For your ears only: Richmond Symphony takes on Bond scores

Nick Bonadies
Spectrum Editor

The Richmond Symphony rounds out its Genworth Financial Symphony Pops series this Saturday, March 12 at 8 p.m. at the Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage with a night of music from EON Productions’ James Bond series, which includes film scores that are as entrenched in pop culture as 007 himself – and arguably at least as sexy.

Guest conductor Carl Davis, who appears regularly with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and The BBC Concert Orchestra, will join the Richmond Symphony for a program of hits from the 22 films, including “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger,” “The Spy Who Loved Me,” “Casino Royale,” “The World Is Not Enough,” “Octopussy” and others.

In addition to instrumental works, English soprano Mary Carewe will reprise vocals made famous by the likes of Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra and Madonna (of “Goldfinger,” “You Only Live Twice,” and “Die Another Day” fame respectively).

The concert arrives a little more than a month after the death of John Barry, the celebrated and prolific English film composer whose trademark work on 11 Bond films have earned him credit for much of 007’s suave, sophisticated and lethal image.

Although Barry was not the originator of the distinctive Bond theme tune – the film credits always acknowledge it as the work of Monty Norman – Barry’s orchestral arrangement for 1962’s “Dr. No” made it famous and would eventually serve as his big break. (At the time, Barry’s contribution earned him 250 pounds and went uncredited in the film.)

From there on, Barry’s scores – mixing elegant melodies, big band swells, guitar riffs, lush strings and the beats of his jazz heroes Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington – became not only immediately recognizable, but integral to the image of Ian Fleming’s quintessential international secret agent. For decades the music has ranked high on the popular recognizability scale with the likes of John Williams’ scores to “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones,” or Nino Rota’s theme to “The Godfather.”

Fellow British composer David Arnold, Barry’s successor who penned the score for “Tomorrow Never Dies” and other Bond movies, said in an interview with BBC Radio, “I think James Bond would have been far less cool without John Barry holding his hand.”

“The music that he wrote transcends the movies that it was written for and became part of popular culture,” he said.

The Richmond Symphony concert on Saturday will also feature music by other noted Bond composers such as Arnold, Bill Conti and Michael Kamen, as well as Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Live and Let Die,” the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award, reaching #2 as a U.S. single and #7 in the U.K.

The 54-year-old Richmond Symphony, which “performs, teaches and champions music” to audiences around Virginia and includes as performers a number of VCU Music professors and alumni, finished performances of Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 6” this weekend as part of its Altria Masterworks series. The concert season will round out with guest violinist Tai Murray playing Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in E minor” in April and Beethoven’s monumental “Missa Solemnis” in May.

The Richmond Symphony presents “The Music of James Bond” as part of its Genworth Financial Symphony Pops series this Saturday, March 12 at 8 p.m. at the Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage. Guest conducted by Carl Davis with soprano Mary Carewe. All Richmond Symphony concerts offer discounts for students with I.D. For more information, visit www.richmondsymphony.com.

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