Composers have their time in spotlight

It's the time in a movie when most audience members take their attention off the screen — when they begin talking, checking their phones and shuffling out of the darkness.

For Carl St.Clair, it's sometimes the best part of the film.

The Pacific Symphony music director often stays through the end credits if the film features music by a composer he admires. During the movie, the score lingers in the backgrounds of scenes or between snippets of dialogue, and it sometimes isn't until the long final scroll that the composer gets a chance to work uninterrupted.

"Those are the moments when the composer really doesn't have a scene to portray or a vignette of 90 seconds or a minute and a half, that they actually have a few minutes where they can literally just compose music," St.Clair said. "And sometimes, I really get excited about the music of a film, most of all when I'm not watching the film but when I'm watching the credits go by."

Those who also have a yen for Hollywood's esteemed composers may want to attend the symphony's 14th annual American Composers Festival from May 8 to 10 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The program, titled "From Screen to Score: New Concert Music by Famous Film Composers," spotlights works by Elliot Goldenthal, James Horner, Howard Shore and John Williams, whose collective work encompasses "Star Wars," "Titanic," "The Lord of the Rings" and "Batman."

Not that those melodies will be on the symphony program. "From Screen to Score" features non-cinematic works by all four men, including the concert premiere of Horner's "Flight" and the world premiere of Goldenthal's "Symphony in G-Sharp Minor." Williams' "Tributes! For Seiji" and Shore's "Mythic Gardens for Cello and Orchestra" will round out the lineup.

The concert will mark the second time the symphony has spotlighted film scorers. The 2009 program, "Hollywood's Golden Age," featured works by Bernard Herrmann, James Newton Howard and others and alternated between film and orchestral works.

This time, St.Clair and curator Richard Guerin opted to eschew the film component to focus on a lesser-heard side of the composers' work.

"I'm delighted to present these wonderful composers on the concert stage in a non-film venue because they truly are talented composers," St.Clair said. "They have an incredible array of compositional techniques. They're fantastic orchestrators. So they deserve to be heard in all their glory, not just one aspect."

Shore's piece, written for cellist Sophie Shao, premiered with the American Symphony Orchestra in 2012. Shao will join the Pacific Symphony for the Segerstrom performance. Williams created "Tributes!" for conductor Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra to commemorate their quarter-century of collaboration.

Horner's "Flight" may have the most unique origin of any piece on the program: The composer wrote it in 2010 for the Bremont Horsemen Aerobatic Team, a synchronized airplane troupe. Goldenthal, meanwhile, dipped into childhood memories to get inspiration for his 22-minute symphony.

"To write a compact symphony is one of the challenges that I've faced," he said. "So I enjoyed it, writing it, anyway — and in an unusual key for people, a G-sharp minor, but that came about very innocently. Because I used to have a piano at home when I was a child, and the best note, the note with the most resonance on that particular piano, was A-flat or G-sharp. So I always I enjoyed that richness and the darkness of that key area."

If You Go

What: "From Screen to Score: New Concert Music by Famous Film Composers"

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 8 p.m. May 8 through 10; preview talk with Alan Chapman at 7 p.m.

Cost: $25 to $99

Information: (714) 755-5799 or


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