Classically Trained: Enjoying Oz with a live score

I saw a rainbow over in the distance on my way to "The Wizard of Oz" concert Thursday night.


Luckily there weren't any tornadoes that night to impede mine or other Pacific Symphony concertgoers' progress to the concert hall — just a little rain — before all were met by a mini "yellow brick road" at the entrance. In an authentic touch, the road's beginning had the same curls Dorothy took her first ruby-slipper steps on as she started her journey to Oz.

Decorating the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall lobby were some "Wizard of Oz"-related artwork, life-size cutouts of the film's characters and even a man dressed as the Wizard himself.

All of this made for a Hollywood-style symphonic evening, as the Costa Mesa-based orchestra played the score to "The Wizard of Oz" live alongside the iconic 1939 film.

On an interesting note — pun intended — the score used by the Pacific Symphony was actually a reconstructed version by John Wilson and Andrew Cottee, because the original work was lost in 1969, along with other MGM music archives. It was all quite true to the original music by Harold Arlen and score Herbert Stothart, with a few small exceptions.

Leading the show was Richard Kaufman, the Pacific Symphony's longtime pops conductor and a veteran of film music. Before the series, Kaufman underwent extensive preparation because of these concerts' need to be dead-on accurate with regards to timing the music exactly to the movie. With him on the conductor's podium was a screen showing the film, a timing clock and the score — two more items than ordinarily.

From the opening credits and "Over the Rainbow" to "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" and seeing Dorothy return home — because there's just no place like it — Kaufman and the Pacific Symphony truly brought the classic film to life in the most musical way.

Before the concert, Kaufman remarked how seeing this film with a live orchestra adds another dimension to it, especially because the 1939 score was recorded in mono and sounds dated.

It's safe to say he was indeed right; all the musical highlights (and there are many) were that much louder, more striking and incredibly vibrant with the orchestra's live playing. In my mind, it goes to show how much music plays an important role in tinkering with the filmgoing audience's emotions. Music is the string that ties all good films like "The Wizard of Oz" together.

Fortunately, in March 2012 the Pacific Symphony will be playing this type of concert again.

And of all the film scores in all the movies in all the world, they've picked "Casablanca."

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful trend.

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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