Jerry Goldsmith, film music genius, passed away in the summer of 2004 after a long battle with colon cancer. His musical genius was legendary, especially with film buffs everywhere, only surpassed in most opinions by John Williams as a memorable composer. Starting his career with mostly television scores in the 50’s, Goldsmith would move onto films in the 60’s and solidify himself as a true presence in the 1970’s with scores for films such as The Omen, Patton, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He would have been 80 years old today, and as a tribute to his everlasting contribution to the sonic landscape of Hollywood’s history I would like to share with you a memory of the time I almost saw the maestro himself in concert.
Back in 2004, while on my semester abroad, I was touring areas of the city with my classmates. One of the landmarks we came across was The Barbican, a prominent theater in the city. We would be seeing several theatrical shows in this theater as part of our curriculum, due to the fact that one of the few classes everyone had together was British Political Theater. I’m not sure how I found out about it, but somehow I was made aware that Jerry Goldsmith’s 75th birthday concert was coming up on the 17th of February, only a week past the actual birthday’s occurrence. I bought my ticket about a month in advance, excited that I would be able to hear the London Symphony Orchestra playing some of the film music that I grew up knowing and loving. When you’re a film geek, ANY chance to see the LSO is NOT something you take lightly. These are the same people that did all six Star Wars movies, and many other film scores for many other prolific composers. This promised to be the ultimate geekgasm.
When the night of February 17th came, I was excited beyond belief. I prepared myself as if I were going on a date. I showered, dressed nicely, and left with my heart beating a little faster than usual. After taking the tube to the Barbican’s own station, I walked to the theater and marveled at how much more alive the city felt at night, as opposed to “business hours”. (London is a city best enjoyed at night, just ask Jack The Ripper. Ok, bad example.) Upon entering the theater and taking my seat, I realized two things:
1.) I was actually sitting pretty close to the stage (only a couple rows away) and I had only paid ₤10 for the ticket on a special rate.
2.) The special rate ticket I bought was only ₤10 for a reason…it was an awkwardly placed seat. Still, I was paying to hear the music, and I would eventually learn the view of the orchestra wasn’t that bad after all.
After sitting expectantly for what was probably 15 minutes, the orchestra began to take the stage. Everyone erupted in applause, and already the evening had provided its first surprise. Dirk Brosse, another conductor who had experience with the LSO, came on stage and regretfully informed us that due to the condition of his health after a recent chemotherapy treatment, Jerry Goldsmith would not be attending the evening’s festivities. Instead, Maestro Brosse would be our conductor for the evening. Now this was a rare occasion, because as Maestro Brosse would explain to the audience, Maestro Goldsmith was very guarding of his work. So two treats would be in store for the audience: a symbolic passing of the baton from the older generation to the younger, and the already implied treat of hearing some of Goldsmith’s greatest hits. Introductions aside, the show began.
This next part is for all the geeks out there: Imagine the theme to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which was also reused in part for the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme song). Imagine how you felt everytime you heard that song. Now imagine that feeling multiplied by at least fifty. That’s what it felt like when we heard the opening notes of the ST:TMP theme, courtesy of Maestro Brosse and the LSO. Throughout the night the LSO worked their way through the Goldsmith catalog, and we got to hear music from (but not limited to) Gremlins, Air Force One, Small Soliders, and even a piece from the then recent theatrical release Looney Tunes: Back In Action. After what could be described as a wondrously geeky occurrence (complete with a couple encores), Maestro Brosse and the LSO all took their bows. Then, out of the blue, the Maestro held the score book proudly in the air for all to see. The applause was amazing, for in the end that was what we all came to see, what we came to celebrate: the music of the amazing Jerry Goldsmith.
The summer of 2004 was not kind to me, mostly because of losing my maternal grandmother only two days after returning home from my semester in London. That same summer would provide me with more sad news on July 21st. I was ramping up to go to Europe again with my grandfather (we were bringing some of my grandmother’s ashes to be placed at her own mother’s grave in her homeland of Germany) when I read the news…Jerry Goldsmith had passed away after his valiant fight with colon cancer. My heart sunk even further, because I had to mourn the loss of a Hollywood great. It was nowhere near as devastating as losing my grandmother, but it was still a sad occasion, especially when recalling how that evening ended. Before I left the theater, I asked if I could stand on the stage and get a picture taken of myself standing where the conductor had just moments ago. I was granted my request, and I tried to fake being a conductor the best I could.
As I look back on that moment, the opportunity was even more rewarding than I could ever remember, because I got to stand where Jerry Goldsmith stood proudly on several occasions, making the music that he was known best for come alive. I never knew the man personally, nor did I ever get to meet him, but in that small moment it was as if I had shook hands with him. It was a phenomenon that I would encounter again in Germany a few short months later, as I made my way through the places my grandmother called home. Which, of course, is another story.
It seems at this moment I cannot find that picture. However, I will find it and add it to this story at a later date. I just wanted to make sure this went up today.