Symphony orchestras are embracing film music big time these days. It sells, and if they can throw images up on the big screen too, the experience can be electrifying. For this Gene Kelly tribute, the RSNO got into bed with Warner Bros and Kelly’s third and final wife, the writer Patricia Ward Kelly, all of which amounted to a generous evening of anecdote, informative insight, and assorted film clips celebrating the whiter-than-white side of the man who made ballet relevant to popular cinema, not just as a dancer, but as writer and producer.
RSNO: Gene Kelly – A Life in Music, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****
I’m sure there was a darker side to the man whose trademark cuffed trousers, white socks and loafers took the starch out cinematic dance attire - a quick google search confirmed he wasn’t all sweetness and light - but Ward Kelly’s genuine narrative won over her hefty Glaswegian audience, even when the projection momentarily failed.
She set the scene perfectly for screened extracts that ranged from Anchors Aweigh (The Worry Song) and the balletic sentimentality of Brigadoon (Heather on the Hill) to Brigadoon’s stirring Entrance of the Clans (featuring pipers from Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo) and the hideously caricatured The Hat My Dear Old Father Wore.
Kelly’s genius was most markedly represented in the ingeniously complexity of the American in Paris Ballet, Henry Mancini’s quirky Coffee House Ballet, conceived for a 1959 TV Special, and the immortal Singing in the Rain, all vividly illuminated by the visceral underscoring of the RSNO, directed by Neil Thomson. All very fascinating.