What started out as an annual birthday celebration with close musician friends, family, and other appreciators in the backyard of show organizer Henry Stanny, soon grew into a full concert tribute to the Oscar®-winning Italian composer Ennio Morricone at the Autry Museum of the American West (The Autry.)
Originally scheduled for this weekend on Sunday, January 27, 2019, at 5 p.m., a second show was then added at 1:00 p.m. at The Autry, where now both shows are currently sold out.
Morricone soundtrack fans span from classic and spaghetti western films to recent years' Quentin Tarantino film enthusiasts, creating a wide swath of appreciators here in the U.S., as well as here in Southern California. Considered one of the world's greatest living film composers, Morricone's world fame came with Sergio Leone's westerns, a few being “A Fistful of Dollars,” “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly,” and “Once Upon a Time in The West,” and more with films like “The Battle of Algiers,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “Malena,” “The Untouchables,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” “The Mission,” and Tarantino's “The Hateful Eight.”
According to Stanny, who works at Laemmle Theatres and has an extensive collection and historical knowledge of film soundtracks and liner note history, the concept of the show birthed from discussions with his wife, Nancy Hoven, from his desire to hear collections of Morricone's music that is not often included in the contemporary tribute concert repertoire, for a birthday party at their home.
"I asked [Nancy] if I could hear some of the stuff that I have never heard from any of these great composers, in my backyard [for my birthday], and she said "Why don't we do that!?," said Stanny. "And we did that for a number of years."
Stanny's friend, Tom Griep, who was a co-director of the USC Film Scoring Department at one time, took to the task of organizing musicians for these annual backyard fêtes. Per Stanny, flutist Sara Andon, played for 18,000 people in Kraków Morricone's music from "Hamlet," "Then she'd come and do the same piece in my backyard." He had also met cellist Circe Diaz-Gomero at the Golden State Pops Orchestra in San Pedro after seeing her play.
"I'd always go there and look at her as she was this cellist in the first row," Stanny said of Diaz-Gomero. "Your eye always went to her because she would go totally into the music and move about and you would just be dazzled by her playing. Stuff like that happened until I got 11 people on my show, and they're all amazing. It broke my pocketbook, but it was really amazing."
Starting about six years ago, Stanny, who paid professional musicians to play, first attracted about 35 guests to his backyard birthday concerts. Over the years attendance grew to over 70 plus, up to the last one. This weekend, The Autry will accommodate 215 seats for each of the scheduled sold out performances, allowing Stanny to enjoy his favorite selections of music with even more fellow appreciators.
Host Bruce Kimmel, along with a total of nine musicians and two guests soloists comprise the orchestra for the program. Featured are Musical Director and pianist Thomas Griep, flutist Sara Andon, violinist Nathalie Bonin, cellist Diaz-Gamero, on trumpet will be Drew Ninmer, on guitar Omri Lahav, with vocalists Maegan McConnell and Robert Yacko. Special guests Mark Tschanz and Italian pop star Veronika Coassolo will do a piece from "Django Unchained."
The full concert featuring the music of this legendary film composer is performed by this select ensemble of world-class musicians and singers, with “an emphasis on famous Westerns like 'A Fistful of Dollars' and 'Once Upon a Time in the West,''' according to the websites program highlights, as well as some obscure and rare gems.
According to Stanny, Morricone "has written more than 400 scores, and most of them are in Italian." For the Autry, half of the program is from his Westerns, and will feature songs "Ecstasy of Gold" from "The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly," main themes from "For a Few Dollars More" and a "Fistful of Dollars," "The Man With the Harmonica," from "Once Upon a Time in The West," "Run Man Run," from "The Big Gun Down," and "Gabriel's Oboe" from "The Mission," with rare pieces "Angel Face" from "A Pistol for Ringo," the main theme from "Duck You, Sucker," "The Ballad of Hank McCain" from "Machine Gun McCain," and "Ancora Qui" from "Django Unchained," just to name a few.
Also in the program is "Le Due Stagioni Della Vita." "It's from a movie hardly anybody ever saw. It was released in France, and came and went," said Stanny. "But because Morricone liked it he put it on his album ... it's really obscure, but it's really beautiful."
After the concert, there will be a no-host dinner and drinks gathering at Mimi's Café in Los Feliz around 8:00 p.m. in a reserved a room where music fans and patrons can mingle with the artists.
- Poster Art Illustration courtesy of The Autry Museum of the American West;
- Photo of Henry Stanny courtesy of Henry Stanny.