The Holidays Go Hollywood at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra

Richard Kaufman conducts music from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘Polar Express’ and more at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra December 17-19

This image released by Paramount Home Entertainment shows child actor Karolyn Grimes on the back of Jimmy Stewart in a scene from the holiday classic "It's a Wonderful Life."
Paramount Home Entertainment via AP

Some of the most enchanting sounds of the Christmas season come from beloved holiday movies. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra will feature these nostalgic melodies with its “Hollywood Holidays” concert series at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Dallas Arts District December 17-19.

Richard Kaufman, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Pops Conductor Laureate, will conduct the concert series. Kaufman has devoted much of his career to the music of film and television. "I basically fell in love with all of it," Kaufman said.

Richard Kaufman Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Kevin McIntyre
Richard Kaufman conducts the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's "Hollywood Holidays" concert series.

Born in Los Angeles, Kaufman began studying the violin at age seven and for several years, he played in studios, recording with Ray Charles, Burt Bacharach and Henry Mancini, and performed on several film and television scores. He has been working with award-winning composer and conductor John Williams for 46 years. "I was in my early 20s when I played on Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Those were incredible experiences playing the music and, of course, working with John Williams," Kaufman said.

In 1984, Kaufman became the Music Coordinator in Music Department of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer Studios.  For the next 18 years, he supervised music for all MGM television and animation projects, earning two Emmy nominations.

Kaufman’s work at MGM gave him a broad overview of the creation of film and television music. "I love the variety. I love working with the musicians. I love the excitement of how music accompanies a visual, how it helps to tell the story. I love the whole process, which is all-encompassing, not just music but the actual process of creating a score, working with composers, and recording with the musicians, all of that," Kaufman said.

How music serves the narrative is Kaufman’s top priority. "It's all about telling the story, and the part the music plays in doing that," Kaufman said. "You have to be able to watch the rough cut of a film and decide what music is supposed to do, where it should be heard, and most importantly, where it shouldn't be heard because the story is telling itself."

Bringing film music to life in a concert for a live audience is one of Kaufman’s favorite conducting assignments. "I love conducting entire film scores live to picture. I think I do close to 30 films...everything from the Hitchcock films to Singin' in the Rain, to Star WarsJaws and E.T., The Wizard of Oz… and also silent films," Kaufman said.

During his long association with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Kaufman has made several friends in North Texas, including NBC 5’s Bobbie Wygant. "We became fast, fast friends the second we met. It’s been one of the greatest experiences for me to know Bobbie. She is obviously a great reporter and fantastic interviewer, but Bobbie as a person... that’s as good as it gets. Bobbie Wygant is angelic. She is one of the great blessings in my life," Kaufman said.

Kaufman returns to Dallas this year to spread some much-needed Christmas cheer in the form of music. "It's definitely a program about the excitement and beauty and meaning of the Christmas season. The concert hall is an oasis, especially these days, because more than ever, people are looking for joy and peace," Kaufman said.

With so many Christmas films with wonderful music, selecting music for this program was not easy. Kaufman selected a mixture of music from classic films and more contemporary holiday favorites, including Jarre’s “The Nativity” from Jesus of Nazareth, Tiomkin’s Suite from It’s a Wonderful Life and Elfman’s Suite from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Silvestri’s Concert Suite from The Polar Express.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra Christmas Pops concerts
Sylvia Elzafon
"Hollywood Holidays" concert series features music from classic and contemporary films.

“The program will include music from a wide variety of Christmas films," Kaufman said. “Many of Hollywood’s finest composers are represented on this program, which to me, is very exciting."

The concert also includes music from Kaufman’s childhood favorites, White Christmas: "I saw it when I was very young and it just stayed with me," Kaufman said.

Lisa Livesay will sing some of the most famous pieces, transporting audiences to Hollywood’s winter wonderland. "It is an escape away from reality to a world in which people would like to live," Kaufman said.

For Kaufman, the great Christmas present of this concert series is working with the musicians of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. “The DSO musicians truly understand the demands and passion required to perform film music. And they bring the same dedication and quality to the performance of film music as they do to the great classical repertoire,” Kaufman said. "Whenever I have the opportunity to work with the Dallas Symphony, I can't wait to get on the plane."

Learn more: https://www.dallassymphony.org/productions/hollywood-holidays/

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