E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Concert at The Usher Hall this evening was a treat for fans of the film and the musical score. Live on stage, The Czech National Symphony Orchestra conducted by London-based Ben Palmer brought John Williams’ classic score to life in perfect time synchronisation to the film playing behind them on a very large format screen.
E.T. the classic 1982 film by director Steven Spielberg needs little introduction here, and so many people will already know the charming story of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, a lost little alien who befriends a 10-year-old boy named Elliott, and the attempts to get E.T. back home to his people. The classic line “E.T. Phone Home” has even entered many people’s everyday language as a phrase. Just what made this film so popular though, what made it the highest grossing film of all time on its release (a position it held for 11 years)? Some of the answers to that question were obvious tonight from the film itself and the delight of the audience watching it. E.T. by its genre is all too often classified purely as a science fiction film, but the truth is far more than that, it is a story of childhood fantasies and dreams that some of us never forget. Thankfully, E.T. the film was also made before the time where every film of its type used CGI to create characters, and everything looked just the same.
One other reason for the film’s huge success is also the often overlooked importance of the film score, and here John Williams created one of the timeless great scores – with perhaps a little bit of inspiration from Antonín Dvorák in a few places on the main theme. Here, with a live performance of the music by The Czech National Symphony Orchestra and Ben Palmer’s conducting, we get not only to hear the individual music of this score, but also being able to watch the musicians performing it on stage get a far better understanding of just how magical John Williams’ score for this film truly is. Every movement here is part of the developing story and anyone reading the list below will probably know exactly what scene in the film we are at.
1. "Three Million Light Years from Home"
2. "Abandoned and Pursued"
3. "E.T. and Me"
4. "E.T.'s Halloween"
6. "E.T. Phone Home"
7. "Over the Moon"
8. "Adventure on Earth"
This was of course a cinematic experience too and, as always, your visual attention is drawn to the screen and the music so often again takes its place within the whole film, and so well synchronised is the live music to the film that it becomes all too easy to forget at times that this is a live musical performance too. Perhaps that is a mark of the ultimate skill here of the musicians, that they become one with the film itself and the experience of the two are inseparable.
Review by Tom King