Michael Giacchino, Royal Albert Hall, review: Towering appreciation of a composing maestro

The evening was a heartfelt birthday celebration of a man wholly deserving of such praise

Jacob Stolworthy
Thursday 02 November 2017 10:46
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Michael Giacchino leading the orchestra in music from the TV show ‘Lost’
Michael Giacchino leading the orchestra in music from the TV show ‘Lost’

In many ways, a composer's job could be seen as one of the toughest in film - music, to all intents and purposes, ultimately shapes the tone a director can only hope to convey; the score a key contribution to the success of the end product's outcome.

In less than 20 years, Michael Giacchino has gone from composing video games (Medal of Honour) and television shows (Alias, Lost) to box office blockbusters (Jurassic World, Spider-Man: Homecoming), a journey that last week transported him straight to the heart of London's Royal Albert Hall for a one-off event celebrating his 50th birthday.

As the crowd took their seats, the tangible excitement in the air was rewarded by conductor Ludwig Wicki, who led the Cinematic Sinfonia Orchestra through a small handful of Giacchino's highlights: the debonair spy thrills of The Incredibles, the dread of War for the Planet of the Apes and Star Wars prequel Rogue One - presented in chipper fashion by director Gareth Edwards.

The British filmmaker wasn't alone in heaping praise upon Giacchino: Pixar whizz Pete Docter, Matt Reeves and JJ Abrams - who gave Giacchino his first (of several) TV composing appointments in 2001 - were just three of the many who had journeyed across the Atlantic to see London tenderly doff its cap to their colleague and friend at the Royal Albert Hall.

The evening was compèred by special effects designer Adam Savage who, like Giacchino's formidable scores, set the mood which isn't to say the instruments failed to guide the emotions whenever it saw fit.

Despite the composer's prevailing inspiration reaching all four corners of the building, the man himself was largely absent from his own birthday party... right up until the event's finest hour: as Lost co-showrunner Carlton Cuse recounted how Giacchino composed 50 hours of music throughout the show's six-season history, the composing maestro came out front, climbed onto the conducting podium and led the orchestra in a rendition of “Parting Words,” the standout piece of music accompanying the award-winning series' most powerful scenes (the season one finale raft launch).


Giacchino's winsome confusion as to why he'd been treated to such an event was backed up by his refusal to take much credit for his success. “I would not be able to sit up on this stage and do this here if it weren’t for the people I’ve worked with,“ he told the audience at one stage. ”I’m only here because of them."

As the clock ticked on, events took a turn for both the moving and the wacky, emblematic of the man behind the music. Giacchino wallowed in the sentimentality as he conducted the orchestra through music from Super 8 - as a video montage of his very own childhood films touchingly played in the background - while a duet with Muppet legend Gonzo (yes, really) capped the festivities in bizarre yet crowd-pleasing fashion.

Revellers vacated the London concert hall resoundingly gratified to have participated in the mutual appreciation of a composing master, who is wholly deserving of the praise.

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