CSO’s “Ben Hur” Review – Historic Silent Film Scored by Rock Drummer

 

$200 Million…

 

That’s the cost in today’s dollars for the most expensive silent film ever made, “Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ”.  

 

 

From chariot races, to parades, to battling galley ships and more, it involved supersized casts of extras and spectacle scenes galore.  Some of its cast of tens of thousands died making the film, such that it spawned the first film safety standards for actors and animals. 

 

 

In Stewart Copeland – drummer for the 80’s band The Police, among other credits—the Chicago Symphony Orchestra found a composer with outsized energy on par with the mega-production that Ben Hur was.  Not only did Copeland provide an original score for the film, but also over the three years he labored on this project he cleaned up the original film frame by frame so that CSO concertgoers could see Ben Hur pretty close to how it appeared in the original. 

 

 

The paw prints of rock n’ roll, and specifically drumming, were all over this score.   The drums lead many transitions from scene to scene, and there are few bars in the score, if any, where percussion instruments of one type or another are not in the mix.  For the many scenes of the cast of thousands the score volume matched  in scale. 

 

 

Kudos to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for sourcing a pop talent like Copeland to help bring a newer crowd to Symphony Center.   Judging by the standing ovation and faces in the concert hall at the film’s end, this was an adoring crowd. 

 

 

In the pre-performance talk by Copeland and conductor Richard Kaufman were so disarmingly approachable that it seemed matter of course when an audience member asked for a hug—and got two. 

 

 

The film itself was well worth the price of admission.  This wasn’t the famed Ben Hur of Charlton Heston, but its classic silent precursor that told its tale with sparse captions, close-ups on heavy makeup faces, crowd scenes and more crowd scenes.   

 

 

There are three upcoming CSO At the Movies events:  Pixar in Concert (November 28); 2001 A Space Odyssey (March 13); and Metropolis (March 29). 

 

For information on these film plus concert events and other Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts visit the CSO website or call the box office at 312 294 3000.

 

Symphony Center

 

220 South Michigan

 

Chicago

 

 

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