.m. “PANEL: A pact with electronics. About the backstage of work on TV series” introduced by Kinga Wojciechowska and with Łukasz Targosz was being held at Pałac Krzysztofory.
Maybe the most interesting panel of the day was at 1:00 p.m. “Varѐse Sarabande presents: Afterlife of Film Music, 3rd Edition” hosted by Robert Townson and with the participation of Howard Shore, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Brian Tyler, Sean Callery, Jean-Michel Bernard and Sara Andon (ICE Kraków Congress Centre). From all the panels of the festival, this was the one that had most composers in it, and showed very interesting points of view of how music is having a second or third life in concert halls detached from the movie.
Howard Shore stated that John Mauceri told him how if a music is not taken from a movie to a concert hall to be performed, it “dies” there, so even if it took him 1 year to un-archive all the scores, he embarked on creating Lord of the Rings Symphony, a fantastic idea! The panel also had Jean-Michel Bernard (piano) and Sara Andon (flute) play some tunes live, and Sean Callery joining Jean-Michel later for some jazzy-improvisation. After the panel, a signing session was organized (like in every panel/Q&A involving composers), but in this case, a long queue was formed as we had four big composers at once!
Other panels that were held that morning were:
- 1:00 p.m. “Sounds of Spitsbergen” with Jerzy Wiciak (Pałac Krzysztofory).
- 2:00 p.m. “PANEL: Music in Polish film industry” hosted by Agata Grabowiecka and participated by Maciej Strzembosz, Robert Kijak, Michał Turnau, Anna Malarowska, Tarik Hachoud, Michał Kwieciński and Patrycja Bukowska (Pałac Krzysztofory).
- 2:00 p.m. “FMF4KIDS: Fantasy Stories” workshop at The Ethnographic Museum in Kraków with Nina Kulik for kids 6-12 years old.
- 3:00 p.m. “Q&A: Brian Tyler” hosted by Doreen Ringer-Ross with Brian Tyler (ICE Kraków Congress Centre).
And with all the panels/conferences of the day finished, at 6:00 p.m. was time for TITANIC Live in Concert at the TAURON Arena Kraków with Sinfonietta Cracovia and the Boys Choir of the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ludwig Wicki, playing the fabulous James Horner’s music while movie was screened, a movie that is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017.
It’s amazing how the movie can still surprise you and how you can still find small details you haven’t perceived before, both in the picture and in the music. But the most amazing fact was that the performance was perfect. And let me bold and underline the word perfect again. It was the best live orchestra to picture I’ve ever attended. The balance of the orchestra, voices and sound effects was perfectly engineered, so no sound overlapping happened even if you had strong action/tension scenes with people talking, effects happening and orchestra passionately playing the music. Ludwig Wicki’s conducting was amazing; sharp, accurate and committed, with the orchestra following his instructions with incredible precision.
At the end, Edyta Górniak “replaced” Celine Dion when singing “My Heart Will Go On”, giving us goosebumps to close a perfect concert. An amazing TITANIC Live in Concert experience, which received a well-deserved long ovation.
Even if a most of the guests left on Sunday and nearly the rest left Monday morning, the festival still had two more days to go with a free access Outdoor Cinema Screening of Top Gun on Monday (just the movie, no orchestra) and a reprise of the concert “FMF Youth orchestra Plays Star Wars” performed by the FMF Youth Orchestra & FMF Youth Choir conducted by Monika Bachowska in The Krzysztof Penderecki European Center for Music in Zakliczyn (free access with invitation).
Well, and that’s all!! To end this third article, for the longest review of a festival I remember writing in SoundTrackFest, I’ll go for a recap of Krakow Film Music Festival 2017, talking about strong points and point to improve for next year’s editions, but as always, in a constructive and positive way.
WEAK POINTS TO IMPROVE
- If KBF (Krakowskie Biuro Festiwalowe) is the spine of the festival, volunteers are the muscle of the festival. They were nearly everywhere, in charge of the correct development of all the activities, spread during the festival in many points of Krakow (panels, concerts, guiding guests, etc…). They were properly acknowledged with a big “Thank You” during the gala, but this year it felt like they were overloaded with work comparing to last year. They were attentive and helpful as always, never losing the smile on the face, but you could see they didn’t have enough time to attend everybody as they wanted. The festival has grown bigger, each and every year, and the task force behind it has to grow accordingly, otherwise, problems will arise and then it will be late to address them. So my suggestion for the organization is to be careful with this point, and try to dedicate more resources to the volunteers section, as they’re the ambassadors of the festival for the people.
