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Icy Treat: DSO Presents Frozen Planet in Concert

Posted Wednesday, August 01, 2012 in Noteworthy

By Chris Shull


George Fenton is one of the United Kingdom's most successful film composers. But for fans of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, he is perhaps best known as the composer of the ground-breaking, breathtaking television nature documentaries Blue Planet and Planet Earth.


Fenton conducted his live concert versions of the documentaries Blue Planet Live and Planet Earth Live with the DSO at the Meyerson in July, 2008 and June, 2010, respectively. These extraordinary concerts combined projected HD imagery of animals in nature with Fenton's majestic soundtrack performed live by the DSO.


Fenton will perform his latest documentary concert sensation, Frozen Planet in Concert, August 31-September 1 with the DSO. The format is the same as Blue Planet Live and Planet Earth Live, but Fenton says Frozen Planet in Concert is "the most remarkable" of the trilogy.


Buy tickets NOW to Frozen Planet in Concert >>


"The detail of what you see, and the interconnected stories that you see in the Frozen Planet, are probably unprecedented in natural history filmmaking," Fenton says.



The Los Angeles Times agreed. Reviewing the world premiere performance of Frozen Planet in Concert on July 6 with Fenton conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, reviewer Mary McNamara called the show "breathtaking and revelatory, filled with unparalleled imagery from the ends of the Earth," a concert event of "pure visual and audio art" which offered "a completely different way of 'watching' television."


She also reported the many children in the audience delighted in watching the scenes featuring penguins.


I spoke with Fenton by phone on July 26 from his home in London, where he and the rest of the city were anticipating the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Here's the first of three installments of our conversation. We discussed Frozen Planet in Concert, his great affection for the Dallas Symphony, and - of course! - penguins and Polar bears!


At the world premiere of Frozen Planet in Concert in July at the Hollywood Bowl, the Los Angeles Times praised the concert as a "dazzling pleasure," "pure visual and audio art," and "breathtaking and revelatory." So, I guess the concert went OK?


It went really really well and got fantastic response and also wonderful reviews. We had big crowds. Frozen Planet being quite new, I was surprised we got such big crowds and such a good reaction.


This concert seems a natural fit for those who loved the Planet Earth and Blue Planet concerts, which you conducted with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra over the past few summers.


It is the last part of this trilogy, and in a way the most remarkable part. This is a world that is changing so fast now, that really the Frozen Planet may be the last time people see the Polar Regions as they are now.


People are familiar with penguins and with the polar bear and all of that. What makes this really great is that the filmmakers have applied the same kind of rigor and time and investment into this as they did into the other two documentaries. So the detail of what you see, and the interconnected stories that you see in the Frozen Planet, are probably unprecedented in natural history filmmaking.


When you presented a concert of your film music with the DSO back in February, 2011, you premiered From a Disappearing World, inspired by a trek you took across the Arctic ice. Describe that trek and the frozen world you experienced, and how it inspired your compositions for Frozen Planet in Concert.


This was in Svalbard, the archipelago north of Norway, within the Arctic Circle. I was only there for four days and five nights. We stayed on a 1,900 square foot steel hull ketch that was frozen into one of the fiords. We would go from the ketch out over the glaciers and over the sea ice on skidoos [snowmobiles]. In the three days on the skidoos we did 150 miles, quite a lot of traveling around.


The things that you notice - I mean, this sounds odd to say, but you notice that it is very cold! It is beautiful and the sun was shining, and it wasn't winter and for the Arctic it wasn't particularly cold, but when you're on the skidoos and you're traveling, with the wind-chill it's getting down to around minus 45 degrees centigrade. You can't really take your gloves off. And so you appreciate what it must be like when it is winter and going down to minus 60 and 70 degrees. You realize the cold exerts a very different dynamic onto the way that life works there.


You also notice that you are in a wilderness. You can drive for miles and miles and see literally nothing. It is very striking how empty it is, and how clear and clean and dazzling is this wilderness that just goes on and on and on.


When you do come across these bursts of life, you notice it. Particularly the bird life. You get certain places where there are literally millions of birds. It's quite striking because it is so quiet, and when you approach something where there is sound, you hear it in a completely different way. The sound of these birds is just extraordinary.


There is a lightness to the Artic. The color if the ice and the stillness and the quiet are incredibly appealing.


It sounds like you experienced some of the same emotion some feel when listening to the music of Sibelius, and the other Nordic composers.


When I came back I listened to quite a lot of composers from Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc. There is room in the world up there for folkloric traditions, and old, strange, basic wisdoms. You are constantly in touch with elemental things, and you are constantly aware.


You can't travel without a loaded gun. Because you won't see anything for hour after hour after hour and you may then go round a corner and find a male polar bear. And a male polar bear, if he sees you, will try and catch you and eat you. So there is a sort of straightforward way of being aware and feeling for place.


The Polar Regions are too remote to be human friendly. It is quite hard these days to travel to many places and feel like a real visitor. But you feel like a real visitor to parts of this Arctic world, and I imagine in Antarctica it is even more the case.


I'm particularly struck by that. I mean, when you think of the history of human beings on this planet, and when you consider that 100 years ago no human being had made it to the South Pole, well, it must be pretty challenging. And it is.




Return to the DSO Blog for another installment of my conversation with George Fenton and learn about the special DSO connection to Frozen Planet in Concert.


What did you like best about the BBC/Discovery Channel show Frozen Planet and the other documentaries Planet Earth and Blue Planet? Comment below, and look for DSO contests and conversation on Facebook and Twitter.


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