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Sydney Conservatorium

virtuosity in diversity

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SSO conducted by David Newman

Performed 28 January 2012

On Saturday January 28th I was very excited to be seeing and hearing the Sydney Symphony Orchestra play the complete score of West Side Story along with a projection of the film. I hadn’t seen a concert of this nature before and wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it or not – would it really work having a live orchestra simply play along with a movie?

In this case, it absolutely did. Of course, the spectacular Bernstein score means that it could be played by some guy on a Casio keyboard accompanying a mime artist and you would still walk out of the performance humming “I Feel Pretty”. Instead, it was an on-form SSO, with a few breassy ring-ins (including Conservatorium graduates Nicholas Russoniello, Nathan Henshaw and lecturer Christina Leonard on saxophone) performing classic tunes such as “America”, “Jet Song” and “Mambo” with punch and panache. Sitting to the side of the stage I was also able to see the visual metronome conductor David Newman had to adhere to for the live music to match up exactly with the pre-recorded footage – just a little extra element to make conducting the complex score that slightest bit more difficult. 

As someone who is a fan of the musical,  I felt that watching the film didn’t quite match the intensity and spark of watching a real live cast on stage, although Rito Moreno as Anita is certainly the benchmark by which all future Anita’s should measure themselves. However, the nature of this performance meant that the orchestra, in essence, became the leads and the music took centre stage. A classic film, with a classic score, made for an incredibly enjoyable night at the House.

This article was originally published in Conversation Issue 1, of 30 April 2012, published by the Conservatorium Students' Association. The print edition can be found on Issuu; it has been digitised by Alexander Poirier


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