Spinning Platters Interview: Sarah Hicks, Ratatouille Feature Film with Live Orchestra

by Chad Liffmann on July 12, 2016


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This upcoming weekend, July 16-17, the San Francisco Symphony will screen Pixar’s Oscar-winning film, Ratatouille, with the score performed live. Conducting the orchestra will be none other than the amazingly accomplished SF Symphony regular, Sarah Hicks. Sarah was gracious enough to answer some questions about her own musical tastes, as well as her special love of Pixar films…

Spinning Platters: My excitement for the Ratatouille show is growing, since it’s my favorite Pixar film. A popular dinner party question is ‘what’s your favorite Pixar film?’ So, do you have a favorite Pixar film?

Sarah Hicks: Oh, I can’t really choose because I love them all!  That being said, I have to admit that the ones I keep going back to are Monsters, Inc., Up and Ratatouille.

SP: Do you recall your first introduction to film music? How has your appreciation of film music and film scores grown over time?

SH: The first film I remember seeing early in childhood was the original Fantasia, so I think you could say the notion of film and music going hand in hand was implanted early in my mind. I was lucky to grow up in an era of fantastic film scores by one of my favorite film composers, John Williams – I think the sure sign of great movie music is that it can evoke the emotions of the film just by listening to it, and Williams is one of the masters. As I have progressed in my conducting career, I’ve made somewhat of a specialty of doing films with live orchestra, and working on everything from Singin’ in the Rain to Star Trek has shown me how much music drives a narrative, creates atmosphere and does so much to create excitement.

SP: What do you feel is the difference to an audience member of listening to a live film score as opposed to a recorded one?

SH: Music is SO MUCH more thrilling and visceral when it’s live! I can’t overstate how much more vibrant it is when you see and hear the 100 or so musicians onstage creating that sound in the moment. It absolutely adds an extra element to the film experience.

SP: Specifically regarding Pixar, which continues to set the bar so high for animation, do you feel like Pixar has set itself above the standard with their amazing scores from Giacchino, Newman, Doyle, and others? How do you feel Pixar scores impact the films differently than the average film?

SH: Pixar absolutely sets the bar with setting the bar with their incredible scores – the care that goes into their creation and the way that music is inextricably intertwined with the images is a Pixar gold standard – no one quite does it like they do. To me it feels like music in Pixar films is treated almost like another character, not as some throwaway in the background. It’s purposeful.

SP: Michael Giacchino has crafted and been awarded for some incredible film music, from a handful of Pixar films to many of JJ Abrams’ and Brad Bird’s projects. What does it mean to you to conduct his fabulous music?

SH: I absolutely adore both Michael and his music – I’ve gotten to meet with him a few times in the years I’ve been doing film and orchestra shows. It’s pretty fabulous to be able to work on a score by a living breathing composer (not always the case when you’re in the world of symphonic music!), because an answer to a question about their music is an email away. Ratatouille in particular is so full of charm and a certain je ne sais quoi, it’s just a blast to work on this music!

SP: If you could choose any piece of film music to perform live, what would it be?

SH: I have to say, for the sake of sentimentality, it would be the original Star Wars (Episode IV) – one of the first movies I ever saw in theaters. Six times. Oh my poor parents…

SP: Thanks again for your time and I’ll see you on the 16th!


Tickets to Ratatouille—Feature Film with Live Orchestra are on sale here.
**Brad Bird and Michael Giacchino will be present for a Q&A an hour before the 7/17 performance**

You can also grab tickets to the rest of the SF Symphony Summer Series before they run out! — visit http://www.sfsymphony.org/summer.

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