Movie Score Malaga – MOSMA held its 8th edition this summer (read more) and our colleague and collaborator Reme Díaz brings us, in her extensive and detailed article, a fabulous summary of what was experienced there.
The eighth installment of MOSMA (Movie Score Malaga) was held from July 13th to 16th and it was organized by Málaga Procultura (Festival de Málaga) and the Málaga City Council. This year there was a bit of controversy regarding the dates of the festival, as they were announced a week later than usual, and considering this year MOSMA would take place the same days as Fimucité, as well as other music-related events in Málaga and near places (such as Andrea Morricone´s IconicaFest and Ludovico Einaudi’s Starlite gigs). Truth be told, while the MOSMA dates were announced with some advancement, the programme was made public barely a month before the festival itself. So it was a big deal, especially for people and fans coming from different places in Spain and even abroad.
Besides, this MOSMA installment wasn’t particularly appealing to movie music aficionados beforehand, as no big names were announced (bar Diane Warren, obviously), while past editions had composers like Trevor Jones, Roque Baños and Gustavo Santaolalla. Neither David Arnold was in this year’s programme, after his 2022 absence, which was made public just a few weeks before the first concert.
Mind you, we don’t mean this year’s guest composers were second rate at all, as everyone in Málaga enjoyed great talent coming from artists who maybe don’t have fame and awards, and most important, who are not appreciated enough. However, the presence of Simon Franglen, Murray Gold and Natalie Holt was a delight for movie music connoisseurs, but maybe it could go unnoticed for greater audiences, unfortunately.
Let’s start this review of every MOSMA 2023 concert.
The curtain of the Cervantes Theatre was raised with the opening concert A Gothic Horror Tale. Horror in movie music. The music of Richard Band, The Newton Brothers and Fantaterror (Spanish Horror), performed by the Málaga Symphonic Orchestra (OSM) and the Granada Chamber Choir, on Thursday July 13th. But just the day before there was a special screening of the Coda documentary film, as MOSMA 2023 was dedicated to recently deceased Ryuichi Sakamoto.
This first concert had a fine, varied and beautifully structured programme. It kicked off with an inspired suite with classic horror themes, such as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Tales From The Crypt and Amazing Stories, all of them masterfully conducted by Arturo Díez Boscovich. The opening suite was by far the most recognized music by the audience, as the rest of the concert we enjoyed a selection of hidden gems, less known but delightful nonetheless. The sound of the OSM and the Choir was terrific, although the male voices were a bit overshadowed by the female ones at first.
The visual part of the concert –and the Festival in general- was a bit rough and could use some improvement and thought: just some looped still images, with some sync issues (for example at the end of the Amazing Stories part). It’s a bit shocking, considering that previous editions of MOSMA were particularly spot on in terms of stage design and lightning. On the other hand, it was a great idea the on-screen introduction of every performer and conductor.
Maestro Boscovich cleared the way for another MOSMA regular, Joan Martorell, who conducted the suite based on The Newton Brothers music, and a surprising set it was. We got hooked on the versatility of their scores, such as Doctor Sleep Main Theme, The Haunting of Hill House and The Midnight Club. But the real highlights came with the spectacular music from Midnight Mass -which included a long and moving churchlike hymn performed by the Choir a cappella-, and also with the world premiere of The Fall Of The House Of Usher.
The grandiose and epic work by Luc Suárez for The Nun took a deep dive, in a perfect blend of horror and drama, as Martorell pointed out when introducing the suite. The projections of the suite maybe showed a bit too much of the movie.
The fourth suite was orchestrated by Javier Bayón, who was on stage performing the sound effects. This suite was focused on Fantaterror, a Spanish Subgenre mixing fantasy and horror in late 60´s and 70´s. The daunting process of finding the sheets and the source documents for this music it’s worth mentioning, and it deserves much credit. As Martorell himself explained, it was an ardous work of searching and adapting, often by hear, a precious music which could be lost forever if they weren’t rescued by events like MOSMA.
The most emotional and touching moment came with the suite of the music of Spanish TV and movie director Narciso (Chicho) Ibáñez Serrador. Just before the music started, we could see a piece of a TV show, in which he confessed the friendship turned into brotherhood with composer Waldo de los Ríos, who created the music for almost all Chicho’s film and TV work. It was a short but moving love letter for the horror genre, and therefore for horror music.
After the signature Historias para no dormir opening sound (the screeching door and the horrifying scream), we enjoyed music by the great Antón García Abril (Dr. Jekyll y el hombre lobo, La noche del terror ciego and La noche de Walpurgis, which lacked a bit of oomph for the sound of the choir), Alfonso Santisteban (El asesino de las Muñecas) and obviously, Waldo de los Ríos. The haunting lullaby with children voices ate the beginning of ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? made the way for the startling music from La Residencia. At the end of the suite, Chicho made a final appearance on screen to bid farewell. A perfect closure.
