When I read that John Williams's score for Home Alone would be performed live by our Philadelphia Orchestra, I didn’t waste a second. I immediately called our son and daughter-in-law to ask if I could take our 10-year-old grandson, Josh, to see it. Josh gave the invite a triple yes.
In Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin plays Kevin McCallister, an eight-year-old boy who is accidentally left, yes, home alone when his family leaves for a Christmas holiday in Paris. There he successfully defends himself and his family home against two comedic thieves, and learns to appreciate a neighbor he once viewed as sinister.
Home Alone together
On a deeper level, of course, Home Alone addresses every child’s terror of losing his parents and having to face the world without them, and all parents' terror of not being able to protect their children from cruelty, ruthlessness and despair. However, the script of this film is so masterful, the musical portrayal so rich, and the acting so skillful that it propels those of all ages to face the most terrifying of experiences both joyfully and hopefully.
I wanted to share this experience with Josh because I enjoy his company so much and find talking with him pure pleasure. I love to hear about his activities and see how much he enjoys being with and caring about others. It is also a pleasure to see how important learning is to him. But there is more: despite how parents do all that is possible to cushion and protect them, children today are very aware that the times are complex and perilous. I hoped to be with Josh when he could be temporarily free from today’s confusion through the union of extraordinary music and fine acting, when he could experience a clear depiction of the triumph of bravery, sensitivity, family devotion, forgiveness, and love.
While having dinner before going to Verizon Hall, I asked Josh why he liked the film, which he has seen a few times. His explanation was clear: “Even though at first Kevin was scared, he took care of himself, and even though he sometimes missed his family, he made sure the bad guys got it.” I then asked how he thought the evening with the orchestra would be different from the film. His response: “How can it not be! The music will be alive.”
And alive it was. The evening was extraordinary. Under the direction of Constantine Kitsopoulos, our orchestra played their hearts out — their music telling us the precise story we were seeing. Also, it was such a delight to watch orchestra members fully engrossed in the film itself when they were not using their instruments to tell the story of triumph over fear and danger. A shout out must also be made to the Choirs at the College of New Jersey, under the direction of John Leonard, for the depth and style they added to this experience. My only regret was that all three performances were on school nights, which may have accounted for some empty rows.
Josh, who despite being tired after a very long day, clapped long and hard at the conclusion of the evening, and told me, “I saw the voices of the different instruments, and could watch where they were coming from. It made the story even better.” And then he asked, “Can we get tickets to see them play the music for Raiders of the Lost Ark?”
Yes we can, and yes we will.