When we saw that the MSO was doing Space Classics as part of their MSO Pops series, we bought tix as soon as we could. And it was last night; we’ve only been waiting for about three months.
So, a few of the nerdier moments: the trombones and a couple of French horns had glow-sticks strapped to part of their instruments; there were Stormtroopers and Darth Vader wandering around beforehand, posing for photos (a few kids had brought their own lightsabers…); but I didn’t see anyone dressed up who wasn’t meant to be, thankfully.
As expected, the night began with “Sunrise” from Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathrustra – and I still get goosebumps when I hear it. They did very clever things with the lights during this, and in a number of other pieces too: for this, they had a line of lights basically imitating sunrise, which worked surprisingly well. That went straight into the main theme from Star Wars, which was awesome.(1) It just never gets old.
There was a lot of Star Wars, unsurprisingly. We also got Close Encounters of the Third Kind; three Holst pieces (Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter; it may be my favourite set of classical music in the world, which is not that hard, admittedly. It’s possibly that only The Nutcracker Suite would give it a run for its money); J. Strass’ Blue Danube (so lovely!); ET – bike ride and main theme; Star Trek, Thunderbirds are GO!; and Superman. Personally, I think the last two were stretching it a bit. I would have thought maybe X-Files or Twilight Zone would have been more appropriate, and probably more recognisable, than Thunderbirds at least. There’s an ongoing discussion about just how space-y Superman can claim to be.
One of the possible reasons for including Thunderbirds was, of course, audience interaction. That’s right, gentle Reader: if you listen to the Classic FM broadcast sometime in the future, you will indeed hear four sections of the audience count down (begun by the orchestra with FIVE!), and then everyone shout “Thunderbirds are GO!” It was quite funny. In my vast experience of these things, when conductors are allowed to talk to the audience about things other than ultra-serious matters of musicology, they tend to think they’re very damn funny… and stray in to dad-joke territory. Last night’s conductor (Anthony Inglis, if you’re interested), nearly did so. A couple of things saved him. One: acknowledging he’s a trekkie. This doesn’t necessarily save him from dad-joke-hell, but it does at least give him a context (and a reason for including a pre-recorded ‘Captain’s Log’ bit before the Star Trek section). Two: the intro to Superman. He made the audience stand up, and pretend to get into superhero clobber, starting with underwear over pants (including the all-too-predictable stern, “I said on, madam!”), then ripping jackets off. Apparently the audience didn’t do it to his standard, so he had to show us how it’s done: he took off his jacket, and tie, and then – can you credit it, Reader? – ripped his shirt open to reveal a Superman tshirt! We were in hysterics.(2)
And then, for the encore, we got the entirety of the throne room/end credits sequence from A New Hope. Brilliant! With Mr Inglis as Obi-Wan. Also hysterical! But not nearly as funny as when Darth and his Stormtroopers marched in and stood in front of the stage, pointing their guns at the audience – and Darth turned around and, standing directly behind the conductor, started conducting with his light-saber…
Two things to gripe about, though, both in the programme.
a) The Herald Sun ad: “But seeing as though we’re a sponsor…”. Argh!
b) Star Wars is “now officially the fourth chapter”. You what?
Overall, it was a great programme of music. My love is now investigating the 501st Legion and considering a career as a Stormtrooper for charity.
(1) Interesting fact: the Star Wars music was done by the London Symphony Orchestra originally; the main trumpet then is the same person today! Amazing. And when he first played the opening fanfare, he reportedly declared ‘This is going to be huge,’ or words to that effect.
(2) And I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was completely set up – whether his shirt had press-studs, for example – or if authenticity was sought, with buttons flying out over the violas.