Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Canada
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Mississauga Choral Society Conducted by ERICH KUNZEL
With narrator ANTHONY DANIELS
Concert Review from the Toronto Globe and Mail:
By JASON ANDERSON
Though movie fans may lament the news that George Lucas has made his final Star Wars episode, they can find solace in the knowledge that there’s a gift that will never stop giving: official spinoffs. on Tuesday night, Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall hosted the world premiere of a musical program that will take its rightful place among the greatest achievements in this or any other galaxy, provided that our planet is not destroyed by a Death Star or overrun by Wookiees any time soon.
A man who could be described as the all-powerful Sith lord of classical pops, conductor Erich Kunzel presented the Star Wars Concert, an “epic event” that culled music from all six of John Williams’s Star Wars scores. Compositions from the first Star Wars trilogy have been a core part of the repertoire of any pops-minded orchestra for more than two decades — indeed, they’ve become one of the only surefire ways to attract audience members not old enough to have known Stravinsky personally.
Kunzel was smart to repackage this music with newer (and mostly inferior) themes from the more recent trio of prequels, but his true stroke of genius was enlisting the man who played C-3PO to augment the themes with narration. Wearing a gold lamé jacket in lieu of his cyborg outfit, British actor Anthony Daniels contributed his charm, his wit and, most importantly, his aura of authenticity to the proceedings. Unlike the R2-D2 patrolling Roy Thomson Hall’s lobby, he was the real deal.
The Star Wars faithful listened in awe as Daniels recounted the saga in Cliffs Notes form, thereby rendering the contents of Episodes I to III less dull despite the presence of the phrase “tariff disputes.” Daniels’s comically self-aggrandizing statements about C-3PO’s role in the story were greeted with laughter, the mention of Jar Jar Binks with an audible hiss. As Daniels sat down and assumed the dead-eyed stare of a man who’s seen too many science-fiction conventions, members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra ably conveyed all the requisite sturm und drang of pieces known by such titles asThe Asteroid Field. Situated in the balcony above the stage was the Mississauga Choral Society, clad in what appeared to be the uniforms of the wait staff at the restaurant in the Jedi Temple. Their voices lent even more force to the pounding bombast of Williams’s heroic, pop-Wagnerian themes.
To be fair, Williams’s music can be effective even without the help of Industrial Light & Magic’s effects. That’s especially true of the themes for the movie that originally launched the franchise in 1976 and the first and best sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. The first to be written, these pieces boast a sense of lightness and invention that are missing from the later compositions, just as those qualities are absent from the hopelessly portentous later flicks. Williams is hardly renowned for his subtlety but he is able to match the characters with the right instruments (e.g., a tuba for Jabba the Hut, harp and flutes for the Ewoks).
My attempts to resist the allure of such luridly dramatic music — and nostalgia for the days when all I wanted for Christmas was a Millennium Falcon toy — were finally crushed by the stirring second dose of the main theme and an encore rendition of the alien ragtime jam as heard in the cantina scene inEpisode IV. In my excitement I realized the world might be ready for an epic spinoff of my own: a long-planned roller disco tribute to the first Star Wars trilogy, May the Force Be Funky. Interested producers may contact me through this newspaper. I’ve already got Billy Dee Williams on board.
Concert Review from the Toronto Star:
Star Wars reprise musically heroic
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …”
You remember the words, of course. They first flickered across the silver screen close to three decades ago, when George Lucas’s space epic Star Wars introduced us to Luke Skywalker, those loveable droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, and that wheezing, menacing figure behind the black helmet, Darth Vader.
They all turned up at Roy Thomson Hall last night, even going so far as to mingle with the audience.
A Star Wars fan convention? In a sense yes, judging by the cheers that accompanied C-3PO when he walked on stage, even with a shiny gold lamé jacket replacing the shiny gold metal case in which he stiff-walked his way through all six Star Wars movies.
It was probably the first time most of those fans had ever seen him in civilian gear, but all he had to do was take a few steps in his characteristic screen walk to provoke more cheering.
Only this time he was on hand not to aid Luke Skywalker in his struggle against the evil Empire, but to narrate the world premiere Star Wars Concert, a two-hour distillation of music composed by John Williams for the entire six-episode screen tale.
Conductor Erich Kunzel, a frequent Toronto visitor, concocted the program and collaborated with C-3PO (actor Anthony Daniels in non-reel life) in writing the narration connecting the musical sequences. Following tonight’s repeat concert, the two men plan to take their Star Wars Concert on a tour of several American cities.
In Toronto the music was played by members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra together with the Mississauga Choral Society and notwithstanding a few bloopers, it was performed handsomely, with all the impact one might have hoped for in a live presentation of music originally recorded under Williams’ direction with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Before telling his tale, Daniels recalled his startled reaction when he saw a sequence from the original film with music added. The music suddenly brought the film to life.
And so music often does. The composer Aaron Copland once described film music as a candle held beneath the screen to warm it. Well, in the Star Wars films, John Williams holds a veritable blowtorch.
This is full-fledged symphonic music for film of the kind produced by Hollywood studios in decades past. And it wasn’t for nothing that director Lucas, when he first heard a full-orchestra treatment of the music Williams had composed, declared that it surpassed all his expectations. Not to mince words, the music for Star Wars is as important to the success of the film series as the music of Max Steiner was to the success of Gone With the Wind.
Kunzel performed his act of synthesis well, drawing on virtually all the important motifs from the series, and Daniels proved a droll synthesizer of the plots.
The force was obviously with them.
– Fox Fanfare
– Star Wars Main Theme
– The Adventures of Jar Jar
– Anakin’s Theme
– The Flag Parade
– Duel of the Fate
– Across the Stars
– Battle of the Heroes
– The Little People
– Princess Leia’s Theme
– Here They Come
– The Battle
– The Throne Room
– The Imperial March
– The Asteroid Field
– Yoda’s Theme
– Han Solo and the Princess
– Jabba’s Theme
– Luke and Leia
– Parade of the Ewoks
– The Forest Battle
– Star Wars Main Theme
– Cantina Band (Orchestra Version)
The concert pieces were edited, snippets cut to make it shorter/fit the 2 hour concert length.
(Thanks to ‘tony69’)