We made our first foray into the Dublin arts scene last night. The Wizard of Oz was showing at the Helix, but it was unlike any Oz we’ve ever seen. For one thing, there were no commercials. The most important difference, however, was the music. It was provided not by a scratchy soundtrack but by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. The orchestra was on stage with the movie shown above them sans soundtrack. It was amazing to hear Judy Garland’s voice soar over the rainbow backed by a full orchestra. More amazing, though, was the story of the movie score. Back in 1969 MGM suffered a corporate takeover. The new CEO decided to have all this scrap paper lying around in boxes removed and used as landfill in a new golf course. The “scrap” paper included the scores for High Society, Ben Hur, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and almost every Judy Garland movie ever made, including The Wizard of Oz. The guy who bought MGM in 1969 wanted only the real estate, and appointed a former head of programming at CBS known as “the smiling cobra” to downsize the film division. Downsize, indeed.

So what were we listening to if the original score was buried under the 12th hole? A wonderful score painstakingly reconstructed note by note by composer and film buff John Wilson, who also conducted the orchestra. The score was utterly familiar, and of course the point was to match the film exactly. But the orchestration was also exposed in a new way, at times overwhelming the dialog or lyrics. But that was okay, because even if we didn’t already know what was being said or sung, the music was telling us how to feel. It was nice also to be distracted momentarily by some interesting sound coming from the percussion section, and to have the pumping bows of the string section add another visual element to soaring melodies or driving action.

Afterward we finished our night of arts in fine Dublin fashion with a couple bags of chips and battered sausages from our local take-away. It was a good night.

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