When the audience breaks into rapturous applause as soon at the ASO starts playing the 20th Century Fox theme song, you know anticipation is high for Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert – and it’s swept into overdrive as the musicians launch into the main Star Wars theme.
It is one of the most recognisable pieces of movie music in the world, and hearing it played live for the first time is thrilling.
The audiences for ASO Showcase series events are a mixed bunch of orchestra stalwarts and serious film fans of all ages – including a few in costume – and this show at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre Arena shouldn’t have left either group disappointed.
In an age of the multiplex and the ever-shrinking screen, it was wonderful to watch George Lucas’s iconic 1977 film projected on an 18m by 8m screen; in fact, you could have been forgiven for momentarily forgetting there was a live orchestra playing in front of it.
For this reviewer, however, the ASO – under the baton of conductor Nicholas Buc – was equally mesmerising.
A highlight was the recurring theme commonly known as The Force Theme, but also sometimes as The Binary Sunset Theme, as it is first played when Luke gazes at the Tatooine’s sun, frustrated that his dreams of adventure might be thwarted. The gentle, soaring swing of strings in that moment is spine-tingling; the same music has an exhilarating effect when played much more stridently during key action scenes.
Composer John Williams’ richly layered score for A New Hope, which won an Oscar and numerous other awards and has been named the greatest American film score of all time by the American Film Institute, gives every section of the orchestra a chance to shine – and the ASO musicians did, with flawless timing and unwavering energy.
Unlike Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert earlier this year, there was no encouragement for audience members to interact with the performance by cheering or booing, with the film and music more than sufficient entertainment. The musicians’ real moment in the spotlight came during the end credits, and while most people remained seated, it’s a shame some felt compelled to leave while they were still playing and before the final applause.
One of the wonderful byproducts of shows such as this is that they encourage us to pay more attention to the music of cinema, which is such an intrinsic part of the film experience and yet too easily overlooked, especially amid CGI and 3D blockbusters.
If you missed this show, the good news is that the ASO will return to the Entertainment Centre next year with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert – fittingly, on May 4, which is international Star Wars Day. May the fourth be with you.