What makes more than 10,000 people silent? The moment composer Gavin Greenaway raises his baton and signals the orchestra as it plays The Dark Knight score, ending in an erupting crescendo of drums, brass and strings.
The conductor, a life-long friend of Hans Zimmer took centre stage beneath the synonymous ‘Bat signal’, which caused a shrill of excitement to pulsate through my body as if it was calling the following songs at The World of Hans Zimmer: a symphonic celebration at Wembley Arena.
A film score has the power to accentuate the narrative and plot to a film, like no other elements. Even without images before their eyes, a listener can sense the creation of an upcoming hero, through well-timed thunderous drum rolls signalling the calling of the ‘Batman.’ The calling of the works of Zimmer.
You can understand why Greenaway chose to neglect use of any footage for the introductory song of the night – for the audience were overwhelmed with the outburst of panning lights scouring the audience in unison with the orchestra.
Of course, part of me was longing for Zimmer to stroll onto the stage. However, recorded from his studio in Los Angeles, Zimmer explained between each arrangement how the audience were about to hear scores in a way they had never been presented before. The Da Vinci Code being one example, which he said “with all the experiments in it” almost felt like you were opening a door into his mind.
Kathrina Melnkova, a soprano, possessed a voice which haunted you and brought you to the edge as the melody lullabied you. A sudden sotto voice choir appeared as the visual panels parted way on both sides. The jarring performance escalated as the screens displayed stacks upon rows of dark silhouettes of people, accompanied by the sounds of the choir with chromatic scales. It was chilling.
On the screens, an agitated, devilish red shape began to form as the lighting of the arena was consumed with red. Strings became plucked, discordant and estranged, pronounced with sudden outbursts and sporadic spotlights. The red shape slowly revealed the architecture of a Gothic Catholic cathedral.
A brief clip with Zimmer adds context to the original composition of what was once a sketchbook of complicated notes and original thoughts is all combined into one to form what we then heard: the Mission Impossible: II soundtrack. There was a brief eerie perpetual darkness that enveloped the arena, which was disrupted by a blood red spot light illuminating the centre of the stage. At the heart of the stage sat guitarist, Amir John Haddad, accompanied suddenly by a demonic unison clapping which catalysed a spreading ring of golden sparks on the screen. Edited footage from the film depicted the slow motion of flamenco dancers where the red sparks continued in the heat of the clapping and tapping of shoes.
The second half of the concert was met with laughter. Light hearted in tone, the music of Kung Fu Panda, Spiritand Madagascar brought symphonic themes of fun not yet heard in the performance.
These may have been movies for children, but Zimmer’s music captured the child in all 12,000 people sitting in the room. As Hans stated when asked why he still scores animated children’s movies he said: “I do loud action movies because I’m a child.”
Zimmer explained further in the clip how all composers and musicians could never just do serious scores as they are all children when “they played with music”.
For the emotional souls of the crowd, they were gripped by The Holiday. The Romantic-comedy brought back memories of the sweet ‘meet cutes’ of four characters. Pianist, Eliane Correa, cruised the audience through the magical romance associated with Cameron Diaz and Jude Law’s beloved characters.
Emotions were heightened when Zimmer explained how The Lion King and the passing of King Mufasa, was a requiem for his own father’s passing. The iconic death of the lion voiced by James Earl Jones is one that echoes and resonates far reaching to never be forgotten.
An applaud erupted when Lisa Gerrard, the renowned singer with an enchanting voice graced us with her presence. With her melismatic singing she performed Now We Are Free from Gladiator with meditative, calming and soothing ease.
The night culminated with Inception. Hans Zimmer himself, via a recorded session shown on the large screens, played the piano for the piece Time. An intense finale of the night, the cameras slowly pan 360 degrees around Zimmer making the Oscar-winning composer centre of attention. The orchestra joined Zimmer partway through the piece and ended with just Zimmer playing his delicate piano notes and violinist, Rusanda Panfili, gracefully playing the final string notes, adding climax with the discordant high-pitched notes perceiving the underlying truth that reality is questioned at the ending of the film. They displayed the spinning totem, teasing fans of Inception with the unanswered question once again – was he really reunited with his children? Was it a dream?
It is undeniable that the German-born musician continues to push the boundaries of composers and orchestral music. Composing scores of more than 150 films, his integration of electronic synthesised sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements has created the unexpected successful mutualistic relationship like no other.
The World of Hans Zimmer is still on tour and tickets are available here: https://www.worldofhanszimmer.com