AKRON, OH — The Akron Beacon Journal has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's final performances as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra:
When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial beamed across America’s movie screens in 1982, the story of a young boy’s friendship with a squashy little alien was a hit with audiences of all ages, but it especially resonated with children.
Brett Mitchell was one of them.
“The first and only movie I ever saw in a theater with my grandparents was E.T. when I was 3 years old,” Mitchell said. “It’s so moving. It’s still one of my favorite movies of all time.”
Steven Spielberg’s masterful film and John Williams’ searing score are timeless crowd-pleasers. Next weekend, when the Cleveland Orchestra performs live while E.T. is screened during three movie nights at Blossom Music Center, the music will be in reverential hands. Mitchell is conducting.
“This score has been a part of me for 35 years now,” he said. “It is unbelievably perfect in terms of matching the kind of tone Steven was trying to capture with the film.”
Mitchell was speaking on the phone from Denver where he is preparing to take over as music director of the Colorado Symphony. After a four-year stint in Cleveland, the orchestra’s associate conductor will start his new job after the Blossom season wraps up Labor Day weekend. “I’m going to try really hard to keep it together, especially on the last night. You know, E.T. and Elliott say goodbye, and I’m saying goodbye at the end of the film.”
He and the orchestra will rehearse E.T. twice on Thursday at Severance Hall, then head to Blossom Friday afternoon for a dress rehearsal.
“There is an element of danger when you’re doing a movie score live. You only get one shot at getting it right,” said Mitchell. “But every performer I know loves that part of it. That’s the joy of live performance.”
Part of that joy is also channeling Williams. “His score for E.T. came at a kind of prime time of his career,” said Mitchell. “He had Jaws in 1975, Star Wars and Close Encounters in 1977, Superman in ’78, The Empire Strikes Back, which was a fantastic score, in ’80, Raiders of the Lost Ark in ’81, then E.T. He was just churning out brilliant score after brilliant score.”
Mitchell’s movie-accompaniment repertoire with the orchestra also included Psycho, Vertigo, Fantasia, Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life. He and the orchestra closed out the Blossom season last year with two movie nights for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It proved so popular that the orchestra created three nights for E.T., Friday through Sunday, with each program starting at 8:30 p.m., and the movie followed by fireworks.
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