A Star Wars Symphony

I don’t know how I got so lucky to see so many live performances lately, but I’m sure glad it’s happening that way.

A little backstory for this one, though: I’ve been a die-hard Star Wars geek since my earliest memory; A purist, yes, but one with a sense of humor and a sense of fun. When I was 12 or so, I bought a cassette tape called “Star Tracks,” [ amazon ] featuring Erich Kunzel and the Cincinatti Pops performing all sorts of sci-fi film themes, most of which were written by John Williams. I imagine it’s still somewhere in the storage unit with all of the other cassettes I can’t bring myself to throw away.

Fast forward to last Sunday afternoon. I had just returned from a week of backpacking in the Enchantments, and an impassioned voicemail was waiting for me. My friend had just seen the Seattle Pops series with Erich Kunzel conducting the Seattle Symphony in a “Star Wars Spectacular” at Benaroya Hall, and I must go if I possibly could! I hopped online and purchased a Founder’s Tier ticket for $60. It was a little steep for an impulse buy, but I am still kicking myself for missing the Lord of the Rings Symphony last year, and I didn’t want to regret another missed opportunity.

The performance was narrated with a script written by Anthony Daniels (C-3PO). The headlining narrator for the show was Daniel Logan, who played the young Boba Fett in Episode II, but at this Sunday matinee he was replaced by local actor and symphony narrator, Frank Corrado, whose voice had the deep, contemplative qualities of Kelsey Grammer. You could tell he was enjoying his work as he filled us in on the passing story between musical movements.

The orchestra was also accompanied by the Seattle Symphony Chorale, who showed us their vocal might during the most popular prequel piece, “Duel of the Fates,” a song that even had a music video on MTV. The mic seemed a bit close to one or two of the stronger singers, which took away from the full effect of the blend of voices, but the volume improved, and voices melded into a unified force as the show went on.

Opening the evening was the fanfare for 20th Century Fox, of course. Highlights included two of my favorite pieces: “The Asteroid Field,” from Empire Strikes Back, which is has some soaring lyrical moments that give me goosebumps, and “Jabba the Hutt” from Return of the Jedi — because how often do you really get to hear a fantastic tuba solo? If the Symphony web site is correct, this was played by Christopher Olka, who recieved quite an ovation for his efforts, and deservedly so!

Such a tremendous show cannot go without an encore, and after a quarter of the audience bolted for the door during the curtain call, the remainder were treated to a piece that was conspicuously missing: that playful tune straight out of the Mos Eisley Cantina. (If you are a true fan, you know that this hit by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes is actually entitled “Mad About Me.”)

Mr. Kunzel took a moment to compliment the Seattle Symphony, saying that we should be very proud of their hard work and talent, and that attempting John Williams’ score was no easy feat. We were then invited to join the symphony and chorale in a rendition of “When The Saints Go Marching In” in tribute to those in the paths of Katrina and Rita, and the audience obliged with hands clapping and voices echoing off of the sleek wooden panels of Taper Auditorium. It was a bit of a non-sequitur, but sweet nonetheless.

I forgave a lot of the audience background noise because there were a lot of children in attendance at this matinee. (Oh, how I would have loved to have the opportunity when I was young.) Unfortunately, it wasn’t kids making the ruckus – they were rather engrossed in the music. I seem to complain about audience etiquette in every show I review, but I figure that will stop when my experience isn’t tarnished by bad manners.

The Star Wars Symphony is the first in this season’s Seattle Pops Series, which will also feature Doc Severinsen, the Fabulous Forties, The Glenn Miller Orchestra, and Hitchcock film scores. [ ss ]

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