Classically Trained: For this concert, follow the yellow brick road

Violins and oboes and brass! Oh my!

Those instruments and a host of others from the Pacific Symphony will be playing the classic score to "The Wizard of Oz" live with the iconic film April 7 to 9.

Even the lobby entrance to the 8 p.m. performances in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall will have — you guessed it — a yellow brick road that preludes the journey to your seat to see Judy Garland find Emerald City and its wonderful wizard. Symphony officials have even invited concert patrons — you know, all those brave lions and hearty tin men out there — to come in costume and sing along.

There are few musicals more engrained in our memories than "The Wizard of Oz," so it's no surprise that pops conductor Richard Kaufman and the Costa Mesa-based orchestra are doing these performances again as an in-demand repeat of the popular 2008 series in the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

Though the 1939 film was nominated for six Academy Awards, it won only two: for original score and the song "Over the Rainbow." In the years since, the music by Harold Arlen, score adaptation by Herbert Stothart and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg have long left their mark on pop culture.

Dorothy singing longingly on her Kansas farm is still so memorable that in 2004, "Over the Rainbow" won the American Film Institute's distinction as the greatest song in the history of American cinema.

I would take that distinction a step further by naming it the best melody in all of film music, closely followed by Tara's theme from "Gone with the Wind" (also from 1939 — clearly a great year for cinema music).

Kaufman is no stranger to music of movies. I know this to be true for two reasons.

First, during my interview with him last October, his expertise on the film music subject matter was quite evident when our conversation sidetracked briefly to discuss the intricacies of the love melody from "Airplane!" Only the most enthusiastic of film music fans can do that.

Second, and more important, Kaufman has had a long career playing in the studios and is a former music coordinator for MGM — the same Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that released the film generations ago.

Still, preparing himself and the orchestra for these upcoming performances is no easy task.

"The score must be synchronized exactly with the dialogue, singing and action in the film," Kaufman said in a news release. "This is done to a 10th of a second, making it a very precise and challenging project. Not only must the players capture the excitement and musicality in the score, but they must also be exactly with the conductor."

Kaufman noted that audiences are used to hearing the great music only from the original "one-dimensional," ancient-sounding mono recordings.

"When the score is played live, along with the original dialogue and sound effects, the music becomes almost three-dimensional and the audience hears things in the music — instruments, counter-melodies, etc. — that they've never heard before," he said.

These concerts promise to be an entertaining escape to the Land of Oz, perhaps enough to give you a feeling you're not in Costa Mesa anymore.

Fortunately to hear these shows, we in the Newport-Mesa don't have to go far. After all, there's no place like home.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at

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