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La La Land in concert enlivening the night

Dylan Amirio

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, November 14, 2017  /  10:12 am
La La Land in concert enlivening the night

Night of wonder: The Singgih Sanjaya Orchestra entertains the crowd at the Ciputra Artpreneur theater in South Jakarta with the score and soundtrack to Oscar-winning movie La La Land. (Ciputra Artpreneur/File)

An Academy Award-winning movie’s upbeat soundtrack and bright, sunny and romanticized vision of Los Angeles was given the live orchestra treatment by the local Singgih Sanjaya Orchestra’s 100-member ensemble.

Led and conducted by Erik Ochsner, a collaborator with La La Land’s original soundtrack composer Justin Hurwitz, the weekend of Nov. 4 and 5 at the Ciputra Artpreneur theater burned through the motion picture’s award-winning score and soundtrack with poise.

The Singgih Sanjaya Orchestra was arranged rather uniquely for this performance, as it included a jazz band section in the middle of the ensemble of timpanis, woodwinds, brass and strings. But for the stars of the collective performance, the kudos of the night went to the piano player and the drummer. These two instruments are undoubtedly the central sounds contributing to the soundtrack and score of La La Land.

Ryan Gosling’s character Seb is a brooding, pretentious jazz pianist that tries to play like a virtuoso (and succeeds) in every song he plays. The piano player of the night manages to match the pace of Gosling’s character as seen on the big screen above the orchestra. His timing is spot on with almost all the piano cues in the film, and considering the amount of jazz piano heard in the film, it’s amazing that the guy can keep up in real time.

The vocal duet of the film’s most notable song, “City of Stars”, elicits the most sing-alongs, albeit the sing-alongs are done in a hushed manner by some in the audience, who know the song by heart and (judging from the way they sing it) keep the song close to heart as well.

In the center of the orchestra sits a jazz ensemble: a double bass, a guitarist and a drummer, all flanked by the piano man and keyboard/synthesizer man behind and by a team of horns (trumpet, saxophone, tuba, and trombone). It is when only these musicians play that the performance becomes even more interesting. Especially during John Legend’s number “Start a Fire,” the orchestra takes a rest, while the jazz section jams it out.

Musical collaborator Erik OchsnerMusical collaborator Erik Ochsner (Ciputra Artpreneur/File)

At the very end of the show, the encore consists of the jazz section jamming a few minutes, bringing the room to the atmosphere that conductor Erik Ochsner wanted to create from the beginning.

The second half of the performance was bitten by the dreaded “technical difficulties” bug, as the machine that synchronizes the film and the live music stalled for the first 10 minutes or so. Thankfully, Ochsner managed to calmly explain the problem to a patient and understanding crowd before the machine started working again.

Sure, the first few bars of the score after the malfunction were rather messy in terms of volume and synchronization, but things quickly got back on track. Most of the audience seemed to not care about the technical difficulties, but for me it was kind of agitating. The agitation didn’t last long, though.

Any problems the performance suffered from were immediately made up for by the talented musicians onstage and the strength of La La Land itself. There was kind of an awkward moment when the film ended and the credits started rolling. Some people assumed it was over and walked out, but the orchestra played through the credits as they should, to complete the entire score experience. The last piece before the encore, a hummed version of “City of Stars,” was done beautifully and ended the main show on a high note.

Bright day: Conducted by La La Land musical collaborator Erik Ochsner, the orchestra plows through the entire movie’s upbeat and optimistic scores.Bright day: Conducted by La La Land musical collaborator Erik Ochsner, the orchestra plows through the entire movie’s upbeat and optimistic scores. (Ciputra Artpreneur/File)

With that said, as a film La La Land deserves its praise. Emma Stone is undoubtedly the best performer in the film, and she really deserves her Academy Award for Best Actress for her role. Director Damien Chazelle, alongside Hurwitz and his team of musicians, have created the most significant American musical film since Grease (and to an extent, High School Musical).

It is a film that has infectiously catchy music, and an uplifting vibe that makes one leave the theater a few points happier than one comes in. It’s hard to imagine anyone could feel anything but uplifted by “Another Day of Sun.” Lala Land inspires enough emotion and optimism for viewers to dance out of the theater.

But this is the thing about Hollywood and a lot of its films, which give the impression that even years of hard work look easy.

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