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RSO Goes to the Movies

An ever creative, energetic and driven David Wiley leads the RSO through its paces during a special closed recording session held last Sunday for the upcoming movie “Lake Effects.” The movie is expected to be released this summer.

by Gene Marrano

Besides rehearsing for an upcoming concert that features Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Ode to Joy – a presentation featuring several hundred performers, including a chorus – the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra laid down some tracks for the movie “Lake Effects” last Sunday. The independent film, featuring actress Jane Seymour, was filmed on location at Smith Mountain Lake.

RSO conductor and Music Director David Wiley  and collaborator Kazimir Boyle wrote original pieces for the movie score. Wiley said he had been involved in discussions for almost two years with Sarah Elizabeth Timmins, the young producer of Lake Effects, about the project.  Timmins came to an RSO pops concert as a guest and asked Wiley afterwards about contributing to the soundtrack.

“It seemed really like a wonderful possibility,” said Wiley, who splits his time now between the Roanoke Symphony and the Long Island (NY) Philharmonic. “It’s all come together and we’re all terribly excited.”

Seven short selections were recorded; Wiley isn’t sure how much of the music recorded by the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra will survive the editing process but is hoping for 5 to 10 minutes worth. Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” was also recorded by the RSO for the film, which employed many local actors, extras and production personnel.

Wiley has scored arrangements for musicians like Bruce Hornsby and Billy Joel but had never been involved with a movie project. One of his early mentors, the late Leonard Bernstein, often talked about his work for “On the Waterfront,” the Marlon Brando flick from the early 1950’s. “One of his great scores, in addition to ‘West Side Story’ …” noted the curly-haired maestro.

Scoring for movies is “a very different art,” says Wiley, who “loved the script” for Lake Effects. “I think it’s going to be a wonderful film.” Wiley also used scenes from the movie as inspiration as he wrote the score. “I needed to find music that supported the characters and the feel for this.”

Walking around the set at the lake also helped provide motivation. He’s not aware of other regional orchestras being involved in such a project; usually studio orchestras from big cities like Los Angeles, New York or Seattle are contracted for symphonic movie soundtracks.

“Our players are excited to try new and different things,” said Wiley, “and they worked very closely with us to make this possible.” He had met Jane Seymour (an early “Bond girl”) in 1993, recalling the veteran actress as “incredibly gracious and warm … the antithesis of the Diva,” but did not get to meet her during the Lake Effects shoot. Wiley said he has probably staged at least thirty concerts over the years that featured music from films. “I’m a huge fan of movie scores … and classic films. This is another joy for me in that regard.”

Sarah Elizabeth Timmins is “the driving force behind [Lake Effects] and an incredible lady,” said Wiley, “her energy and enthusiasm … was infectious from the beginning. This was a really collaborative project.”  Finding new ways to bring their music to audiences – like the pops series and now the Lake Effects sound track – is one reason Wiley thinks the RSO has been successful and stable. “We are constantly refining our business model for what we do.” Going to the movies “is a new experience for [the RSO players]. It’s always a fun process.”

Wiley also hopes Lake Effects will help attract more film business and visitors to the region. “Projects like this don’t come along very often. When they do, they bring attention to the beauty of our area and the diversity of music in our region – this can be a real tourist destination – I think that is a ‘win-win.’ The Symphony, I think, is part of that. We contribute to the quality of life; we’re a local business. I am hopeful that it will bring attention nationally and internationally to our region.”

The new RSO season starting this fall will be announced in the next few weeks. “I think this is an exciting time for us,” said Wiley, “Our community is going to be, I hope, excited and inspired by some of the things we have planned for next year as well.”

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