Jason Seber conducts the entire score live to film in matinee and evening performances in Breckenridge July 29

By Shauna Farnell

Warning: Once you watch a movie accompanied by the power of a live orchestra, you’ll be spoiled for life. The joyful scenes and triumphant crescendos bring laughter. The sad scenes with their poignant harmonies bring tears. Every melody magnifies your emotions throughout the entire film. At the very least, you’ll have a new appreciation for the music behind every movie you watch from your couch for the rest of your life.

The Lion King by Disney ConcertsOn July 29, The National Repertory Orchestra (NRO) performs Disney’s The Lion King In Concert Live to Film, the 2019, PG-rated live action movie directed and co-produced by Jon Favreau. Like Disney’s original The Lion King from 1994, this version features German composer Hans Zimmer’s Oscar®-winning musical score as well as new recordings of the original songs written by GRAMMY®-winning superstar Elton John, GRAMMY®-winning lyricist Tim Rice, plus African vocal and choir arrangements by GRAMMY®-winning South African producer and composer Lebo M.

The two performances in Breckenridge will be conducted by NRO alum Jason Seber, who recently completed a six-year tenure as Associate Conductor of the Kansas City Symphony and who has led orchestras all over the world. The Lion King will play in its entirety on the big screen above the orchestra as 80 musicians perform the score in precise timing with every scene.

“We remove the entire score from the original film. The orchestra plays every note of music live while the audience is watching the film with its dialogue and sound effects. It’s a pretty amazing experience,” Seber says. “It’s an exciting and challenging experience for the musicians, too. Everything has to sync up perfectly.”

Seber uses several special tools to allow for such impeccable synchronicity. He wears an earpiece with a click track that works like a metronome, increasing and decreasing speed in time with the score. He also uses visual landmarks, including a monitor on his conductor stand with punches (flashes to the beat) and streamers (lines that cross the screen, indicating when to start and stop). This will not be Seber’s first undertaking in live-to-film symphonic productions. He has led orchestras live to the Star Wars and Harry Potter films, among others, and relishes both the multi-sensory impact of such performances on audiences as well as the spotlight they put on the musicians.

“In Hollywood, they’re constantly turning the score down so you can hear all the action and dialogue. In these live versions, the music becomes the lead actor,” Seber says. “There are going to be places in the film where the orchestra overpowers the visuals in the best possible way. It’s just as much a concert as it is a movie.”

For those needing a reminder of The Lion King’s plot, the film journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born, Simba. Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. However, not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother—and former heir to the throne—has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. With help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba will have to figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. All of this unfolds to the soundtrack of Zimmer’s magical – thunderously rendered by live orchestra – score.

“Zimmer’s score is spectacular. He really did a great job of capturing the emotion of big moments and uses the orchestra extremely well. No matter how many times you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably never truly heard the music or realized how important the music is,” Seber says. “You see it with a live orchestra and all of a sudden, you hear every note, every movement. It’s so poignant. You get to see musicians performing it. It’s like opening the door in the recording studio, a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the power of the whole production. Even in the movie theater, you see a film with maybe 150 people. The Riverwalk holds 750. Now you’re watching a film with live music along with 750 people. The energy is soaring at a whole different level.”

Disney’s The Lion King in Concert Live to Film – 2019 Live Action Remake Rated PG

When: Saturday, July 29. 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Tickets: Tickets for the matinee range between $5 and $30 and evening performance from $5 to $45.

Photos courtesy of Disney Concerts