On the second weekend of September I had the chance to attend a musical performance of Star Wars: A New Hope In Concert. This was a part of series of performances that are taking place world-wide throughout this year. Most of these events in Europe are happening later in autumn (for instance, in the UK around mid-November), the performance in Helsinki was one of the earlier ones.
The format is nothing new and has been done with other films in the past. Essentially, it is a screening of the original film with music from a live orchestra – as opposed to some past iterations of this project. The early 2010 series of Star Wars In Concert was more like concerts accompanied by narration.
Compared to that, the current performance is very much like going to watch A New Hope on a big screen. Indeed, in my case, I have at times felt that the projection actually distracted from the musical performance. A pure orchestral performance of the musical score might have served better, in many ways, if one wanted to focus on the music. I am sure it wouldn’t make any difference in the attendance: a Star Wars fan would happily come as well, just as would many a nostalgic lover of the old films, a lover of classical music or just film music in general.
Nevertheless, it is a difference to have a live symphonic orchestra performing the soundtrack. In this particular case, performing it really well – in some cases too well. Being well-acquainted with the films up to the point of having a clear auditory memory of what happens when, it was a pity that oftentimes I could hear no difference from the original film score. It was exactly the moments when the orchestra was a little off-sync (but never too much), or some instruments were more audible than in the classic soundtrack, when the music drew my attention to itself rather than to the story on the screen.
Similarly, it was a pity that the famous Cantina Band performance was not live-performed. It is understandable – more instruments and players would be needed, plus the music in the scene itself isn’t actually a soundtrack, but live ambience of the scene that changes in volume as the characters move further or closer to it inside the cantina space. Obviously, one could just ignore it and have it performed at full volume, but clearly in this particular case, it was too much of an obstacle.
Overall, I am very happy, however. A New Hope In Concert was the kind of performance I would recommend to all Star Wars fans, even the non-musical ones (but can there even exist such a thing?), fans of John Williams, as well as music lovers in general. It is the kind of cultural evening performance you can take your non-Star Wars fans to, because they will enjoy it as something special (and probably also still recognise the chief musical themes, such as the amazing Twin Sunset piece). It is the kind of event you can go to with your entire family or friends, children, your grandmother who is into classical music… This is the space where “our” Star Wars fan world intersects with those who might be afraid to seem too geeky by going to a Star Wars screening otherwise.
More performances are planned for the future. Agencies in some countries already advertise screenings of The Empire Strikes Back (Imperial March live!). I, for one, would be happy to see – and more importantly, hear – my favourite saga brought to life by John Williams’s score performed by professionals. But especially if we moved to the prequels (Duel of the Fates), a choir would definitely be needed…