Any event surrounding the Star Wars legacy is sure to be an intergalactic extravaganza. If one combines that with the power of the forward thinking Colorado Symphony, they are left with a sonic experience that is truly out of this world. This symphony has been hot as of late. Within the last few years, they have expanded their reach in the music world. They have collaborated with acts such as the Flaming Lips, Jethro Tull, Warren Haynes playing the music of Jerry Garcia, as well as the music of the late Michael Jackson and John Denver. This is all on the side and in addition to the rest of the magic and waves they make in the classical realm.
Rachel Trignano, Manager of Community and Public Relations at the Colorado Symphony, gave me advance warning about the fun activities for children as well as the costumes that would be abound that evening. Therefore, I got their early to take it all in. It was my daughter’s birthday, and she absolutely loves Star Wars. When we arrived, we were greeted by fans dressed as characters in costume. As more and more folks started to arrive, the awaiting crowd began to gather and take pictures with one another.
Up in the room for the children, they appeared to be training for light saber wars. As they entered the room, children were asked what color light saber they would like to build. Multi-colored foam noodles were on the wall with a description of which character used that color. Then, the young Padawans were guided towards the tables to glue jewels and tape their new Star Wars relics.
Downstairs in the foyer, more characters began to assemble. There were mostly members of the Imperial Dark Side present, and not very many brave Rebels, but nonetheless, Storm Troopers, Jawas, Bounty Hunters, and even Kylo Ren came out. When the warning bell rang, the crowd took their seats in anticipation, and just then a perky couple came on stage to introduce the event while also celebrating the contributions of Jerry Kern. The symphony played “Happy Birthday,” to honor him, which was perfect for my daughter as well.
After that, a small ensemble came out to play pieces written by 4th-grade locals from Cole Arts and Science Academy. The first short piece was whimsical and adventurous called “The Magic Dolphin.” The next one was composed by 3rd graders entitled, “The Amazon Match.” This was part of the Colorado Symphony Musicurious Education Program: Very Young Composers. They were the perfect warm-up for what was about to come next.
Finally, Christopher Dragon, composer, walked on stage dressed as a Jedi Knight. This is the good guy, the savior of the Rebellion that we were all looking for. Our leader for the evening hails from Australia and is in his second season as the Associate Conductor of the Colorado Symphony. As one can imagine, the show started with the jolt of the Main Title from Star Wars. Mostly all of the music from all of the movies is composed by the great John Williams. Not enough people know or recognize this man’s brilliance. He has won 23 Grammys, 5 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, and 7 British Academy Film Awards. He is the 2nd most nominated artist for 50 Academy Award nominations. Only Walt Disney has more. Aside from Star Wars, he is most known for the music of Superman, Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Home Alone, and Harry Potter.
Dragon got silly between songs, and brought up what most mention when they talk about “the most annoying” character in the saga, Jar Jar Binks. Then, they began into “The Adventures of Jar Jar” from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I enjoyed the narration between most of the songs, even Dragon’s best Yoda impression before “Yoda’s Theme.” The crowd laughed as they recalled moments from most people’s favorite character.
After the vivacious, intense, and powerful “Duel of the Fates” from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, they played one of my favorite songs of the night. It was the incredibly romantic and moving “Across the Stars” from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. The last two songs before intermission were the prized “Princess Leia’s Theme” and “Throne Room and End Title” both from Star Wars: A New Hope.
The second set was comprised of only three pieces with many different sections in in. The audience was clued in on the opener by Dragon’s new appearance as Lord Darth Vader. They all opened with the “Imperial March,” as he came onto the stage. Again, a personal homage to when my daughter played that as a joke while dressed as Vader for a piano recital before telling the crowd she was only kidding and playing her intended piece. Both of these crowds got a chuckle.
The next piece was one of the only Star Wars songs not composed by Williams. It was Michael Giacchino’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This came from the newest movie, and many in the audience was intrigued. During this whole piece with several parts, we were able to really focus on many of the individual players as there were many solos featured in this. There were also a few different songs within it, just like the encore, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Suite for Orchestra from John Williams. These last two pieces were full, robust, and comprehensive. There was a second performance of this at Boettcher Concert Hall again the next day in the afternoon, and both of these were well attended concerts. The Colorado Symphony is thriving, and they have many more amazing shows coming up this summer and fall season.