- Jeff Russo was supposed to be attending the festival, but finally, he couldn’t come (due to music changes and rescheduling in the 3rd season of Fargo, as I was told). That’s something normal that happens with composers in many festivals. Anyway, people were asking if he was coming or not, and when he would arrive, but we didn’t get a straight answer, and finally, he didn’t come. I understand that last minute changes happen, but they should be announced as soon as possible, in the same way that attendances are announced: publicly and clearly.
- The “last day”, Sunday, there were many events going on at the same time. The Star Wars Concert, SCORE Documentary screening, and Q&As were happening at ICE Kraków Congress Centre while Polish composers’ conferences and other panels were being held at Pałac Krzysztofory, making people having to choose one or the other. This should be avoided, if possible.
- Speeches during the concerts (introduction speeches, awards speeches or authorities speeches), should be shortened as much as possible as they break the rhythm of the events. Also many times, those speeches were only in Polish so they really gave no extra information to people coming from abroad. Talking about this with other journalists, they coincided that there was too much talking in some concerts (15 minutes in Cinematic Piano for example). I know it can be difficult to solve this, but has to be considered a possible improvement point.
- Having a CD specially produced for every year’s festival, with themes from composers that are going to attend the concerts is a wonderful idea. Also having a CD shop next to the places where conferences were held and in the concert venues, is really very nice. You can always buy music from composers you have discovered that night, or find a CD you were missing from your favorite composer (either Polish or from other countries).
- Taking film music to the streets, with many small mini-concerts that you could enjoy in the main square of Krakow or in some other places, but especially with the fantastic free-entrance outdoor DJ party with Giorgio Moroder, was an incredible idea! Film music sharing the streets, close to the people! This kind of activities should be promoted, extended and strengthened in future editions.
- The Pałac Krzysztofory, which held most of the conferences, panels and Q&A with composers, is a well-equipped place with simultaneous translation in English/Polish, a big conference room, adjacent resting area and is just in the center of the city, very conveniently located. A place to keep for future editions.
- All the concerts and most of the events (Q&A, panels, master classes) were properly photographed and recorded, so the next day you could find brief video recaps at the official website and Facebook, along with pictures. It’s fantastic to have fast and complete information updates daily through the official channels, demonstrating the professionality of the press and communication office of the festival. I’m not sure if it’s possible, or if it’s easy, to release the videos of the concerts of the festival (or least the “big” ones, like the 10th Anniversary Gala or Abel Korzeniowski’s concert). But I’m sure people would really appreciate a good DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Download edition of those concerts; both to remember the moments lived there and to enjoy the magic of the festival for those who couldn’t attend. And being this year the 10th Anniversary, the festival deserves a special treatment, doesn’t it?
- The city of Krakow is very well prepared through KBF (Krakowskie Biuro Festiwalowe), to carry and organize an event like FMF. Both professionals and volunteers, work very hard every year to bring an impressive program that fulfills and exceeds our best expectations and wishes. Bravo for them!
- And last but not least, I’m going to repeat what I said last year, as it is still one of the main points of the festival: The proximity of the composers and the friendliness of the festival’s organization members and volunteers, is one of the strengths of Krakow FMF. There, both audiences, professional and amateur, are treated with affection and respect, without elitism or classism, having many opportunities to interact and exchange information during the many events that are held, which are free, open, close and participatory. A luxury!
So let’s recap this whole “In Summary” section in one sentence: Krakow Film Music Festival is the most complete and the best film music festival in the world. Period. As simple that. As straight as that.
In one week full of concerts and events (so many that’s impossible to attend them all), you have everything you want and more: Do you want orchestral concerts and movie concerts?… Done! You have 7! Panels, master classes and meetings with composers?… Yes, you have that also! More than 20! Workshops?… Of course! Musical activities for kids? Yes! World premiere documentary screening?… Got it! Late night film music DJ party?… Done!
There’s not a single thing that you can think of that hasn’t been done in this year’s 10th Anniversary celebration (and if it wasn’t there, you can be sure it will be added to next year’s edition).
So, even if I’m not sure if there’s much place for improvement in the program for next year, I can bet that the organization will surprise us again, and there’s one thing I know for sure: I’ll be attending Krakow FMF 11 in 2018, and I encourage you to come and celebrate film music with us! There’s no better place in the world for it!
Gorka Oteiza (SoundTrackFest)