RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra ‘Jurassic Park’ at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, 8th September 2018

This weekend sees a treat for movie-goers and orchestra-lovers alike, as the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra embarks on an exploration of the tropical and terrifying in its live-performance of ‘Jurassic Park’. Celebrating the iconic film’s 25th anniversary, the evening’s performance is a thoroughly festive affair, seeing the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre full to bursting with dinosaur enthusiasts—they do, as Alan Grant suggests, move in herds.

In a bar, half an hour before the show begins, we’re beside a group of women, one of whom who, when not sipping an espresso martini, is loudly humming the film’s infamous theme at her friends and laughing raucously. The experience is somewhat surreal. Later, walking though the theatre’s foyer, snatches of the same theme can be heard, in varying keys and at various volumes, emanating from the throats and noses of adults and children alike. It’s a little like Christmas, but with more dinosaurs, and instead of Christmas carols, there’s John Williams.

The film follows gruff palaeontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) as they attempt to assess the titular Jurassic Park for risks at the behest of the eccentric Dr John Hammond. Risks, of course, abound, not least among them Grant’s unexpected role of chaperone to Hammond’s grandkids Lexie and Tim. Chaos ensues, with it, more than a few deaths, a nasty velociraptor infestation, and some of the most memorable musical cues of the cinematic era.

For some, it’s a nostalgia trip. For others—those being led or chased by parents—it’s their first rodeo, but instead of riding bulls, they’ll be riding the waves of John Williams’ lush scoring. The excitement is palpable. The timpani beats that herald the film’s first cue are greeted with a brief murmur of anticipation, and followed by a rapt silence. The father and son seated beside me seem to be quite literally glued to their seats, to the screen, and to the sight of bows moving in unison as the performance progresses.

They’re not alone in their awed responses. Prefigured by suitably ominous chromatic brass figures and nervously ascending and descending motifs in strings and woodwind, the assertion of the film’s primary theme is greeted with an audible intake of breath from much of the audience, and a happy murmuring as it reaches its crescendo. Complemented by imagery of a grazing brachiosaur (beside which the film’s cast are as awestruck stick figures) the soaring strings and tinkling percussion are emotionally pitch-perfect.

Although it’s easy to be swept up in the emotional heft of Williams’ celebrated themes, the orchestra perhaps shine at their brightest in their execution of the movies less immediately memorable cues, highlighting not only the efficacy of Williams scoring, but their own grasp of affect. The throbbing strings as Ellie descends into the bunker to restore power to the park, the sustained brass and persistent drum beats as Muldoon and his crew release—with lethal consequences—the first velociraptor; musical moments that go unremarked in a regular screening are riveting in the hands of the NSO.

The music is overwhelming. In fact, at times it’s a little too overwhelming for the dialogue, which gets swallowed up (rather like that poor gallimimus) by the orchestras dynamic peaks. But what (inaudible) words fail to say, the music more than makes up for. The dynamic inconsistencies don’t wander into over-kill territory, nor do the audience seem to mind. They came for dinosaurs and orchestral music, and have both in joyous abundance.

This evening’s performance proves two things: that, as far as Williams’ themes—which have been churned out in increasingly bombastic iterations over the last few years—and ‘Jurassic Park’ go, the original is best; and that, as the RTÉ slogan implores us, and as the sold out show and uproarious standing ovation attest, we do love our orchestras, and we must continue to do so.

 

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