Shaken and Stirred – An Evening With James Bond

When listening to some movie soundtracks, certain iconic notes link that song to a movie and are immediately recognisable, similar to lines recited where you know precisely which Shakespeare play they hail from.

In the case of the James Bond franchise, they are the first four notes of the opening theme. You know them, that first scene – where the black camera lens swirls open, and James Bond appears, dressed in formal attire, confidently holding his weapon. These four notes are followed by a tune that places listeners in a particular era; one of intrigue, one of suave sophistication, one where the men are debonair and the women breathtakingly beautiful. The “Bond, James Bond” era.

On Saturday night, 3 February, this is exactly where everyone went in their memories inside the theatre at The Concourse Concert Hall in Chatswood. The sixty-plus musicians from the Willoughby Symphonic Orchestra (WSO) presented an evening of James Bond movie themes.

Delightfully conducted by Dr Nicholas Milton AM, the WSO took us on a musical memory journey from Dr No in 1962 to 2012’s Skyfall. The distinct sounds of the sixty decades shone through with each theme, and I immediately visualised the actor playing James Bond and the associated colourful villain in the film. After all, one doesn’t exist without the other – the hero and the villain. They seesaw much like the music’s portrayal of deception, danger and determination. Performed one after another, it was interesting to hear the recurring recognisable 007 leitmotif pop into a few different theme songs. All orchestrations were by Nic Raine.

Dr Nicholas Milton was dynamic in conducting the WSO. From the opening theme song and throughout the many changing tempos, his enthusiasm was infectious and enabled the audience to be swept along with his energy. As well as being a Concertmaster, Dr Milton showcased his skill as a musician and joined in as a pianist on one of the songs. This was only one part of a show where people on stage had dual roles. During Live and Let Die, musicians sang the backup vocals, which surprised and delighted the audience and in Another Way to Die, I interpreted the strings section performing a visual type of ‘Mexican Wave’ with their bows in the air, which I loved seeing.

This was not a show to be silent the whole time, with the audience showing their full appreciation with claps and cheers after musicians’ solos, such as when Rick Cassar and Lars Mehlan showcased their talents on their trumpets. The WSO received a standing ovation at the concert’s end, prompting an encore of two more James Bond movie songs.

Some James Bond themes are not purely instrumental, and we were fortunate enough to have been treated to the vocals of incredibly talented British singer Mary Carewe. Mary is an established and well-respected recording artist and recitalist with an extensive repertoire, including Broadway musical songs, cabaret, and jazz. She seamlessly brought her own style to the songs, and I was impressed by how she sang life into the body of the music. Certainly not surprising, as she has made a CD of The Music of James Bond with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Not to be understated were Carewe’s beautiful outfits, with one in particular, a sparkling and glittering nod to the true glamour of James Bond.

The 21 songs that the Willoughby Symphonic Orchestra performed were perfectly chosen to showcase the talents of the musicians. The slow, romantic ballads of For Your Eyes Only and All Time High were sweet and earnest, whilst the stand-out song for me with the varied slow and then frenzied tempo was Live and Let Die. A perfect song to close the first half of the concert.

It was impressive that the WSO performed all except a handful of James Bond theme songs. Even if you haven’t seen these movies, this orchestra’s renditions made for a beautiful evening of classic British 007 music. It was an immersive performance, and as I left the concert hall, I knew I’d be humming those four-plus notes all night.

Running Time: 90 minutes with a 20-minute interval
The Concourse Concert Hall, Chatswood
Saturday 3 February, 7pm
Sunday 4 February, 2pm

This review also appears on It’s On The House and with more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre Reviews to see what else is on in your town.

An Evening With James Bond