Hearing John William's music score for Star Wars live "surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together"
A very long and snow-plagued drive saw us arrive too late for a photo opportunity with Lord Vader or Chewbacca at the venue, choosing instead to order much-needed food and a glass of wine. Oh how age and maturity changes one’s priorities in life…
|Wookiee and Sith Lord console each other over their missed |
chance of a photo opportunity with Rose
Back in 1977 (the year of Star Wars) my greatest Christmas gift ever was the The Story of Star Wars album on audio cassette. Essentially the abridged audio track from the film, with rich, deep linking narration by Roscoe Lee Brown , I literally played this so many times the recording completely wore off the tape. So not only is all the film’s dialogue indelibly imprinted on my nerdy brain - but every musical cue as well. Every nuance, phrase, reprise and theme - and if this live performance varied even the tiniest bit I would notice.
|See - it's not called "The Story of A New Hope" is it? |
Not that I feel in any way entitled to pass judgement on the NZSO, or believe that anyone else should give a Wookiee’s hoot about my opinion - but I just literally wouldn’t be able to help it.
I needn’t have worried. From the opening 20th Century fox fanfare to the last fading note of the end credits theme, the NZSO were outstanding. I might have been able to detect a tiny difference in the sound of some horn sections but otherwise it was utterly perfect. Rose, (who’s had this film inflicted upon her many times), said she could completely forget the music was being played live, and was hearing the original recorded soundtrack. Not being even remotely musical, the sheer genius of coordinating a large orchestra to perform in perfect synchronisation with the live screening of a film just staggers me.
|People forget how genuinely funny, and brave, Threepio was in this film. |
He got the biggest laughs of the night, and later offers to 'gladly donate'
his own circuits to save Artoo Detoo. (image: newlyswissed.com)
In terms of the music itself - sure, The Empire Strikes Back has the foot-stomping Imperial March. But Star Wars introduces possibly the world’s most recognisable title music, Luke, Leia and Ben’s themes and the stirring medal ceremony fanfare at the film’s conclusion. It also features my own favourite musical section, the almost staccato ’Tie Fighter Attack’ theme. Swelling from the gently ‘see sawing’ strings as Luke and Han climb into the Falcon’s gun turrets, to the full-blown horns heralding the imperial fighters all-guns-blazing appearance, it is pure musical adrenaline. And perfectly compliments the frantic cutting and pacing of this sequence, which helped set Star Wars apart from anything ever seen before. (The clip was heavily used in the film’s original promotion). It must be hell to play - and is brilliantly analysed here:
The final Death Star battle famously sees composer John Williams repeatedly flick his character motifs back and forth, from Luke, to Ben, to Vader - once again, surely not easy for even a national orchestra. And to actually see the ominously booming kettle drums played live as Tarkin gives his final “You may fire when ready” was yet another special moment for me.
Yes, I may at times have shed silent tears in the dark , like a sad old geek who’s spent too much of his life watching this film. But isn’t that kind of response the measure of any truely great live performance of much-loved music?