As patrons sipped their chilled martinis — shaken, not stirred — fortunes of funny money were won and lost.
Red or black, odd or even, all was good fun at the roulette tables set up Thursday night for the Pacific Symphony's "The Music of Bond. James Bond" concert. Attendees wouldn't have had it any other way, of course, as the wheel spun in the "Casino Royale"-inspired setting for the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall lobby.
And if they weren't spinning the wheel or waiting in line for those famously shaken cocktails, the concertgoers — some garbed up in Bond attire of hero or henchman — admired the Aston Martins parked outside. Others hoped for 21 at the blackjack tables or recalled their favorite 007 scenes from the series' movie posters displayed throughout.
Leading the musical celebration of the British spy movie series spanning nearly 50 years was conductor Carl Davis. The American with hints of a British accent — surely the result of his longtime residency across The Pond — is a veteran of Bond's musical world, having re-recorded the music and led many Bond-themed concerts.
The man with the golden baton started the evening conducting the signature James Bond theme from "Dr. No" (1962). Davis' enthusiasm for the subject matter showed right down to his attire: a golden jacket that shimmered under the stage lights.
As with the other Pacific Symphony pops concerts, the audience got to hear as much commentary and history as music.
"For the people in Britain, James Bond is their Superman," Davis quipped, adding that British culture can be summed up with both James Bond and Mary Poppins. All told, Davis' jokes and Bond stories were aspects — spoonfuls of sugar, perhaps — that made the concert go so well.
Davis highlighted many of the films' production backgrounds before playing a musical number from them. (Who knew Sean Connery needed a toupee back then? Or that Roger Moore begged for the part? Or that Pierce Brosnan played a critical role in reviving the series?)
As a result, the audience got to experience the stylistic transformations of popular music from the 1960s to the 2000s. Paul McCartney's rock was a different animal for "Live and Let Die" (1973) than the grungy "Another Way to Die" rock from the 2008 Bond film "Quantum of Solace."
Guest artist Mary Carewe, a British singer, stole the show during most of her numbers.
Altogether, Davis and the Pacific Symphony played about 20 songs, or at least one number from all the Bond films. Carewe sang for just under half of them, her voice molding to the required style of each number as the evening progressed.
Carewe's talents came out best in "For Your Eyes Only" (1981) and "License to Kill" (1989). I wasn't entirely convinced, though, with Carewe's R&B style for "Goldeneye" (1995), but Tina Turner's original rendition of it would be a hard act for anyone to follow.
Last, but not least, plaudits go to the hall's lighting crew. Their patterns projected above the symphony — especially the ones resembling the signature point-of-view gun barrel sequence that opens most Bond films — truly helped enhance the viewing and listening experience.
For the music lovers of the really, really old-fashioned — as in the 16th and 17th century — the annual Baroque Music Festival: Corona del Mar is this Sunday at the Newport Harbor Lutheran Church, 798 Dover Drive. The main concert starts at 4 p.m., with a pre-concert of Baroque brass music about 20 minutes beforehand.
This year's festival, dubbed "Handel in Italy," features music that inspired George Frideric Handel's three-year visit throughout Florence, Venice and Rome after he left his native Germany.
The concert also showcases the John Alexander Singers — the 24-voice professional group of the Pacific Chorale — and its director John Alexander. Elizabeth Blumenstock serves as concertmistress for the day.
This year, however, the festival, which started in 1981, was cut from the traditional five days to one. Organizers are calling the 2011 season a "transitional year" due to the retirement of festival director Burton Karson, but are promising a fuller lineup come June 2012.
Tickets start at $30. Discounted student rush tickets will be sold if they are available. Also, for $105, you'll get premium seating and a private, catered dinner at the Newport Beach Country Club, 1600 E. Coast Hwy.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit http://www.bmf-cdm.org or call (949) 760-7887.