For any film scored by John Williams, the music plays “a crucial part in its success,” insists conductor Richard Kaufman. He should know; over the last two decades, Kaufman has been in the vanguard of the live-to-picture movement. For the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Kaufman conducts many of its CSO at the Movies concerts; this season, his assignments include “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Singin’ in the Rain” (Jan. 18 and 20) and “Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert” (June 28-30). But up first for the busy maestro: the CSO’s presentation of “Home Alone,” featuring Williams’ Oscar-nominated score, on Dec. 9-10.
“ ‘Home Alone’ is a perfect example of how the music creates the uplifting spirit of the film, which tells the story of Kevin, the little boy left all by himself as his family flies off on vacation,” said Kaufman in an interview for the Pacific Symphony, in Costa Mesa, Calif., where he’s principal pops conductor. “Williams’ music captures and helps to create the fun, excitement, nostalgia and beauty of this joyous motion picture.”
Without Williams’ buoyant score, Kaufman contends, “Home Alone” would be the cinematic equivalent of a lump of coal — dark and very sad. The movie’s emotional touchpoints, such as Kevin’s loneliness at being abandoned on Christmas Eve, are sparked by Williams’ remarkable music. Hearing the score played by a live orchestra, Kaufman said, emphasizes “just how integral it is” to the film.
“In a traditional film, whether it be a comedy, drama or other genre, the music underscores the action,” Kaufman said. “In a musical film, there is not only underscore but also songs to accompany, which makes the conductor’s job similar to conducting a Broadway show. The challenges of conducting the music to any film include the synchronization of the music to the film, and of course capturing the required style of the film itself.
“I have had the great good fortune to conduct numerous film scores in concert,” Kaufman said. “And happily, many of these have been among my personally favorite motion pictures, with scores by some of Hollywood’s finest creators. Every score that we have presented with a film is an exciting and different adventure.”