ASO The Blue Planet in Concert

Adelaide Festival Centre
8 February 2013

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra has a broad mission to bring orchestral music in all its various forms to as many people as possible, and its “Blue Planet in Concert” did just that.

Blue Planet was not your ‘normal’ orchestral concert – it was an event that inextricably blended film footage of the world’s marine environment with a live music score.  This genre – film and a live orchestra – is at risk of losing its freshness and being overworked.  No festival program or concert calendar seems to be complete without an orchestra accompanying a film of some sort, but Blue Planet was quite something else.

It featured edited footage from the eponymous and astoundingly beautiful BBC television series backed by British composer George Fenton’s emotional and Emmy Award winning score.  To cap it off, Australia’s very own and much respected marine conservationist (and Great White shark attack survivor!) Rodney Fox provided a narration that was introspective, warm, educational and emotional.

The event took us on a visually spectacular voyage around the globe and deep into the depths of the ocean to witness marine life in all its beauty, diversity, and savagery.  After each visual sequence, during which you dared not look briefly at the orchestra through fear of missing something, the audience expressed its great enjoyment with thunderous and sustained applause.

Fenton has written extensively for film and television and his prominence is perhaps due to his involvement in the BBC’s so-called Earth Trilogy that includes Planet Earth, Frozen Planet, and culminates in Blue Planet.  His music is accessible, melodic, immediately evocative, and always empathetic with the program being explored. 

Fenton’s score is by necessity filmic and episodic and is free of the strictures and conventions of ‘serious concert music’.  It is perhaps this that gave it immediate appeal to the eclectic and diverse audience.  The scenes of gentle beauty in Blue Planet are even more beautiful because of Fenton’s expertly orchestrated sweet melodies, and the images of savagery and scenes of death were made to feel quite natural, and almost beautiful as well, in a strange and unsettling sort of way.  Conductor Benjamin Northey kept the ASO tight and controlled and avoided any sense of over indulgence that lush film scores can so often lead to.

Blue Planet wasn’t just about the music – it was about the music and the natural world – and the audience was in awe and quite bowled over.

Kym Clayton

When: Closed
Where: Festival Theatre
Bookings: Closed