The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's Friday night program, "Night at the Movies," showcased the craft of writing music that enhances the visual scenery of a film.
The stunning, repeated shriek of strings accompanying the shower scene in "Psycho" or the music underlying the shark strike from "Jaws" are two of the more notorious examples of this kind of scoring.
But, as pops conductor Marvin Hamlisch noted at the beginning of the concert, there are a wide variety of emotions that can be conveyed through the marriage of film and music. He then proceeded to lead the BPO through a well-chosen batch of familiar classics illustrating his point.
Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" closed out the second half of the program. Herman Hupfield's "As Time Goes By" -- made famous by Humphrey Bogart's request to the Sam the piano player in "Casablanca" -- was heard in the beginning.
Other music featured in the concert included Frederick Loewe's simple-yet-effective melody lines from "Gigi" and the graceful tunesmithing of his music for "My Fair Lady," Jerry Goldsmith's bombastic march from "The Generals," the grandiose "Star Wars Medley" from the pen of John Williams, plus a pair of medleys from Hamlisch's own movie scores to "The Sting," "The Way We Were" and "Sophie's Choice."
Hamlisch, an honored practitioner of the art, speaks -- and programs -- from a position of authority. Being witty and gracious are the bonuses that make his between-tune patter such a joy.
Hamlisch's back-and-forth banter with some members of the audience, including students from Canisius College, was amusing and highlighted the conductor's nimbly humorous way with a phrase.
He is also a pianist and, in one instance, used the instrument to illustrate certain points regarding Loewe's thematic material for "Gigi."
When Hamlisch played along with the orchestra, however, it was apparent that he was a merely serviceable pianist, having trouble with the ragtime idiom at the heart of his own arrangements for "The Sting."
Still, the heart of the matter always lies with the music and the orchestra, and the results were definitely worthwhile.
It was a wonderful example of how much fun going to a pops concert can be.