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Now playing: S. Florida venues pair films with live orchestras

Johnny Diaz
Contact ReporterSouth Florida Sun-Sentinel

Imagine a live symphony orchestra playing scores while scenes from your favorite movies unfold on the big screen.

Orchestra-music-and-movie nights began as an occasional event but now are popping up throughout South Florida venues — from the Kravis Center to Broward College's Bailey Hall to the Adrienne Arsht Center. The idea is to marry the art forms to enhance the music and movie experience for fans of both.

"Movie concerts allow audiences to experience something they already love, in a brand-new way," said Liz Wallace, vice president of programming at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. "It is an opportunity for film buffs, symphony lovers and families to reconnect with their favorite movies and listen to stirring scores of music."

The orchestra-movie concept also provides opportunities to reel in younger audiences and film buffs who may not have been exposed to classical performances.

"It's a new twist to give some visual to our performance," said Neil Jenkins, director of the Broward Symphonic Band, which is scheduled to perform Oct. 25 to scenes from each of the six "Star Wars" movies at Broward College in Davie.

"We picked that idea because of the new Star Wars movie that is opening in December," he added.

The Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami is planning different events, starting in November.

On Nov. 6, it will feature "Jazz Roots: The Movie Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard" at the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. The University of Miami Frost School of Music's Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra — along with Blanchard and other musicians — will be performing tunes from movies such as "Mo' Better Blues" and "When the Levees Broke."

On Dec. 27, the center will host "Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies," in which a 38-piece orchestra will play the scores of famous animated movies such as "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin." Videos showing scenes from the films as well as original storyboard artwork will be cast on a screen.

The Arsht plans to return to the Disney theme next year, with "Disney Fantasia — Live in Concert" on March 13. The event will present scenes from the 1940 Disney classic "Fantasia" and "Fantasia 2000" to music from the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

Sci-fi fans can look forward to "Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage" playing at two South Florida venues in January.

Scenes from the franchise's movies and TV series will be displayed on an LED screen behind a live orchestra. The event coincides with the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek."

"We have to explore and expand what we typically find as a safe presentation, and this is quite unique than a normal symphonic presentation or just a film series," said Lee Bell, senior director of programming at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, which is hosting the "Star Trek" performance on Jan. 17. "It's going to be quite large, and it will be all-consuming, orally and visually. It's the ultimate in sound along with the film."

The showcase will then be presented at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 19.

Earlier this year, Bailey Hall at Broward College hosted its inaugural "A Night at the Movies" program, with the Broward Symphony Orchestra playing to Charlie Chaplin's "The Immigrant" and Buster Keaton's "Cops."

Officials said they're planning another program with the Broward Symphony Orchestra on April 30, 2016. The film hasn't been selected yet.

"The whole experience of feeling the live music, you are not just hearing it, you are actually feeling it," said Marjorie Stanbury, event manager at Bailey Hall. "It's almost like you're participating in the whole thing."

The Festival of the Arts BOCA, which takes place every March, has presented several classic movies with live orchestras in past years, including "Alexander Nevsky," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Casablanca."

This past March, the festival featured "West Side Story" with a full orchestra in the covered Mizner Park Amphitheater, led by conductor Jayce Ogren.

Ogren wore an earpiece to keep track of the remastered 1961 movie version on the screen in front of him. The screen featured different color lines that alerted him when a musical number was about to begin so he could cue the orchestra.

"It's a richer sound, a more dynamic sound, and the reality is, we can reproduce music but it's almost always superior when presented live," said Charlie Siemon, chairman and co-producer of the Festival of the Arts BOCA, which has used the Russian National Orchestra, The Symphonia Boca Raton and other local players in some of its orchestral-movie events.

The March 2016 feature will be 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," a Steven Spielberg film with a score by John Williams. Festival organizers announced the name of the film Nov. 13.

Overall, Siemon sees it as a great family affair.

"It's an opportunity to introduce young people to the richness of an orchestra," added Siemon.

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