The Henry Mancini Institute Presents: Elmer Bernstein at the Wadsworth Theater

portraitWelcome to the 5th Anniversary Season of The Henry Mancini Institute, an organization that’s dedicated to answering the question, “What does it mean to be a professional musician in today’s world?” The HMI has experienced a tremendous amount of growth during its short existence and answers this question by providing a unique environment where accomplished young musicians can gain valuable experience by playing different kinds of music they will be called upon to perform and create in their professional careers. In four weeks at the HMI you will learn what it means to play in a symphony or a trio, compose for a big band, arrange a Top-40 chart, or perform film music with some of the greatest composers of our time. In addition the 84 musicians enrolled are exposed to many more facets of the industry including its history, business, contracting, and production. All participants receive a full scholarship that includes tuition, room, and board. These are the composers and players of the future.


Article and Concert Photography by Rudy Koppl

action1It’s August 4th, Saturday afternoon, and time for rehearsal for this evening’s concert that features Robert Brookmeyer, John Dankworth, Peter Boyer, and Elmer Bernstein conducting music that ranges from big band and orchestral jazz to symphonic film scores. Mr. Bernstein stepped up to the podium greeting the orchestra as he immediately demanded the trumpet players’ attention, “Trumpets, unlike the music you were playing before me, don’t hold back. With my music you let go, I want to really hear you,” he requested. With a smile on his face he proceeded to rehearse his six film pieces. Out of all his scores I was curious why he chose these films. “It was a sentimental thing really. It was the music during the time that Henry Mancini and I first got to know each other. Early in our careers we were both just starting to get going. Henry and I were lifelong friends; we were friends from 1955 and onward.”

Mr. Bernstein has composed over 250 film scores since his first film in the early fifties. Many of his scores are classics in every sense of the word. From The Ten Commandments to The Great Escape to The Magnificent Seven, Bernstein’s scores have graced just about every film genre in existence.

action2Hours after the rehearsal was over the crowds started to arrive at the Wadsworth Theater in West Los Angeles. This was the third in a series of six concerts that took place in approximately a month and a half. When it came time for Mr. Bernstein to take the stage, it was a pleasure to hear the longest concert of film music Mr. Bernstein’s ever played in the United States in his life. It totally took me off guard when he pointed out, “I’ve never performed a complete concert of my works here in the United States. I conducted one piece in the sixties at The Hollywood Bowl, then this year I conducted just The Magnificent Seven with The Dallas Symphony, but this was the most conducting in a concert that I’ve ever done in the US.”

Tonight Mr. Bernstein was performing six of his film scoring works, Rat Race (1960), Sweet Smell Of Success, The Ten Commandments (Suite), A Rage In Harlem, Walk On The Wild Side, and The Magnificent Seven. Elmer Bernstein’s style of conducting was unique. His hand movements were magnificent, cutting, slicing, weaving in and out, rhythmically communicating his ideas and arrangements for the whole orchestra to consume and perform.

At the HMI concerts there are no encores, so when it was over the crowd continued to applaud Mr. Bernstein for quite awhile. Afterwards I asked him what was the greatest satisfaction he got out of doing this concert. His answer, “The greatest satisfaction I had was the sentimental one. It had to do with Hank Mancini, sort of helping him out.”

A personal note of thanks goes out to those who made this article possible: Cathy Mouton of SFPR, Ginny Mancini, Jack Elliott, Jill Thomsen, Lisa Edmondson (Elmer Bernstein’s assistant), and composer Elmer Bernstein.

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