Review by Katie Tarrant
I have had the pleasure of attending the Royal Albert Hall on numerous occasions, and it is by far my favourite concert venue. This time I was here to see Planet Earth II in concert, and needless to say I was incredibly excited. Planet Earth II is an eye-opening nature documentary series produced by the BBC, and scored by Hans Zimmer, Jasha Klebe, and Jacob Shea. For the concert, the show’s soundtrack was performed by the glorious BBC Concert Orchestra, alongside London Voices, and magnificently conducted by Jessica Cottis.
Being familiar with the Planet Earth series and David Attenborough‘s wonderful narration, I was curious to find out the format for the performance. I had only ever seen films in concert, and so seeing a TV show live was a new experience for me. The evening turned out to be a collection of the series’ most poignant footage, void of narration so the focus could be purely on the music. To give context for those that may be new to Planet Earth, the show’s Executive Producer Mike Gunton was present to introduce each clip beforehand.
Before the show started, Mike gave some insight in to the development and production of the show, including the creation of the score. As he did so, it was a pleasant surprise to see Hans Zimmer himself step out on to the stage to a roaring applause. Immediately, he insisted the applause be not for him, but for the incredible crew behind the show and orchestra behind this event. At that point, he introduced one of his co-composers Jacob Shea, who then conducted the first piece.
The opening performance was absolutely astounding as the orchestra tore in to the main theme for the show, accompanied by a compilation video of some of the footage to come. You could feel the wave of goosebumps ricocheting around the audience as the atmosphere began to blossom. The remainder of the show was split across the following creature clips that fans of the show might be familiar with: the indri lemurs, sloths, lions vs the giraffe, the harvest mouse’s escape from the barn owl, hummingbirds, parental penguins, bird formations, back-scratching bears, baby iguanas vs snakes, the golden eagle, locusts, thieving monkeys, and also touched on the future of eco-friendly building development, and the importance of protecting the rainforest.
The way that the Royal Albert described the event, as an “extraordinary musical safari”, was incredibly apt. With the immersive setup that the Royal Albert Hall has built for these events, it wasn’t hard to feel like you were really travelling around the world. It was quite a euphoric experience for me as I reminded myself that I wasn’t watching something acted or over-exaggerated, this was just the raw beauty of our planet captured for us all to see.
Having the orchestra live and in your face made me realise just how much the show’s soundtrack enhances the emotion of what these creatures are experiencing in their every day lives. Hans, Jacob, and Jasha have done magnificent work in crafting a soundtrack that ebbs and weaves, supporting and building the emotion in all of the right places. The Planet Earth series is a wonderfully dynamic series, encapsulating all the beauty, wonder, and danger of our world, and it was an absolute pleasure to see such stunning Ultra HD 4K footage on the Royal Albert Hall’s grandiose projector.
As expected, the BBC Concert Orchestra gave a first-class performance alongside the London Voices. This was only amplified by Jessica’s passion for conducting and I felt her energy all the way from the stage to the back of the hall. Alongside the performance, Mike Gunton did a fantastic job at keeping the audience engaged and involved throughout the evening. It was lovely hearing him recall his experiences when filming for Planet Earth 2 and for him to share his fond recollections with the audience. The series was filmed across 40 countries, over 4 years of production, and produced enough footage to fill a staggering 82,000 DVD’s (400TBs).
All in all, the Royal Albert Hall was home to a spectacle and a half with this show. The lighting was great, the mix was superb, and the atmosphere was breath-taking. The soundtrack for Planet Earth II is highly acclaimed by many and it was truly a privilege to hear it in such a glorious and intimate environment. The ‘Films In Concert‘ performances that the Royal Albert Hall put on are always out-of-this-world and I highly recommend them. The next in the series will be Star Trek In Concert on the 2nd of June.
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The Sound Architect