Full house at Forum over the moon for BPO’s ‘Star Wars’ salute

Reviewed by Barb Van Atta

Nothing like a good “Imperial March” to prove how meaningful orchestral music is in your life.

A near-capacity crowd Thursday (May 4) cheered and clapped with delight as John Williams’ sweeping intergalactic themes filled The Forum in Binghamton for “The Music of ‘Star Wars’: The Symphony Strikes Back.”

Under the baton of its principal guest conductor, Daniel Hege, the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra concluded its 2016-17 season with a tribute to the 40 years of Star Wars movies, charming both the music lovers and the movie buffs in the audience.

In a recent interview, Hege said he hoped the concert would “show audiences how flexible the orchestra is,” especially coming off a heavy-duty classical performance such as last weekend’s (April 29) program of Brahms, Mozart and Stravinsky.

Now, some purists might niggle that such traditional heavyweights demand much more from an orchestra, but consider this: I doubt that any other BPO concert this season had more audience members who knew the music on the program practically by heart. Perfection was required, and the BPO was up to the task.

From harp to horns, triangle to timpani, Hege put the musicians through their paces, and the result, as one audience member commented later, was as good as the London Symphony, which recorded the soundtracks of the movies.

Local actor Josh Sedelmeyer provided background for each selection. Cheers followed his introduction to the opening piece, the main title music of the original Star Wars (now known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). Starting with that theme and throughout the evening, I found myself “seeing” the movie in my mind’s eye, and I know I was not alone.

Sedelmeyer pointed out that Williams uses leitmotifs, or “theme songs,” for characters. As the characters cross paths, their themes intermingle. For example, the ominous signature chords that announce Darth Vader (born Anakin Skywalker) in the original trilogy cast a shadow over young Anakin’s theme music in the first of the prequels.

Concert-goers would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite piece from the evening. From Episode VII, would it be the sweeping “Rey’s Theme” or the percussive “March of the Resistance”? What stirred more memories from of the prequel trio, the powerful music from the climatic fight scenes (“Duel of Fates,” Episode I, and “Battle of the Heroes,” Episode III) or the lush “Across the Stars” that represented the growing, and ill-fated, love between Anakin and Padme?

Were they more moved by the lullaby-like sweetness of “Yoda’s Theme” (Episode V) or the majesty of the Episode VII finale?

The greatest reaction to what Sedelmeyer and his script writer, Santino DeAngelo, called Williams’ “iconic, immortal scores” was reserved for the true classics: the music from the original three movies (the “Imperial March,” “Leia’s Theme and, of course, the grand finale: the Episode IV “Throne Room March” that segued into the accompaniment for the credits).

The standing ovation was well-deserved.

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