“Titanic” (1997), James Cameron’s blockbuster about the ill-fated maiden voyage of the world-class vessel deemed “unsinkable,” remains a cultural phenomenon. Breaking box-office records, it became the best-selling movie of all time, went on to win 11 Academy Awards and reminded contemporary audiences of the dangers of human fallibility and arrogance. “Titanic” owes much of its emotional impact to its soundtrack by James Horner, who received two of the 11 Oscars, for best score and song, and co-wrote (with Will Jennings) the film’s theme, “My Heart Will Go On.”
In the nearly 20 years since its original release, “Titanic” has not faded in popularity, though “Avatar” (2009) has since eclipsed it as the all-time box-office champ. Remastered in 3D, it was re-released in 1912 to mark the centennial of the maritime disaster. And last year brought the premiere of “Titanic Live,” screenings of the complete film, accompanied by a full orchestra performing the movie’s score. Horner and Cameron attended the debut in April 2015 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, just weeks before the composer’s untimely death in a plane crash. “London was a great way to honor James for what he had done for the film,” said Cameron in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It never really got said properly in 1998 [at the Oscar ceremony]. He went up and took his bows at the end [of the London debut]. It felt like a triumph. I think that’s the score he’s proudest of.”
As part of a worldwide tour, “Titanic Live” stops July 29-30 at the Ravinia Festival, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ludwig Wicki, performing Horner’s score. The film will be projected on video screens in the pavilion and on the lawn. Vocalist Clara Sanabras will sing “My Heart Will Go On,” and the Chicago Children’s Choir will join the CSO and Wicki. The performance will last about 3.5 hours, including a 20-minute intermission.
In a 2014 interview, writer David Hocquet reminded Horner that “a whole generation has been touched by your music, and this is apart from the screen. Your music will live on in our minds and in our hearts, and apart from the film.” Horner humbly responded: “It’s so funny, I lose track of that. I never think of those things. … I do my best and then I put it in the mail and hope for the best.”
TOP: The world premiere of “Titanic Live,” performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall.