Metro Weekly

Symphonic Politics: NSO Pops and House of Cards

With House of Cards In Concert, Jeff Beal hopes to lure the Netflix crowd to the symphony

Jeff Beal, composer and conductor House of Cards Concert - Photo: courtesy of NSO

Jeff Beal, composer and conductor House of Cards Concert – Photo: courtesy of NSO

“People probably watch House of Cards on a phone,” Jeff Beal laughs. “This is about as far away from that as you can get.”

Beal is the show’s composer. And next week, he’ll lead the NSO Pops in a House of Cards-focused program at the Kennedy Center. As the symphony performs highlights of his Emmy-winning score to the popular Netflix series, clips from the first four seasons will be projected onto a massive screen above the orchestra.

“I think for people to experience music they’ve heard and they know pretty well played by a full symphony orchestra, and also seeing this beautiful cinematography and direction on a really big screen in the Kennedy Center, is a different type of thrilling experience that you simply don’t get at home,” Beal says.

House of Cards has been a different type of thrilling experience from the get-go — for Beal and the creative team as much as for audiences. “Obviously when we were first working on it, we had no idea how Netflix was even going to release it,” he says. Releasing each season at once and inspiring the concept of binge-watching “is quite different than a [traditional TV] drama, which usually plays out week by week…. Each season is much more like a 13-hour movie. [It’s] very fun to write that way and compose a score, really working on that longer, dramatic arc.”

To create the right atmosphere for the show, Beal drew on classic, politically minded film scores such as All The President’s Men. And while Jim Parker’s “jaunty” score for the original British TV mini-series from 1990 was “way different,” both give a nod to the show’s inherent black comedy. “There’s always sort of a wink going on with the music,” says Beals.

The program concludes with a panel discussion with several actors from the show, including Michael Kelly, Michael Gill, and Jayne Atkinson, as well as the creators of the series, Michael Dobbs, whose novel inspired the original British version, and American adaptor Beau Willimon. “[They will] compare and contrast U.S. versus U.K. politics,” says Beal. “It’s an interesting angle given current events.”

Much like the show helped inspire a new way for people to watch television, Beal hopes the concert will inspire a new audience for the symphony. “As much as I love the 100- and 200-year-old classic repertoire,” says Beal, “I think one of the ways of keeping this tradition alive and fresh is to see what music that’s part of our culture can have a place in the concert hall as well.” –Doug Rule

House of Cards In Concert is Thursday, July 14, at 8 p.m., in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Tickets are $19 to $79. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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