Arturo Díez Boscovich came back to conduct one of his own works, Urubú, which is a sequel of the before-mentioned ¿Quién puede matar a un niño?, and is directed by Chicho’s son Alejandro Ibáñez, so it was a proper connection with the previous suite. Without a doubt, it was one of the highlights of the concert, with a remarkable energy in Boscovich conducting and a phenomenal performance by the OSM. We cannot stress enough the powerful voice of soprano Berna Perles in this unforgettable piece.
The concert ended with another eerie suite by Javier Bayón, based on the music of Richard Band, one of the guest composers of MOSMA 2023. Band received the MOSMA Maestro Award from Díez Boscovich himself and confessed he was thankful to Spain, as he found his inspiration to be a music composer after assisting to a flamenco show when he was a kid. He bought a guitar and started writing music after that. But we also found inspiration and energy in this first MOSMA date. We still had three more movie music ahead, and they would be magical.
That’s the way we can define the musical term Coda, also the title of the 2017 documentary film about Ryuichi Sakamoto and a fit way to express what we’d live in the second MOSMA concert. It’s the third time MOSMA brings an homage to a recently deceased composer. After Morricone and Vangelis, we had the sad news about Sakamoto’s passing in March.
There was a narrative focus, not chronological, with fragments of the documentary intertwined between the music pieces, giving even more meaning and emotion to the setlist performed by the Movie Score Málaga Assemblé Orchestra in the Echegaray Theatre. We enjoyed some reimaginations of themes of the Japanese artist, which could shock some purists at first glance. Maybe some of them were expecting pieces like The Last Emperor of The Sheltering Sky with an orchestral approach. However, we found this concert, produced by Sergio de la Puente, to be maybe the best in this year’s MOSMA.
There was a big anticipation for this concert, with the Sold Out sign hanging at the venue. But we couldn’t anticipate the surprising sounds of the first suite with themes from Snake Eyes, Little Buddha and Hoshi ni natta shônen. The anime-styled song was beautifully performed by Carmencita Calavera with Javier Bayón on keyboards, conductor Isabel Rubio on percussion and Luc Suárez on electric guitar. Although Pablo Florido wasn´t on electric bass and double bass, as announced earlier.
The next piece was from Almodóvar’s High Heels, arranged by Xavi Capellas, also playing the piano along with the orchestra, led by Joan Martorell. An original sound with some Eastern touch, which gave the film its own identity (keep in mind it is one of the few Almodóvar films without Alberto Iglesias involvement in the score).
Martorell also arranged the medley suite for Tong Poo and The Last Emperor, which made an excellent crescendo soundscape, evolving from the experimental sound to a really bombastic experience. It was a pleasant surprise having that mix of known melodies with new sounds. Honestly, a perfect match.
The next two suites were from The Revenant (arrangements by Luc Suárez, blending analogue and programmed sounds, with Javier Bayón on stage) and a minimalistic, jazzy version of The Sheltering Sky, arranged and performed by pianist Nani García.
The minimalistic approach was part of the homage to Sakamoto’s musical style. Josué Vergara’s piano rendition of Minamata left the audience overwhelmed and deeply moved. You could think it was goodbye for us, given it was one of Sakamoto’s last scores. Far from that. A young Sakamoto appeared on screen, sharing youth energy and doubts at the start of a career that would touch so many people, to his surprise. That introspective but also euphoric energy took the stage by storm with the last suite, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Javier Bayón conducted the first part of a very special set, with an enthusiastic audience clapping hands. Joan Martorell took the place to the moon with a very different version of the main theme of the movie.
Sergio de la Puente thanked the audience and also the orchestra and composers for their arrangements. The encore played again Hoshi ni natta shônen, much to the audience delight.
But the concert had a Coda of its own. An intimate epilogue with Sakamoto rumbling on his piano about those music notes which stand still until they disappear into the ambient noise, and also about eternity. Although the final projection took some assistants already leaving their seats, it was a good way to wrap up the concert. As those notes becoming echo just before vanishing, the work of Ryuichi Sakamoto will remain eternal in our memory.
The third MOSMA night really took us on a journey through fantasy movies and TV music, in an epic concert which this time did have a packed Cervantes Theatre. At the end, Saturdays are usually the perfect day to many people to attend the Festival, be them Doctor Who fans, orjust to have the chance to listen to music from their favourite movies and TV shows, maybe to discover new soundtracks of emerging composers like Nathalie Holt or award winning ones like Simon Franglen. This time none of time appeared on stage to conduct or to say hello to the audience, just until the very end of the night. No big deal though, you could see them enjoying the concert next to you in their seats.
