George Fenton is one of the United Kingdom's most successful
film composers. But for fans of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, he
is perhaps best known as the composer of the ground-breaking,
breathtaking television nature documentaries Blue Planet and Planet Earth.
Fenton conducted his live concert versions of the documentaries
Blue Planet Live and Planet Earth Live with the
DSO at the Meyerson in July, 2008 and June, 2010, respectively.
These extraordinary concerts combined projected HD imagery of
animals in nature with Fenton's majestic soundtrack performed live
by the DSO.
Fenton will perform his latest documentary concert sensation, Frozen Planet in
Concert, August 31-September 1 with the DSO. The format is
the same as Blue Planet Live and Planet Earth
Live, but Fenton says Frozen Planet in Concert is
"the most remarkable" of the trilogy.
Buy tickets NOW to Frozen Planet in Concert >>
"The detail of what you see, and the interconnected stories that
you see in the Frozen Planet, are probably unprecedented
in natural history filmmaking," Fenton says.
The Los Angeles Times agreed. Reviewing the world premiere
performance of Frozen Planet in Concert on July 6 with
Fenton conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood
Bowl, reviewer Mary McNamara called the show "breathtaking and
revelatory, filled with unparalleled imagery from the ends of the
Earth," a concert event of "pure visual and audio art" which
offered "a completely different way of 'watching' television."
She also reported the many children in the audience delighted in
watching the scenes featuring penguins.
I spoke with Fenton by phone on July 26 from his home in London,
where he and the rest of the city were anticipating the Opening
Ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Here's the first of three
installments of our conversation. We discussed Frozen Planet in
Concert, his great affection for the Dallas Symphony, and - of
course! - penguins and Polar bears!
At the world premiere of Frozen Planet in
Concert in July at the Hollywood Bowl, the Los Angeles Times
praised the concert as a "dazzling pleasure," "pure visual and
audio art," and "breathtaking and revelatory." So, I guess the
concert went OK?
It went really really well and got fantastic response and also
wonderful reviews. We had big crowds.
Frozen Planet being quite new, I was surprised we got such
big crowds and such a good reaction.
This concert seems a natural fit for those who loved the
Planet Earth and Blue Planet concerts, which you
conducted with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra over the past few
It is the last part of this trilogy, and in a way the most
remarkable part. This is a world that is changing so fast now, that
really the Frozen Planet may be the last time people see
the Polar Regions as they are now.
People are familiar with penguins and with the polar bear and
all of that. What makes this really great is that the filmmakers
have applied the same kind of rigor and time and investment into
this as they did into the other two documentaries. So the detail of
what you see, and the interconnected stories that you see in the
Frozen Planet, are probably unprecedented in natural
When you presented a concert of your film music with the
DSO back in February, 2011, you premiered From a Disappearing
World, inspired by a trek you took across the Arctic ice.
Describe that trek and the frozen world you experienced, and how it
inspired your compositions for Frozen Planet in
This was in Svalbard, the archipelago north of Norway, within
the Arctic Circle. I was only there for four days and five nights.
We stayed on a 1,900 square foot steel hull ketch that was frozen
into one of the fiords. We would go from the ketch out over the
glaciers and over the sea ice on skidoos [snowmobiles]. In the
three days on the skidoos we did 150 miles, quite a lot of
The things that you notice - I mean, this sounds odd to say, but
you notice that it is very cold! It is beautiful and the sun was
shining, and it wasn't winter and for the Arctic it wasn't
particularly cold, but when you're on the skidoos and you're
traveling, with the wind-chill it's getting down to around minus 45
degrees centigrade. You can't really take your gloves off. And so
you appreciate what it must be like when it is winter and going
down to minus 60 and 70 degrees. You realize the cold exerts a very
different dynamic onto the way that life works there.
You also notice that you are in a wilderness. You can drive for
miles and miles and see literally nothing. It is very striking how
empty it is, and how clear and clean and dazzling is this
wilderness that just goes on and on and on.
When you do come across these bursts of life, you notice it.
Particularly the bird life. You get certain places where there are
literally millions of birds. It's quite striking because it is so
quiet, and when you approach something where there is sound, you
hear it in a completely different way. The sound of these birds is
There is a lightness to the Artic. The color if the ice and the
stillness and the quiet are incredibly appealing.
It sounds like you experienced some of the same emotion
some feel when listening to the music of Sibelius, and the other
When I came back I listened to quite a lot of composers from
Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc. There is room in the world up there
for folkloric traditions, and old, strange, basic wisdoms. You are
constantly in touch with elemental things, and you are constantly
You can't travel without a loaded gun. Because you won't see
anything for hour after hour after hour and you may then go round a
corner and find a male polar bear. And a male polar bear, if he
sees you, will try and catch you and eat you. So there is a sort of
straightforward way of being aware and feeling for place.
The Polar Regions are too remote to be human friendly. It is
quite hard these days to travel to many places and feel like a real
visitor. But you feel like a real visitor to parts of this Arctic
world, and I imagine in Antarctica it is even more the case.
I'm particularly struck by that. I mean, when you think of the
history of human beings on this planet, and when you consider that
100 years ago no human being had made it to the South Pole, well,
it must be pretty challenging. And it is.
Return to the DSO Blog for another installment of my
conversation with George Fenton and learn about the special DSO
connection to Frozen Planet in Concert.
What did you like best about the BBC/Discovery Channel show
Frozen Planet and the other documentaries Planet
Earth and Blue Planet? Comment below, and look for
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