February 2018
Film in Concert: High Noon

High Noon in On the Trail program

From the program for On the Trail

The Utah Symphony will perform Dimitri Tiomkin’s original score for High Noon live to film on Saturday, February 17, at 7 p.m. in Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City.

Tickets: Utah Symphony

High Noon is a gripping Western morality play directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. Carl Foreman was associate producer and wrote the screenplay. The film was released in 1952.

High Noon was nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The film garnered four Academy Awards, including one for actor Gary Cooper and two for composer Dimitri Tiomkin. Tiomkin was awarded Oscars® for the Music (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) and Music (Song), “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’),” music by Dimitri Tiomkin; lyrics by Ned Washington.

John Goberman, the executive producer of PGM Productions, produced High Noon for live orchestra with film projection. As the creator of Symphonic Cinema, Goberman has a lengthy track record that includes bringing films from Psycho to The Wizard of Oz to the concert hall.

Olivia Tiomkin, orchestrator Patrick Russ, Warren Sherk, and other special guests will be in attendance. The concert sponsor is Naoma Tate and the family of Hal Tate.


Patrick Russ, photograph by Phil Fewsmith www.fewsmith.com

The music was prepared by orchestrator Patrick Russ, who previously prepared the High Noon Symphonic Suite published by Hal Leonard. Russ explains his role in bringing the music to the concert hall for this performance: “The score preparation for High Noon was a pleasure to work on. When Dimitri Tiomkin prepared the original score, he was working under significant budgetary constraints—so much so, that he wasn’t able to use any violins! Instead, he wrote masterfully for the violas and cellos, keeping interest during long sequences, including the concluding Showdown, Finale and Epilogue which feature eleven minutes of music with no dialog. The original orchestrations by Paul Marquardt and Herb Taylor were excellent, virtually without mistake for over an hour of music. A lot of people ask me, ‘If the original orchestrations were so good, then what did you have to do?’ In those days, a considerable number of changes were often made to the score at the recording sessions themselves. Tiomkin would be conducting, and if the director requested a change, or Tiomkin wanted to adjust something, he would simply dictate changes from the stand to the recording musicians. Those changes could be substantial, and usually were not documented on the written score. After the music was recorded it could be further cut to fit the film in which case the original music score does not exactly match the music as heard in the film. My job is to be a kind of musical detective working out where all those changes were made, and creating a new score that incorporates them all.”

On the Trail program cover

Program cover.

Art collector Naoma Tate, a trustee of the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyoming, conceived of On the Trail of the West, with events planned by seven organizations taking place in Salt Lake City over a three-and-a-half-month period. The city-wide celebration includes the High Noon concert, an art exhibition, films, programs, lectures, and more. Tate’s goal was “to share the culture, vibrancy, and pathos of the West, allowing Salt Lake Valley residents, visitors, and participants to make their own connections with the frontier.” On the Trail of the West is sponsored by the Hal R. and Naoma J. Tate Foundation and others.

In addition to the world premiere performance of High Noon in concert there is an exhibition, Go West! Art of the American Frontier from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, on display through March 11, 2018, at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA). The exhibition includes more than eighty original paintings, sculptures, and cultural objects by Euro-American and Plains Indian artists from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming.

Olivia Tiomkin tells of an interesting connection between Russia and Buffalo Bill that Dimitri is tangentially connected to through the family of a Tsar. In 1871, a few years after the U.S. purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire, Tsar Alexander II sent his fourth son, the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich, on a friendly visit to America. Please Dont Hate Me coverThe Grand Duke was interested in travelling in a stage coach and taking part in a Buffalo hunt in the Midwest. Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer was the grand marshal of the hunt and Buffalo Bill escorted the Grand Duke’s hunting party. Tsar Alexander II had a daughter by his mistress who would have been the Grand Duke’s half-sister and it was she that Dimitri accompanied on the piano at her estate in Ivanoskoye, northeast of Moscow, whilst she sang. Dimitri writes about his encounters with “Princess Bariatinsky,” once married to Serge Obolensky, in his autobiography, Please Don’t Hate Me.

Highlights of the Go West! exhibition include works by landscape painters Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, painter and sculptor Frederic Remington, and one of the nineteenth century’s best-known female artists, Rosa Bonheur, alongside a Lakota Sioux Tobacco Bag (ca. 1885) and Jacket (ca. 1885) from the Apsáalooke (Crow).

Utah Symphony assistant conductor Connor Gray Covington, below, will lead the Utah Symphony in performing the High Noon music score to picture.


Conductor Connor Gray Covington, www.connergraycovington.com/gallery, photograph by Pete Cecchia.

High Noon will mark the second film scored by Tiomkin to be heard in concert. In December 2015, the San Francisco Symphony performed Tiomkin’s original score for It’s a Wonderful Life live to film.

READ: It’s a Wonderful Life with live score

The film is the topic of a 2016 book by Glenn Frankel, High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic.

FURTHER READING: High Noon’s Secret Backstory, by Glenn Frankel, excerpted in Vanity Fair magazine from his book, High Noon

Dimitri Tiomkin backstage at the Academy Awards, 1953

Dimitri Tiomkin backstage at the Academy Awards, holding his two Oscars for “High Noon,” 1953

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