By Denny Patterson
On Thursday, December 13, 2018 Tim Burton’s haunting holiday classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas, will be performed live by the South Florida Symphony Orchestra at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Audiences of all ages are invited to come listen to Danny Elfman’s iconic score while watching Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, accidentally wander into the neighboring Christmastown. After witnessing all the holiday cheer and happiness, Jack tries to incorporate some of their traditions into his own gloomy lifestyle. I had the pleasure of chatting more about this one-night-only concert with the Orchestra’s maestra, Sebrina Alfonso.
Sebrina, please start off by telling me a bit more about this concert. Is the Symphony playing select numbers from the movie or will the Symphony be playing the score while the movie is playing in the background?
The South Florida Symphony Orchestra and the Broward Center are co-presenting this fabulous concert. The movie will be shown on a big screen and the Symphony will play the music that is in the movie. Which is basically the whole time.
What can audiences expect and what do you hope they take away from this concert?
Audiences who are fans of Tim Burton movies will experience this fun movie with live music moving exactly with the songs. It is better than surround sound!
Is this the first time the Symphony has done a Disney in concert?
This is a first for the Symphony and the first time co-presenting with the Broward Center.
Do you plan to do more in the future?
Based on the ticket sales, we see that this is something audiences want. So, we are already planning to present together again next season. The Broward Center and the South Florida Symphony Orchestra are combing through the possibilities and have narrowed our selection down to a few different movies.
Why did you choose to do The Nightmare Before Christmas?
We really wanted to have a holiday concert and The Nightmare Before Christmas seemed like such a perfect choice. If you look up the selections available to orchestras, The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the most performed throughout the country and Europe.
Do you consider it to be more of a Christmas or Halloween film?
It can certainly be a film for either holiday. However, there is something really fun and I kind of feel different having it as a Christmas concert. It is warm and fuzzy in a Halloween kind of way.
Has this been a challenging score to work with?
This is an interesting question. With these movies, there is a click track where the tempos click through the movie which will be with me as I conduct on a small monitor. I will wear an ear piece. There are often opportunities that the orchestra have the ear piece as well, but I chose not to use that. There are so many things going on in the orchestra as we perform, and having a constant click going on in their ear I think would be disruptive to them. It will prevent them from listening to each other, feeling each other, and creating a cohesive sound. It is hard enough that I will have to wear this click track. I will have to breathe the movie. It takes the spontaneity and the individuality of the orchestra. So, it is a new experience for most of us. To make this concert successful and enjoyable, we have to be with the movie. With only me having the ear piece, the orchestra can bond, and we can all move together. Not alone with a clicker.
What are your personal thoughts and feelings toward Danny Elfman scores?
I love his scores. I am excited to have the opportunity to perform his music. His scores are huge and contain such wonderful textures and color. In some ways, movies with his music are just as famous because of his scores.
Do you have a favorite character from the movie?
Wow, interesting questions. I can honestly say that I have no favorite character. I just love the music that applies to the different characters and have never really thought about it as a movie. For me, I am putting together a score with a story and every part of it is just as important and equally my favorite.
Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a popular holiday film among Symphony members?
I honest do not know if it is a popular movie among Symphony members. However, I believe many of our patrons know that Danny Elfman is a wonderful composer and are interested in hearing the music live to the movie. What is so inspiring for me is that this concert will bring many people that may not normally go to symphony concerts and who might even be experiencing a full orchestra for the first time. We hope to make this an experience that stays with them. We want to inspire the community. It is our duty to bring the cultural arts to everyone. We are a visual world and what better way to introduce the symphony to young people. We are also introducing a new way to hear the orchestra to normal concert goers. It is a win-win situation.
Lastly, what are you and Symphony members looking forward to the most about this concert?
Performing Danny Elfman’s music to one of Tim Burton’s movies.