Fenton — The unsettling, threatening sounds of the birds spring abrasively from loud speakers, as the guests begin to filter into the dim and cavernous hall of the Fenton Community and Cultural Center.
These are the original electronic sounds that heightened the tension of the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock classic. When released, there was no actual musical film score.
But Saturday night, 173 lucky guests were treated to “The Birds” on a big screen and a sold-out live performance of a brand new musical underscore by the Fenton Community Orchestra.
The score was written by conductor Andrew Perkins.
In all, 346 guests saw the performance, which included a rehearsal Thursday night, and a preview night on Friday, according to orchestra Executive Director Jennifer Fleck, who also plays the upright bass.
Perkins began writing the score in September 2015. In all, he composed 90 minutes of music for 56 members, and 27 different parts, or voices.
The orchestra received the music in January, and began an intense rehearsal process this winter.
Before the big event, guests enjoyed a red-carpet gala atmosphere, with hors d’oeuvres, drinks, a photo booth and a gallery of bird-based art. Renderings of birds, and Alfred Hitchcock, were everywhere.
The atmosphere was lively, classy and brought the toast of Fenton and Genesee County to the performance. But, the sounds of the birds betrayed the party atmosphere, and hinted at the impending avian attack.
When the performance began, the musical tension ramped up, into explosions of stabbing power, and nauseating dissonant notes. While it was written just last year, Perkins wrote under the strict influence of the music style of that era.
The music was very familiar, and one guest commented that he forgot there was an orchestra playing the music.
As star Tippi Hedron, or Jessica Tandy conversed, or fought off plunging seagulls, the music helped carry the guests through “The Birds” in a new way.
In the final movements of the score, the orchestra collapsed into sweeping crescendo, Perkins tying it off with a flair of his conductor’s hands, and then pumped his fists in victory, celebrating a great performance.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Perkins, the champagne celebrations starting behind him. “That was exactly what I wrote, the orchestra performed it perfectly.” He enjoyed the preview performance on Friday, but “this night, the magic was in the audience.”
He said the score was a matter of art influencing art, as a huge Hitchcock fan. “It was an intense process, but the orchestra was ready for the challenge.”
Said Fleck, “We are all just absolutely thrilled. It’s hard to describe the joy and enthusiasm and high you get after an incredible performance and packed house and sold out crowd for two nights.”