As my story relates to both the finest music from motion pictures, and to an absolutely astounding assemblage of area talent, allow me to borrow the opening lyric line from the film classic, Love Story : “Where do I begin?” Please don’t think what I am about to tell you is an exaggeration, because quite sincerely, last Sunday’s “Sounds of the Silver Screen” concert, combining the talents of The Woodlands Symphony (Dagang Chen, Music Director), and the Fellowship of the Woodlands (Stan Durham, Executive Pastor of Creative Arts) could have played a Las Vegas showroom and filled the house at $125.00 a ticket. It was a truly remarkable evening of “Music of the Movies,” and the level of excellence from all performers would justify these organizations taking over the entertainment at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony.
And speaking of showrooms, the Fellowship of the Woodlands facility is exactly that. The spacious arena sports first-class sound and lighting systems, (even a fully operational teleprompter), and it must seat over a thousand, with the house being very nearly full for this performance. Both Mr. Chen’s formally attired orchestra, and Pastor Durham’s youthful and more casually dressed band, shared the enormous stage and wonderfully complemented one another throughout the evening. The orchestra set an immediate standard of excellence performing the thrilling theme from “Star Wars The Phantom Menace.” Vocalist, Craig Adderly, joined orchestra and band for a rockin’, handclappin’ sing-a-long of the popular “Ghostbusters.” A radiant Julie Crowder followed with a powerhouse performance in her haunting and lovely solo of “Colors of the Wind,” from Pocahontas. Good luck to Fellowship in holding on to this stellar talent who could thrill audiences anywhere. But she was not alone, as Andrea Smith and Doc Holiday followed with thrilling vocal grandeur in an exquisite duet of “Beauty and the Beast,” that was highlighted by the perfect balance of sound between band and orchestra that was sometimes lacking in their earlier concert last December. Both the sound engineers and the Musical Directors deserve praise for perfecting this pairing of two great organizations.
A diminutive and darling Anthony Mireles Jr. , backed by eight other talented youngsters, was every inch the showman as he wowed the crowd with his commanding rendition of “Rainbow Connection.” Then the band showed its skill in nicely capturing the rhythmic merriment of “Under the Sea,” while Justin LeBlanc and his chorus beautifully delivered the calypso-style lyric. I felt like dancing in the aisles! Next, a fine “James Bond Medley,” opened with a noteworthy guitar intro, and featured a sultry “GoldenEye” vocal from deep-voiced Lindsay Miller, an epic and soaring, “Nobody Does It Better,” from Miss Crowder that launched the proceedings into the talent stratosphere, while Russ Budro concluded the set with a brief, but powerful introduction to a dazzling, “Live and Let Die.” The symphony then performed the powerful theme from “Gladiator,” with its pounding pulsations and ever-rising excitement reminding one of Ravel’s “Bolero.” The contrasting mood changes in the work were beautifully captured under conductor Chen’s flawless direction.
A previous American Idol finalist, handsome Will Makar, offered a somewhat uneven performance during a mostly pleasant duet (with talented Aimee Thompson) of the lovely “Come What May,” from Moulin Rouge. Later, Makar would again seem a bit out of range for portions of the “Beauty School Dropout” number in a Grease medley. Miss Thompson would offer a roaring version of “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” during that same medley.
Following intermission, there was a rockin’ vocal from Kevin Smith for “Power of Love” from Back to the Future. Karen Lewis offered a warm, embracing, “The Way We Were,” that prompted audience member, Chris Scott, to marvel at her courage in tackling such a Barbra Streisand standard, as he correctly observed, “That’s such a famous song! She did a wonderful job of that!” Then, with superb choral back-up, Sandra Young wove a masterful vocal tapestry with her stunning, “My Heart Will Go On,” from Titanic. Mr. Adderly returned with a playful, “Friend Like Me,” that fell victim to a rare lapse into problematic audio volume and noise levels. Then Chen turned his baton over to Durham who conducted the symphony in a rich and resounding theme from “E.T.”
In the aforementioned Grease medley, featuring a well choreographed chorus, Conn McWhorter led a high-energy “Greased Lightnin’,” while Kevin and Andrea Smith led the cast in “Summer Nights,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and “We Go Together.” Miss Miller returned to compete with an on-screen Judy Garland for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but I would have to say the highlight of the night was the band and symphony’s performance of the “Sounds of the Silver Screen Medley,” an astonishing original orchestral arrangement of 25 well -known motion picture themes from “Gone With the Wind” to “Mission Impossible,” and just about everything of significance in between. It was seamlessly composed by Fellowship’s Mike Shearon, and seamlessly conducted by Chen. I hope Fellowship of the Woodlands uses some of their known Hollywood connections to offer this arrangement for Oscar Night® consideration. It’s a real winner!