Photographs by Walton Arts Center
Image courtesy Walton Arts Center. “The Sorceror’s Stone” is one of three Harry Potter films performed with live orchestra as “CineConcerts.”
Friday, September 29, 2017
A newcomer to the music he conducts might expect Shih-Hung Young to have a passion for movies or a heartwarming story about how the Chinese youngster transplanted from Taiwan to New York City learned English from his favorite films.
Sorry, he says. That's not how it happened.
‘Harry Potter & The Sorceror’s Stone’
WHEN — 7 p.m. Oct. 7
WHERE — Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers
COST — $20 & up
INFO — 443-5600 or amptickets.com
Young, born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, moved with his family to the United States seeking a better life, like millions of other immigrants.
"My brother started kindergarten in the U.S., so it was kind of OK for him, but I was in the sixth grade and spoke no English," he remembers. "The only subjects I could really participate in were math and gym and music."
It turned out he did one of those things particularly well. Young went on to earn his Bachelor's and Master's of Music degrees from The Juilliard School and a Doctorate of Music in violin performance from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He credits a tutor -- who also taught at his elementary school -- with teaching him perfect and almost unaccented English. But he credits his mother for the determination to communicate -- "even if it was with our hands."
"So I do that now with my job," Young says. "I get to know the orchestra, then communicate with the musicians and the audience, tell the stories through the musical performance. That's the main goal for me as a musician, and as a conductor, and my upbringing certainly helped with that."
It might, he admits, be easier when the stories come packaged with the music, projected in high-definition on a huge screen, as they will be Oct. 7 at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. Young will conduct an 82-piece orchestra -- primarily from the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas with some additional musicians from New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City, Tulsa, Okla., and Eugene, Ore. -- as the music of John Williams tells the story of a young wizard and his first year at Hogwarts.
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is one of three films in the franchise now available as "CineConcerts," and Young's work leading those orchestras is much in demand -- as it has been since he started as an assistant conductor on the "Lord of the Rings" films with composer Howard Shore. That experience taught him the power of movies and live music combined.
"It's an experience I can't quite put into words," Young says by phone from his home in New Jersey, across the river from the Manhattan skyline. "It's very powerful."
By way of example, Young tells of meeting a patron outside the stage door after a performance in Sydney. The man, who said he was 55 years old, had never seen a live orchestra perform. He came because he was a fan of the film. "But now I have a new appreciation for the music," he told Young. Young hopes he can touch even one person that way every time his orchestra plays.
"At Juilliard, we constantly talked about how to cultivate the next generation, a new audience," he says, "and I admit it is depressing sometimes. We're constantly fighting [the lure of] technology."
But Young thinks seeing and hearing a full orchestra play music so deeply familiar to the listener has to have an impact -- on the concertgoers and the musicians alike.
"The more iconic the music is, the more exposed we are. You really can't screw up the whole celeste thing in the beginning," he told The Daily Chautauquan, referring to the lilting minor tune that carries over into the other Harry Potter films.
Young does have films he'd like to accompany -- or, more accurately, music from films he'd like to play.
"From a musician's heart, Indiana Jones has such an awesome score -- and obviously 'Star Wars,'" he says. "More films are slowly becoming available, so we have a lot to look forward to."
Oh, he does admit to a favorite movie -- but it's none of the ones he's associated with. It's the 1978 "Superman" with Christopher Reeve, which he saw as a child in Taiwan.
"It was obviously the music that drew me in," he says. "It was a very memorable moment for me."
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