Doctor Who: an inspiring intergalactic concert

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Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular
New Zealand Festival
TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
February 22

One of the widely promoted performances for this year’s festival was the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. It was a celebration of fifty years of the science fiction series as well as the music from the series and attracted huge audiences of all ages who gave the show standing ovations.

The NZSO was conducted by Ben Foster who looked as though he could be a stand in as a dapper Doctor Who. He managed to exert control over the orchestra worthy of a Dalek, marshalling the players, the Orpheus Choir and the soloists in a bravura and at times hyperactive performance.

As well as the performers, the audience was treated to a narration and potted history of the series by Peter Davison (the fifth Doctor Who) along with number of cricketing asides which also saw Ben Foster attack a Dalek with a cricket bat. This action was a result of one of the Dalek’s accusing the conductor of overacting.

As well as the Daleks there some of the creatures and monsters from the show, gliding and stomping up the aisles and we were reminded of some of those very early creations on the black and white screen who must have scared us at the time but now look more like Teletubbies.

The show features several musical sequences from the Doctor Who shows that were accompanied by excerpts from the programme, spanning fifty years. The major part of the visual material was from the recent Doctor Who series featuring Matt Smith but the other Doctors make appearances throughout the show including a brief one the twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi.

The music has many of the qualities of contemporary TV and film sound tracks, providing musical equivalents of the visuals. Its not groundbreaking music but it is never bland, always providing drama and excitement.

Over the years the music written by a variety of composers has managed to acknowledge and integrate film and TV music of both the science fiction and other genres as well as aspects of electronic music, minimalism and the classical.

Collectively the music of Doctor Who provides all the sounds of popular orchestral music of the late twentieth century and early twentieth century. The Dalek’s Suite in particular seemed to owe much to the music of Carl Orff.

The show produced music which supports the drama, the fast paced action and the personalities of the programmes as well the occasional romantic and even spiritual themes.

One of the compositions, Companions Suite was a celebration of the doctor’s female assistants and helpers evoking feelings of pain, regret, love and loss, capturing the spirit of intense relationships the doctor often had.

The soloist gave compelling performances particularly Anna Pierard in her singing of Abigail’s Song in which she provided an intensity of expression.

The event provided the audience with great memories as well as some superb atmospheric and emotional sequences in a show which captures a part of the world’s cultural history.

John Daly-Peoples attended the New Zealand Festival thanks to The New Zealand Festival and Quality Hotels

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