15 Dec 2023

20th anniversary of Love Actually celebrated in concert

From Morning Report, 8:27 am on 15 December 2023
Love Actually

Love Actually Photo: wikipedia

‘Tis the season where Love Actually reappears on our TV screens.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the festive flick, which has become a Christmas classic for many - as have the songs featured on the soundtrack.

The film was greeted with critical derision but audience adoration - it made $US247 million ($NZ398 million) worldwide.

To celebrate its anniversary, orchestras in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch will play the likes of The Beatles, Mariah Carey, The Pointer Sisters and The Beach Boys in a series of concerts entitled "Why we love to love Love Actually" this weekend.

Two decades on from its release, responses on the streets of Wellington ranged from devotion to hatred, with one passerby saying they avoid TV in December to ensure they miss seeing it.

But Wellington musician Brent Stewart couldn’t disagree more.

The pianist will perform the soundtrack as part of Orchestra Wellington, while the film is shown on the big screen at the Michael Fowler Centre.

Stewart watches the film every year and says the soundtrack keeps bringing him back.

"You can imagine a lot of curation went into choosing the music, because it doesn’t feel tokenistic it feels integral to the story.

"Songs like 'All You Need is Love' from The Beatles or 'Jump for My Love' - these are songs that are still really quite popular and loved today."

But the song Stewart is most looking forward to performing is Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now' - a rendition of the 1969 hit that Mitchell re-recorded in the year 2000 with a 70-piece orchestra.

It plays at a pivotal, tear-jerking scene when Emma Thompson's character Karen discovers her husband - played by the late Alan Rickman - gifts a gold necklace to his secretary Mia - and gives her a CD.

"I love cathartic-type moments and I love when music really hits you in the feels and to me, that’s just so powerful and it's very suspended musically it doesn’t have much of a pulse. It feels atmospheric," Stewart said.

Conductor Vincent Hardaker said more than 50 musicians will make up each orchestra including a full rhythm, wind, brass and string section.

He thinks the event is sure to get crowds into the Christmas spirit.

"To me, orchestral music is all about the music, but there’s a strong visual element as well. So I hope people come see this and realise I can go to a classic music concert, I can have some wine, I can talk about it with my friends and I can experience something new and exciting."

The Auckland Festival Orchestra will perform the soundtrack twice at the Civic on Friday, and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra perform it at the town hall this Sunday.

You might find Love Actually is all around.