This was another chance for the OSM and the Granada Chamber Choir to shine, this time conducted by the elegant and eloquent Isabel Rubio, who also acted as master of ceremonies, as she usually does in MOSMA.
The first suite, orchestrated by the Ferrando Brothers, was based on very popular themes for fantasy and Sci-Fi movies and shows, such as Star Wars (John Williams), Star Trek The Next Generation (Jerry Goldsmith), Flash (Queen), The Orville (Bruce Broughton), The Mandalorian (Ludwig Goransson) and Guardians Of The Galaxy (Tyler Bates). Maybe these last two pieces were much shorter than the rest of them, as anticipated as they were. Moreover, the choir was barely heared in this suite, so it lost part of the energy that the orchestra did have in themes like Farscape (Guy Ross). This incidence was partly solved for the rest of the evening, but you can´t help thinking there was something that prevented us enjoying this magnificent choir in its full potential.
The second suite, arranged by Javier Bayón, was solely dedicated to the work of Richard Band, but this time from his fantasy and Science Fiction movies, instead of his horror soundtracks we enjoyed the first MOSMA day. Band is a wonderful composer, but unfortunately less known by many. It was the perfect time to discover frenetic and misterious melodies like Metalstorm, Robowarrior and The Day Time Ended. Band proves that B movies can have A-list music. But again, the background projections were a bit lackluster, even with mistakes in some titles. But anyway, the set was phenomenal.
The next section of the concert was dedicated to one of this year’s special guests, Nathalie Holt. We were treated to two incredible suites of her best known TV shows, Loki and Obi-Wan Kenobi, both of them were world premieres in MOSMA. The mix of the Martenot Waves, played live with a full orchestra, was the perfect match between opera sounds, both majestic and dramatic, made way to a much more contained music for Obi-Wan. Holt admitted, when she had the encounter with fans on Sunday, that she had less freedom to create the soundtrack than in Loki, as she had to integrate the main theme by John Williams. In any case, it really is a soundtrack worthy of the Star Wars musical legacy.
Just by the end of the first half of the concert came the Doctor Who suite, with the composer for seasons 1 to 10 Murray Gold as another guest in MOSMA with his adorable family. It was one of the most anticipated moments for the fans of the long-lasting TV show, who cheered enthusiastically at the introduction of the block and made so much noise at the end of it to show their joy. They certainly had their reasons for it, given the energy music like the main theme by Ron Grainer and the brilliant I Am The Doctor brought to the stage. In this suite we could also enjoy the choir and the wonderful voice of Alba Moreno Chantar, who also sang last MOSMA edition in the Harold Faltermeyer concert.
Before the final part, the head of Malaga Procultura, Juan Antonio Vigar and the head of contents for MOSMA, David Doncel, handed the MOSMA Maestro award to Carlos Calón and José María Mellado, who couldn´t attend because of schedule problems. Vigar admitted this award should have been given in the first installment of MOSMA, to acknowledge other film music festivals who were truly pioneers, like the Sevilla festival series, which inspired events like this. Doncel also wanted to pay homage to Carlos Colón for his inspiration to start festivals like Úbeda 2005, which was really the seed to MOSMA.
Carlos Colón had an honest and moving speech, going through his life and his inconditional love for film music. He reclaimed the respect and value this kind of music deserves to have, and the joy it brings, beyond mere symphonic versions and enjoying it the way it was created originally: “A music that says what we know, but we don’t understand yet”, he emphasized. He also stated this kind of events fulfill three premises: it has to have live music on stage, it must be listened by and audience and it must be written by some composers who must receive the applause of that audience.
After a long and sincere ovation, the concert ended with the Avatar 2: The Way Of Water suite by Simon Franglen, also a special guest in MOSMA 2023. The set started honoring his mentor, James Horner, who passed in 2015. It was a privilege to enjoy a demanding and brilliant 15-minute block, which also worked as a summary of all things Avatar. And this time we had a magnificent background projection, perfectly in sync with the orchestra. The suite showed how Franglen has picked up the Horner mantle and has provided even more gravitas, mixed with minimalistic ethnic elements.
Finally, after a moving thank-you message to the OSM and the Granada Chamber Choir, the guest composers and orchestrators, we had two more encore pieces. The first one was the premiere of The Primevals, by Richard Band and arrangements by Javier Bayón. The second was a reprise of the I Am The Doctor theme from Doctor Who, which was the perfect way to wrap it up.
It’s already an established MOSMA tradition to surprise us with at least one unconventional concert every year. The closing event was inspired by the music of Diane Warren, and it was truly a surprise for everyone. The quality of the songs really crushed any prejudice against pop music in a film music festival. Again, a full packed Cervantes Theatre was the place to end properly MOSMA 2023.
