Written by Richie Pepio
On Saturday, September 16th, I took a break from obsessing over each frame of The Empire Strikes Back to enjoy the original Star Wars in all its glory. The New York Philharmonic, performing out of Lincoln Center, played John Williams' Oscar winning score in its entirety. A New Hope ran on a screen behind the orchestra while trumpets blared, drums boomed and many a fan laughed, cried, and felt the Force flow through them.
Although the theatrical cut was released, re-released and re-re-released before I was born, I saw A New Hope in theaters in 1997, just in time for Greedo to shoot first and Jabba to get stepped on. Like many 4th graders, I was obsessed with the Original Trilogy. With the Special Editions came the prospect of seeing an one of these classics on the big screen, and my parents took me to the nearest multiplex. But instead of the iconic space epic, we saw Flubber. I was crushed... until next week, when I was lucky enough to witness Alderaan and the Death Star explode with CGI-shockwaves added for emphasis.
Whether at a convention screening or a midnight showing, we've all been to fan-packed theaters. In these instances you have the unique experience of sharing in the cheers for your favorite characters, sustained laughter at lukewarm jokes and applause at the credits that only the audience can hear. Even if you prefer responding to events on screen in your own silent and personal way, it's hard not to get swept up in the emotion of, say, the premiere showing of a film like The Force Awakens - arguably, the first truly enjoyable Star Wars installment since 1983. Surprisingly, Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert was the most buoyant and giddy screening I've ever attended.
The crowd was a unique mix of nerds and ticket holders. Some people were dressed in their fanciest duds, others in their fanciest Chewbacca T-shirts. It was "dress casual" vs. "fly casual" and for a glamorous theater in Lincoln Center, no matter what people's background and regardless of the fact that everybody in that music hall had probably collectively seen Star Wars millions of times, the 40-year-old film did what it's always done - it brought everyone together.
Rebels and Imperials were in the same building - it could have been mass hysteria but instead, for one short span of two hours, there was peace in the galaxy. Even Vader didn't commit any war crimes.
Although there were two people in the audience who would not shut up...
With a full orchestra to loudly punctuate the events onscreen, I found myself hearing notes, instruments, and movements hidden from the CD I'd worn out through the years. It's surprising to see just how little the rest of the orchestra moves as the flautists take charge during "Princess Leia's Theme." And while the Death Star Trench Run is one of the best edited sequences set to film, the sharp, jabbing of the string section's bows, moving up and down in unison as Luke's X-Wing speeds toward that thermal exhaust port is just as exciting as the onscreen space battle. You can view all the documentaries about him that are out there, you can go watch the live medleys performed by orchestras the world over, but seeing an entire film set to Williams' music gives you the full appreciation of his skill as a composer.
I could not recommend this enough. Having seen Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with a live orchestra at Radio City and now this, it only enhances your appreciation of the film itself. It also brings out the emotions in ways you might have forgotten or overlooked. (Specifically, the jokes - C-3P0, who can be more annoying than entertaining at this point, got so many laughs from the audience in his exchanges with R2-D2, I forgot how essential he is as A New Hope's comic relief.)
So if you're in New York between now and October, try getting a ticket to this event. The NY Philharmonic plans on performing the scores to The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens over the next several weeks.
As a fan who thinks the soundtrack to Phantom Menace is Williams' best work since 1980's Empire, I'm hoping they someday produce a concert series of the prequels. But until that comes we have these symphonic presentations of Episodes IV through VII to keep us occupied as we wait for The Last Jedi.
Best Performance by a Human: Sir Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi.
Best Performance by a Non-human: Too many to count -- C-3P0, the sound effects both large and small (Threepio and Artoo's gears, the ships taking off), the unparalleled special effects...
Best Line: "May the Force be with you."
Best Song: "The Battle of Yavin"
Rating: 110 out of 113 total members of John Williams' Star Wars orchestra.
This was originally posted on Mindctrlaltdel.tumblr.com