Southern California residents will have the opportunity to see and hear Frank Capra’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” throughout this holiday season. The Golden State Pops Orchestra will perform Dimitri Tiomkin’s music from the film at their home venue, the Warner Grand Theatre, a beautifully restored movie palace in San Pedro. Conductor Steven Allen Fox leads the orchestra in a “Holiday POPS Spectacular” that includes familiar faire, from Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride to Albert Hague’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Performances are December 17 at 8:00 PM and December 18 at 3:00. Concert tickets and dinner packages are available at www.gspo.com or by calling 310-433-8774.
In its three-year existence the GSPO has developed a growing reputation for its programming choices. “The orchestra is dedicated to performing film music,” explains Paul Henning, the group’s concertmaster. Henning, music director Fox, and pianist Joshua Godoy are all graduates of the University of Southern California’s Film and Television Scoring program. “We recently performed music by Christopher Young from Hellraiser and Urban Legend with the composer present,” notes Henning, “and gave the first public performance of Elmer Bernstein’s ‘End Credits’ from Three Amigos.” Earlier this year the orchestra’s North American concert premiere of John Williams’ “Battle of the Heroes” from Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith was a success.
Tiomkin, this concert’s featured composer, has had a special place in the group’s past repertoire. Performances of the “Overture” from The Alamo, the theme from Rawhide, “The Fall of Love” from The Fall of the Roman Empire, and “The Pharaoh’s Procession” from The Land of the Pharaohs have been well received by the orchestra’s young patrons. Adds Henning, “And the musician’s, most of whom were born after Tiomkin’s death, have enjoyed playing the pieces. Next year we would love to bring in a choir and perform Tiomkin’s ‘The First Christmas.'”
Meanwhile across town at the Pasadena Playhouse performances of the Lux Radio Theatre version of the film are underway through January 1, 2006. From the mid-1930s to 1955 soap-maker Lux sponsored one-hour radio adaptations of Hollywood films. The live performances did not require much music and the broadcasts did not use music from the films they were adapted from. The seventy-minute Playhouse performance features music adapted from the original 1947 film, including Tiomkin’s original score played by keyboardist Jonathan Green. The cast, directed by Stuart Ross, changes weekly. Jamie Farr, Sharon Lawrence, and Fred Willard can be seen from December 16 to 18. Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, and Dick Van Patten fill the roles from December 29 to January 1. For more information and tickets see www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.