After an introduction video about Diane Warren and her works, we happily met again on stage with Isabel Vázquez, dearly missed in the encounters with composers and aficionados. Acting as a wonderful master of ceremonies, Isabel welcomed Diane between the orchestra musicians and performers. Almost 20 minutes later, the music finally started, by the Soho Larios Pop Orchestra and its conductor, Arturo Díez Boscovich, along with the MOSMA Voices choir (with singers from Gospel It, who already were in last year’s MOSMA final concert with Marc Shaiman). The lightning was more fit for a pop music concert and the patio stalls area was barely lit to create a proper connection between the audience and the performers. This was really a good decision.
The setlist didn’t follow the initial plan, as the concert started with Because You Loved me, from Up Close & Personal, masterfully performed by Lorena Calero. The song began with just piano and voice, evolving in a slow crescendo with the orchestra and the choir at the end of it. There was a formidable blend of songs for movies with pop hits written by Diane, like the 80’s hymn Rhythm of the Night, sung by Adriana Rogan with her powerful voice, also inviting the audience to take part of the experience. Most of the performers didn’t move much around the stage, and were by the music stand almost the whole gig, except Sonia Villar. It was a bit shocking, but we assume they really needed to rely on the printed lyrics, although the performances were top notch of each and every one.
Noelia Franco brought a rather enjoyable medley of two LeAnn Rimes songs, Can´t Find The Moonlight, from Coyote Ugly and How Do I Live from Con Air. After a timid start, Noelia truly got her voice and performance at their best in the second half of the set.
Lorena Calero came back on stage, this time with a more rockier apparel, to sing the Cher megahit Turn Back Time, with the MOSMA Voices choir also in another smash hit by Warren, How Can We Be Lovers for Michael Bolton. The mix of these two songs was a no brainer, but it was too loud at times.
Armaggedon’s I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing took our hearts through Marta Ribera’s unique voice and stage persona. An intimate performance with no chorus, so touching the audience reaction made the final orchestra notes almost inaudible. After another song by Lorena Calero (Only Love Can Hurt Like This, a rendition containing every ingredient from the musical theatre), Marta Ribera came back to sing Til It Happens To You, from the 2016 Academy Awards nominee The Hunting Ground, by Warren and Lady Gaga.
It was a phenomenal pop classics session. No surprise here, as 14 times nominee Warren finally got an Honorary Award in 2022, the only songwriter to date. She confessed to be happy just to be considered, and having five songs between the Oscars nominees is quite the achievement.
Another a capela turned into crescendo with the choir and orchestra came with Adriana Rogán’s I Will Get There, an astounding and moving version. But the emotions didn’t stop there, as Io sì by Alba Moreno Chantar had serious opera vibes, another take on the 2020 Golden Globe winner Laura Pausini’s classic song.
It was R&B time with Sonia Villar. None other than two Tony Braxton’s hits, Spanish Guitar and Un-break My Heart, this one ending in a bombastic duet with Alba Moreno. Diane Warren was impressed, and MC Isabel Vázquez asked her to express her reaction in a few words in Spanish. “¡Jo, impresionante!” (“Wow, amazing!”) was a good summary of her and our experience that night. But we still had more to live. First, the Noelia Franco version of the Journey theme, and then Adriana sang Fire Inside bringing Latin sounds and beats to her performance. But the best was yet to come.
Quite the OMG moment of the concert, Diane Warren on piano and singer Sofia Carson reprised the 2023 Academy Awards ceremony performance of Applause, from Tell It Like A Woman, the latest award nomination in Warren’s astounding career. Sofia was approachable, with a strong sense of complicity with Warren and the audience, and dedicated his performance to every woman, as Warren did in her Oscars ceremony speech, although this time in Spanish. This song was the highlight of the concert, with a powerful combination of her voice with the MOSMA Voices choir.
Just before the end, Antonio Banderas came on stage to hand Warren the MOSMA Maestro Award. The audience went nuts, it was truly a time of joy. There was a bit of confusion with people coming in and out, but it was all part of the fun of the moment. Partly the success of this concert was the appeal of having the orchestra, choir and performers from Banderas’ Teatro Soho-Caixabank in Málaga.
The final song was the very anticipated 1988 hit Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. It was the first Academy Awards nomination for Warren, and what a perfect closure it was. The Starship song had a unique and almost improvised rendition in MOSMA, by Franc Luna, Sofia Carson and even Antonio Banderas joining the party. Everybody was dancing at that point.
You can argue the concert wasn’t what you expect in a film music festival, but it was a great experience nonetheless. It was different, emotional, sometimes messy but always memorable. It was a wonderful way to show that fantastic resilience MOSMA has developed over the years. We really wish nothing’s gonna stop MOSMA now.
Article by Reme Díaz
Pictures by Rafa Melgar