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‘The Big Picture’ presents live Jewish movie-music mashup at George Mason

David Krakauer performs on the clarinet. (Evan Seplow)

WASHINGTON — It’s easy to take for granted just how important music is to the movies.

George Mason University hopes to change that this weekend with a movie-music mashup.

Renowned clarinetist David Krakauer presents “The Big Picture,” a collection of iconic movie scores performed live by The 35mm Orchestra at Mason’s Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Friday.

“Everybody loves the movies,” Krakauer told WTOP. “It takes the audience on a journey. It’s a new, different way of looking at my own search for identity. I grew up as an assimilated Jewish American. … I got into exploring my own cultural heritage. I grew up playing classical and jazz, abandoned jazz for about 10 years, then came back to improvised music through klezmer.”

The klezmer genre is the traditional music of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe, played by ensembles for an array of instrumental dance tunes at weddings and other celebrations.

“[They’re] movies that relate to Jewish content in some way or a Jewish sensibility,” Krakauer said. “I do a trilogy of movies that deal with the Holocaust — ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Schindler’s List’ — weaved together in a kind of a medley. [We’re] starting off with ‘Willkommen’ from ‘Cabaret’ and ending up with ‘Tradition’ from ‘Fiddler on the Roof.'”

In addition to films about Judaism, you’ll also hear from Jewish filmmakers like Mel Brooks.

“We do the theme from ‘Blazing Saddles,'” Krakauer said. “I even sing a little bit, tongue-in-cheek. Follow the bouncing ball so the audience can sing along: ‘He rode a blazing saddle!'”

Get ready for “People” from “Funny Girl” (1968), “Honeycomb” from “Lenny” (1974) and select pieces by the likes of Marvin Hamlisch, John Williams and Randy Newman. You’ll also hear clips from Woody Allen, who’s simultaneously the most prolific Jewish filmmaker of the past 50 years, but also recently controversial during the #MeToo movement.

“[From] ‘Midnight in Paris,’ the great Sidney Bechet piece ‘Si Tu Vois Ma Mère’ (‘If You See My Mother’),” Krakauer said. “[Also], the march from ‘The Love for Three Oranges’ by Prokofiev, which Woody Allen used hysterically in ‘Love & Death.’ Then the great jazz ballad ‘Body & Soul’ from ‘Radio Days,’ reflecting Woody Allen’s sensibility through his choice of music for movies.”

The 35mm Orchestra includes a collection of world-renowned musicians in a six-piece band.

“Just some really amazing musicians,” Krakauer said. “Sara Caswell, an incredible violinist who was nominated for a Grammy for Best Improvised Jazz Solo … The great jazz guitarist Sheryl Bailey, who’s another amazing musician; Rob Schwimmer, an incredible pianist who also plays this instrument that’s kind of a keyboard theremin called the Haken Continuum; Brad Jones on bass; and Saktoshi Takashi on drums, a very creative drummer. … It’s a killin’ band.”

While the live music plays, a series of new animated films created by the New York video company Light of Day will be projected on a giant screen behind the various performers.

“We have these really lovely visuals behind us that are meditations on the themes of the movies,” Krakauer said. “A lot of it is animation, but it’s very abstract. It’s not really telling a story. The music is really the narrative, then the stuff I’m saying in between, I’m the tour guide for the audience. The idea was to have a multimedia presentation, so the visuals are just a lovely backdrop that have little triggers from the movies, little memories from the movies.”

While you can always listen to recordings of movie music, there’s nothing like hearing it live.

“I’m very proud of all the recorded output I’ve done — I can reach so many people with that — but I think the live experience is always great,” Krakauer said. “We have an amazing band. You never know what’s going to happen. Each show is a completely unique experience because we’re improvising a lot. … You can only get that in a live show and feel the energy of the musicians right there. I think people should come out and they’ll have a really great time.”

Click here for more details on “The Big Picture.” Listen to our full chat with David Krakauer below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with David Krakauer (Full Interview)

Jason Fraley

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