Obviously it’s easy to stream a “best movie music” Spotify mix through a good set of speakers or headphones to revisit those familiar scores. But a music master making a sequel appearance in Juneau after getting lots of national spotlight says that means not fully seeing — yes, as in not just hearing – the compositions or experiencing a level of appreciation that doesn’t happen watching films.
“You’re not going to get a chance to see lots of symphonic pieces the way they were written,” Troy Quinn, former music director of the Juneau Symphony, said upon returning to Juneau on Tuesday after departing in 2018. “You don’t see these pieces often in Alaska because it takes a lot of people to do it.”
Furthermore, “there’s nothing like the visual experience of the orchestra” without the distracting visuals of the movie, he said.
Quinn, who departed to become music director of the Venice Symphony in Florida, is scheduled to conduct Juneau’s symphony in A Night at the Oscars concerts on June 11 and 12. Familiar works from the movies “Rocky,” “Titanic,” “Aladdin,” “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Gabriel’s Oboe,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Out of Africa” and others are featured.
“Everything you’re going to hear was either nominated for or won an award,” Quinn said.
The concerts are scheduled to be performed by a 75-piece orchestra, consisting a mix of local and visiting musicians who will have only three rehearsals together before opening night, In addition to that challenge, there will be unusual instruments for an orchestra including a local accordion player and a visitor playing mandolin,
“Many people who have recorded on those films in Los Angeles are coming up with me,” Quinn said.
A longtime local member used to playing with visiting groups of musicians with little rehearsal together is Kathryn Kurtz, a flute and piccolo player who has been a member of the symphony since moving to Juneau in 1989. She said she picked up her sheet music for the upcoming concerts a few weeks ago and, having worked with Quinn during his time here earlier, “I’m very excited for my shakedown cruise” during the first rehearsal with him and her fellow local musicians.
“It has been referred to as ‘The Juneau Miracle’ before because Juneau doesn’t have the musicians to fill every part,” she said. But what helps is “some guests have played with us for years and years.”
The concert program is unchanged from 2020, Quinn said. During the interim he conducted the same-themed concert with, among others, The Venice Symphony, where the featured guests included piper Eric Rigler who performed the famous riff in the theme from “Titanic.”
No, Rigler won’t be appearing in Juneau.
“I always tailor the concert to the community we’re at,” Quinn said. “Eric Rigler was featured at those. We’re doing a few different things we didn’t do in Venice or Kentucky.”
Among the differences is inclusion of the composition “Chariots of Fire,” which is the one piece that’s an arrangement (by Harry Mancini), because Greek electronic composer Vangelis recorded everything himself for the movie.
“It’s hardly ever performed” by an orchestra, Quinn said.
Also unique for the Juneau performances will be a composition from “How To Train Your Dragon,” which Quinn said is “mostly for kids, but very sophisticated.” The composition is by John Powell, who Quinn has worked with on other projects including recording for the 2020 film version of “The Call Of The Wild.”
Given the ordinary challenges of bringing a large influx of visiting musicians to Juneau and having them perform with locals after only a few rehearsals, efforts are being made to ensure the extraordinary circumstances of the lingering (and seemingly surging) COVID-19 pandemic don’t cause additional struggles. Charlotte Truitt, the symphony’s executive director, told those at Tuesday’s rehearsal they should wear face masks in public places to minimize the risk of catching a virus, all musicians not playing breath-related instruments will wear masks during rehearsals and performances, and anyone with symptoms is expected to be absent.
Quinn, in addition to his role at the Venice Symphony, is also the music director of the Owensboro Symphony in Kentucky, and has an extensive resume as a leader and musician with ensembles and projects nationwide. In addition to his classical works, he has worked with performers such as the Rolling Stones and Lee Greenwood, and appeared on shows such as Fox’s “GLEE” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
While he is only returning to Juneau for a short time, Quinn said quickly getting back in a familiar groove is both easy and welcome after his “too-short” previous stint ended because of the calling for him to move on to new things.