The Crowd: Bond brings out the music lovers

The Pacific Symphony's pops series producers billed the evening, "The Music of Bond. James Bond."

Led by celebrated guest conductor Carl Davis, the symphony performed theme songs from the movies based on the thrillers Ian Fleming penned as part of a three-night set of concerts themed around Agent 007.

The performances opened June 16 and closed June 18 in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

The audience was taken on a musical journey, revisiting the theme music of 23 Bond films produced for a worldwide audience over a nearly 50-year span. Davis conducted the Pacific Symphony with great flourish, interjecting anecdotes and sharing with the full house in the concert hall the backstories associated with the leading men who have played the title role, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.

"Ian Fleming wanted David Niven to play the James Bond role," Davis said, "Instead, they cast a bodybuilder-Scotsman from the chorus line of London's West End theatrical district."

For the record, Niven did play the part of Bond on the silver screen in the 1967 version of "Casino Royale," which was a spoof on the 007 films.

Davis emphasized the ironies of life and opportunity in the movie business. While the orchestra played, giant video screens projected still images from the various Bond films, enhancing the theatrical experience of the evening.

The talented Mary Carewe, a diminutive female singer with the vocal range and power of a woman twice her size, joined Davis and the symphony, alternating performance between symphonic and vocal presentations. She brought to life the memories of such films as "Diamonds Are Forever," "Live and Let Die," "Thunderball," and Davis' personal favorite, "A View To a Kill," with theme music written and performed by Duran Duran.

The consummate Davis — with credits that include everything from classical composition and performance to Broadway, film, television and the scoring of compositions for the world's most prestigious theatrical companies like the Royal Shakespeare Co., the National Theatre of England, the New York City Opera, and so many more — commented that his experience in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall was exemplary.

"I have admired the work of acoustician Russell Johnson, and I find this hall to be an exquisite studio," he said. "Absolutely thrilling. I would love to come back to do a classical concert here."

At 74, Davis has a schedule that would exhaust a musician half his age. Traveling the world conducting, as well as composing and producing multiple projects at a time, the maestro — who looks a bit like Albert Einstein and even more like the Wizard of Oz — conducted with grand style and wore full-length robes of shining metallic fabric. They added a generous touch of artistic flair to the concert experience.

Post-concert , the conductor, in his floor-length sea-foam green metallic robe, sat down in the concert hall's Leatherby's Café Rouge with his British actress wife Jean Boht and extended family members who had come in from London, New York and Los Angeles for the event. Following three standing ovations and two encores, and showing no signs of exhaustion, Davis, who has a mane of white hair, dined on a plate of scampi and rice and talked about an upcoming project that is of great importance to him.

"I'm working on a large-scale choral work for a children's choir and the Hallé Orchestra titled, 'Last Train To Tomorrow,'" Davis said. "The work is based on the subject of a little-known World War II-era story of compassion about the rescue of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied European countries."

The operation known as "Kindertransport" tells the story of brave men and women who risked their lives in convincing Nazi leaders that they should allow the deportation of children up to the age of 17, which would rid the Nazis of the responsibility of the "Final Solution."

More than 10,000 youths were saved from the gas chambers as a result of this complicated effort. Davis shared that the story and the music will be told from the point of view of the children on the train who have just been sent away by grieving parents, knowing full well that they would probably never be reunited. The overriding theme, and the emotional message, is that the parents knew that the Kindertransport would mean, hopefully, "that at least the children would be safe."

The Kindertransport began in 1938, following Kristallnacht in Germany. The effort originated in England and reached out to rescue children in Berlin, Vienna, Prague and elsewhere, delivering the scared children to foster parents at the dawn of World War II.

Davis will write the score and will be collaborating with poet Hiawyn Oram.

"One of the selfless men responsible for saving the children is Nicholas Winton, who is now 102 years old," Davis said. "We plan on debuting the work in 2012 and hopefully Winton will be front and center."

Davis is also known for symphonic rescoring of classic American silent films, creating more than 50 new scores for movies including "Ben-Hur" (1925), "The Thief of Baghdad," "Intolerance," "The Phantom of the Opera," and silent film star Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last."

In from Los Angeles for the James Bond night, and joining Davis and his family for the Bond performance, was Suzanne Lloyd, granddaughter of Harold Lloyd and chairman of the Lloyd Film Trust.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World