Superman is flying in for the concert, as are composer/conductors David Newman, Alan Silvestri, David Raksin and Georges Delerue. The question at this point is will the orchestra make it?
Which is another way of saying that, unless the current Utah Symphony strike is somehow settled by Thursday, Friday's benefit for both the orchestra and the Sundance Institute may not happen at all.
Let's say it does. If so, what you'll be hearing is the concert premiere of Dimitri Tiomkin's music for the Frank Capra film "It's a Wonderful Life" along with music from the following movie classics: "Laura," "Miracle on 34th Street," "All About Eve," "The Searchers" and a parade of Truffaut titles ("Shoot the Piano Player," "Day for Night," "Jules and Jim" etc.). As well as excerpts from "Marnie," "Somewhere in Time," "The Natural," "Witness," "Back to the Future" and "Throw Momma From the Train."
In fact several selections (e.g., the fox hunt from "Marnie" and the barn-raising scene from "Witness") will be performed against screen clips from the films themselves, as will the 20th Century-Fox, MGM, Universal, Warner Bros. and Paramount studio fanfares.
"That's the most exciting part of the program to me," says Newman, son of Oscar-winning composer Alfred Newman and himself a respected film composer ("Critters," "Throw Momma From the Train"). "There's nothing like going on the scoring stage and seeing the full orchestra there, with the movie going in the background, and everyone playing live. This way the audience can get a feeling for that."
They won't be the first. Last March, as Sundance music director, Newman presided over a similar concert at UCLA at which Raksin and Delerue also conducted, along with Henry Mancini, and the hosts included Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas, Robert Redford and Kathleen Turner.
This time (again, if the concert comes off as scheduled) the host will be Christopher Reeve, who like nearly everyone else on the program is donating his services. Proceeds will be split between the orchestra and the Sundance Institute, in the latter case to support its film-music preservation program.
"That takes several forms for us," says the institute's executive director, Thomas L. Wilhite. "First in identifying scores we feel to be of artistic, cultural and/or historical importance, then finding whatever music exists. In many cases we have only the conductor's handwritten sketches. In the case of `It's a Wonderful Life" we had those as well as the original acetate recordings made when the music was recorded for the film. In doing the reconstructon we discovered that more than half the score was never used in the film, so this is really the first time it's been heard since 1946."
As part of that program, Newman recently recorded that music, along with extracts from "Miracle on 34th Street" (Cyril Mockridge) and Richard Addinsell's music for the Alastair Sim "A Christmas Carol," with London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for Telarc - the first installment in what is being called the Sundance Film Music Series. (The disc itself is set for October release.)
"I think this work is really essential," Reeve says of the film-music preservation program. "It's something neglected by a lot of other branches of the motion-picture business. I'm happy to be able to help."
More than most actors, Reeve has a keen appreciation of music's importance to film. A trained pianist, he minored in music theory at Cornell, giving him a unique perspective on the music in his own pictures.
"Many times you're doing a scene and the director will say we have to extend this a bit and give the orchestra a chance to come in, maybe the strings or the brass. So a lot of times you think in terms of music while you're working.
"I remember when we were doing the flying sequence in `Superman I.' It took us seven weeks to shoot that, but of course we didn't know what the music would be. At the dailies we sometimes put a temporary dub on it to see how it went, but I often had a tune of some kind going through my head during the shooting. Then of course John Williams outdid everyone's expectations."
Other scores Reeve has a fondness for include the music John Barry came up with for "Somewhere in Time" ("He keeps using this major seventh, and the way that note just hangs there is really haunting - it's a note that doesn't resolve, and in a way the story doesn't resolve either") and Miles Davis' music for "Street Smart" ("One of the problems was that it takes place in New York but, for budgetary reasons, a lot of it was shot in Montreal. But I think Miles' score really makes the atmosphere of the film").
According to Wilhite, similar concerts are on the drawing board in Chicago, Washington and, with the American Symphony Orchestra, New York. "We are also talking about a date next summer with the L.A. Philharmonic. So for us, besides being part of our educational and artistic program, it's also an important fund-raising event."
As many will remember, the program was officially launched last summer with a concert in Utah Valley, and since then all the money has been put back into the program, even that from the Telarc recording. "We sort of use what we make," Wilhite says with reference to the costs of reconstruction and copying, adding that the concerts also give the program a visibility that is helpful in future fund-raising. "You know how competitive that is, so the more tangible results we can show the easier it becomes."
The archive itself is currently housed on the Fox lot in Hollywood, thanks to Newman's family ties with that studio. "At some point we hope to establish our own location," Wilhite says. Upcoming projects being weighed include Bernard Herrmann's music for Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons" and Walter Schumann's for "The Night of the Hunter," which concert producer Willard Carroll agrees is perhaps that composer's finest work for the screen.
Nor is this the last concert being planned with the Utah Symphony. In January plans are to kick off the United States Film Festival with a Symphony Hall showing of Murnau's "Sunrise," one of the great films of the silent era, with a new score by David Newman to be performed live onstage.
Even if this week's concert needs to be postponed, Sundance officials promise it will be rescheduled and that any tickets purchased will be fully refundable.
At present they range in price from $15 to $35, or $100 for those wishing to attend the gala reception at the Salt Lake Art Center following the concert. For information call the Utah Syumphony box office at 533-6407.