Film music buff scores dream role
Nicholas Buc. Picture: Supplied

In most cases, conductors are invited to lead an orchestra for a concert series. But when talented young composer and conductor Nicholas Buc heard that a concert based on the music from the acclaimed Pixar films was heading to Australia, he couldn't risk waiting for an invitation.

"I actually asked to be involved with it," the 32-year-old rising star says from Melbourne.

"As a film music buff this is my dream job and, as much of my composing is for film and television, Pixar's music is the kind I want to be writing myself eventually."

Pixar in Concert sees Buc conduct the WA Symphony Orchestra as sequences from the first 13 Pixar films are played in sync on a huge screen.

Similar to WASO's triumphant Lord of the Rings concert last year, where the talk track was left on but the score muted for the symphony to play live to the film, Buc says this will be more like a Whitman's Sampler of Pixar's best sequences.

"We cherry pick the best seven to 10 minutes from each film both musically and narratively," the Melbourne-based maestro says.

"It's a trip down the Pixar universe and a bit like a 21st century version of Fantasia. Even if there weren't visuals involved, the Pixar music is just so exciting and so much fun to conduct.

"It's such a challenge, too. Every time I do it, I think 'OK, you've done this before', but then I get up on stage and my concentration levels are hitting 200 per cent."

With the enthusiastic Buc on the baton, Pixar in Concert moves from Randy Newman's whimsical, slapstick melodies on Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Monsters Inc to Michael Giacchino's madcap capers on The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

Yet Buc points out that the concert is not just the cartoony music many might expect - and thus not just for kids - but the more emotional, moving moments in the films, such as Thomas Newman's romantic space waltz in WALL-E and Patrick Doyle's Celtic moods in the Scottish-set adventure Brave.

"The most interesting one for me is Up, where we play the moving sequence at the start where the old man looks back on his life with his wife. It's a beautiful piece of filmmaking with no dialogue that makes people cry purely through the music and imagery.

"To contrast that, The Incredibles is super fun, with its James Bond- style score mixed with a bit of Henry Mancini and big band jazz stuff. That's another favourite."

Buc, a composer, conductor, violinist, pianist and arranger who's also conducted Hitchcock's classic Psycho at the Sydney Opera House, was working on Tina Arena's symphony tour when a colleague mentioned he was bringing Pixar in Concert to Australia.

"I casually said I would love to conduct it but I didn't hear anything more about it for six months, when out of the blue he got in touch and said 'still interested?'"

Jumping at the opportunity, Buc has already conducted the Pixar concert with the Sydney and Tasmanian symphonies and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and will take the show to Adelaide and Malaysia next. After that, he has a scholarship to study film scoring at New York University.

"The only thing that could beat conducting the Pixar Concert is to actually be composing the music," he says. "I'll be working on that while in New York, so we'll see what happens."

The West Australian

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