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Philharmonic plays Pixar

By Sarah Sidlow

Photo: The DPO’s Pixar in Concert will include favorites from all three “Toy Story” films, “Finding Nemo,” “Ratatouille,” “A Bug’s Life” and more

From corporations comprised of monsters to families forged in super-heroism, the playful creations of Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios have delighted audiences and crushed industry records for nearly 30 years. Pixar’s legacy boasts 15 feature films, with 210 awards won and another 211 award nominations.

And while each film’s battery of accolades tells an impressive story of animation innovation, the trend also points to another crucial element in successful visual storytelling: the music that stays with you after the final credits roll.

It is this successful balance the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra (DPO) will celebrate with its Pixar in Concert program Jan. 15 and 16.

This high-definition, multi-media all-ages show will feature the DPO led by Conductor Patrick Reynolds as it performs moments from 14 Pixar films. And as scenes from these movies play behind the orchestra, the audience is reminded that great music is not simply an accompaniment to great film. Handed down directly from the House of Mouse, Pixar in Concert has been performed by full symphony orchestras from Switzerland to San Francisco, and across Canada.

It’s the fun, exciting, infinite variety and brilliant imagery of the music itself that draws people into the film action,” Reynolds says, “and I think it’s those same characteristics that make it so appealing to everyone regardless of age, regardless of their experience attending traditional concerts.”

These are more than simple songs with catchy lyrics. The musical styles adopted by Pixar include complicated combinations of jazz, pop, classical and world music, written in such a way that not only evokes emotion, but has the ability to re-ignite memories of favorite family moments. The musical scores by Randy Newman, Patrick Doyle, Thomas Newman and Michael Giacchino have earned a combined 10 Grammys and three Academy Awards (and have also received 10 Oscar nominations). This is real art.

“For 100 years, composers have been drawn to the movies,” Reynolds says. “As it turns out, in our time some of the greatest composers have devoted themselves, their art, to film music.”

While fun, the complexity of this music also presents new challenges for conductor Reynolds and the DPO.

“First of all, yes, this is total fun for audience,” Reynolds says, “but, as is true for all great film music, the music is the real deal as far as the orchestra’s concerned. Behind all those fun tunes and thrilling passages the audience is enjoying, the orchestra is really working.

“It takes a special musician,” he continues, “an extremely versatile musician, to perform these scores.”

Pair that with the fact that the whole performance has to be coordinated with the film in live performance, and you’ve got a special challenge for the conductor as well.

“For me, the preparation for this concert is a little different than for a ‘normal’ concert,” he explains. “Yes, I need to learn the scores and all the mechanical things that occupy a conductor’s preparation: tempos, musical style, the technique of conducting the scores, etc. Where the process differs is in the ‘me’ area—that is, how do I interpret these scores? Well, I don’t! Replacing that is the task of recreating the sound, tempo and alignment to the film … exactly.

The DPO’s Pixar in Concert program is a rare opportunity to enjoy the experience of live orchestral music while simultaneously being treated to film’s familiar favorites.

And it aligns perfectly with the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance’s commitment to make the live concert experience accessible and enjoyable for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

“In fact,” Reynolds says, “for someone who might not ever have attended an orchestra concert before, just maybe after seeing this Pixar concert they might be drawn back into the concert hall again. We hope so!”

The program lasts nearly two hours and includes selected music from all three “Toy Story” films, “Finding Nemo,” “Ratatouille,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Wall-E,” “Cars,” “Cars 2,” “The Incredibles,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Brave” and “Monsters University.”

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra presents Pixar in Concert 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15 and 16. For tickets and more information, please visit or call 888.228.3630.

Reach DCP freelance writer Sarah Sidlow at



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