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Classically Trained: For this concert, follow the yellow brick road

March 31, 2011|By Bradley Zint

Violins and oboes and brass! Oh my!

Those instruments and a host of others from the Pacific Symphony will be playing the classic score to "The Wizard of Oz" live with the iconic film April 7 to 9.

Even the lobby entrance to the 8 p.m. performances in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall will have — you guessed it — a yellow brick road that preludes the journey to your seat to see Judy Garland find Emerald City and its wonderful wizard. Symphony officials have even invited concert patrons — you know, all those brave lions and hearty tin men out there — to come in costume and sing along.

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There are few musicals more engrained in our memories than "The Wizard of Oz," so it's no surprise that pops conductor Richard Kaufman and the Costa Mesa-based orchestra are doing these performances again as an in-demand repeat of the popular 2008 series in the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

Though the 1939 film was nominated for six Academy Awards, it won only two: for original score and the song "Over the Rainbow." In the years since, the music by Harold Arlen, score adaptation by Herbert Stothart and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg have long left their mark on pop culture.

Dorothy singing longingly on her Kansas farm is still so memorable that in 2004, "Over the Rainbow" won the American Film Institute's distinction as the greatest song in the history of American cinema.

I would take that distinction a step further by naming it the best melody in all of film music, closely followed by Tara's theme from "Gone with the Wind" (also from 1939 — clearly a great year for cinema music).

Kaufman is no stranger to music of movies. I know this to be true for two reasons.

First, during my interview with him last October, his expertise on the film music subject matter was quite evident when our conversation sidetracked briefly to discuss the intricacies of the love melody from "Airplane!" Only the most enthusiastic of film music fans can do that.

Second, and more important, Kaufman has had a long career playing in the studios and is a former music coordinator for MGM — the same Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that released the film generations ago.

Still, preparing himself and the orchestra for these upcoming performances is no easy task.

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