What child of the 1970’s didn’t love Star Wars?
We saw Episode IV: A New Hope at the cinema when it was just called Star Wars. I grew up in the UK so we had to wait until December 1977, seven months after the US release, to see it. I was just five-years-old, but still remember the scene where the plucky droid R2-D2 is ambushed by Jawas. Utini!
We had Star Wars toys, my first was a Stormtrooper action figure, games in the playground, we all wanted to be Luke Skywalker, and read along books and tapes, I had Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I also collected adaptations of the Marvel Comics stories Droid World, Planet of the Hoojibs and The Ewoks Join The Fight!
The thing that reeled us in as much as George Lucas’s narrative and the galaxy of special effects was composer John Williams’ indelible scores. Once you had heard it for each film you could never forget it. The Star Wars Main Title Princess Leia’s Theme, The Little People Work, Cantina Band, The Last Battle, Throne Room and End Titles are all indelibly etched into pop culture. Then the public psyche had to make way for The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme), The Battle in the Snow, Yoda’s Theme, The Asteroid Field and The Duel.
I’ve bought, and still own, various copies of the classic trilogy’s scores over the years. I recorded the vinyl to cassette tape and promptly wore them out in the gatehouse at Appuldurcombe House, Wroxall, Isle of Wight, where I had apprenticed myself to custodian Peter Wilkinson. Only Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were out in Britain in 1982 so we had a double album and single record to enjoy.
Peter loved classical music so I got away with the many plays of these records, and Peter saw it as a chance to introduce me to the classics. Holst: The Planets Suite, Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture and Vivaldi: The Four Seasons came thick and fast. But we regularly returned to Star Wars.
I was working one day in the ruins, before the Great Hall was re-roofed in 1986, mopping the marble floor. I had smuggled Peter’s cassette recorder down to the house and placed it in the fireplace. There John Williams’ score was booming out. It went quiet for a moment, during the track Land of the Sandpeople, before exploding in a cacophony of percussion. Of course the percussion rang out just as a visitor entered the hall. You would have thought that I had attacked her with a gaderffii stick, the traditional melee weapon of the sandpeople, from the look on her face.
Later I got the scores on CD, special collector’s editions and finally the Star Wars Special Edition releases.
Of course, later, I turned into something of a professional fan. I wrote for Star Wars Magazine, Star Wars Insider, the Star Wars Fact File and Star Wars: Build The Millennium Falcon (that won a Disney innovation award).
I proofed Star Wars actor Michael Sheard’s book, The Memoirs of a Bum Actor, and advised him on its content and style. He played Admiral Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back and, more frighteningly, Mr Bronson the deputy head teacher from hell in Grange Hill.
So, I was very excited to learn the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will present the Star Wars: Film Concert Series in a series of New Zealand venues over coming months.
The Star Wars: Film Concert Series features screenings of the complete films A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live to the films. The concerts will be led by NZSO Associate Conductor Hamish McKeich.
Fans will be able to experience the scope and grandeur of these beloved Star Warsfilms in a live symphonic concert experience, as the Star Wars: Film Concert Seriesdebuts Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert at Spark Arena in Auckland and Horncastle Arena in Christchurch, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert at Spark Arena and TSB Arena in Wellington. The schedule is below:
28 April, 1:00pm & 6.30pm TSB Arena, Wellington – The Empire Strikes Back
4 May, 7:00pm Spark Arena, Auckland – A New Hope
5 May, 4:00pm Spark Arena, Auckland – The Empire Strikes Back
3 August, 7:00pm, Horncastle Arena – A New Hope
Tickets are on sale now. For more information go to nzso.co.nz/starwars
Maybe I’ll see you there at the Auckland performances? Until then, May the Force be with you!
Watch Chris Gardner’s The Worsleys of Appuldurcombe talk.