Room 59--A beautiful use of the orchestra

Composers who write for the concert hall are not the only musical geniuses. Among the most intelligent ones are those who write for the silver screen. One of them was the late Elmer Bernstein (Burn-steen). Leonard is "Burn-stein"with a long I sound in the second syllable.

Elmer wrote many great film scores, including The Magnificent Seven, Desire Under the Elms, God's Little Acre, Walk on the Wild Side, Birdman of Alcatraz, The Carpetbaggers--a total of 239 films according to the Internet Movie Database.

One of his finest was for the film To Kill A Mockingbird, and the spirit of the main title captures all the innocence of youth. You’ll be able to hear it in a moment, but there are some things you should anticipate before you listen. First of all, notice the lyrical piano solo which is softly accompanied by vibraphone—a very nice touch. But then about a minute in, we arrive at the heart of the piece, the primary melody. It has a folk-like quality, and the orchestration is very subtle. The flute plays the melody, accompanied by harp and harmonium. The latter instrument is what is playing the chords in the background.

What a delicious and subtle way to deal with the music! Bernstein had an entire orchestra at his disposal, but he assigns his unforgettable music to just three instruments. When the orchestra finally enters, you feel like you’ve been holding your breath and suddenly your heart takes wing. This performance was one recorded for the Wheeling Symphony Society and features Rachel Worby conducting. You’ll probably want to hear this a few times.


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