Springfield Symphony Orchestra soars with ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Star Wars’ concert (review, photos)

Mar 4 2018

SPRINGFIELD — Nearly 1,800 concert-goers got a whirlwind tour of the universe Saturday evening aboard the Starship Springfield Symphony Orchestra with Captain Kevin Rhodes at the helm in a concert entitled Star Wars & Star Trek Sci-Fi Spectacular.

Beginning with Alexander Courage’s iconic theme from the original Star Trek television series and concluding with John William’s Imperial March from Star Wars – Episode IV “A New Hope,” Rhodes and his colleagues in the SSO and Springfield Symphony Chorus surveyed some of the finest music ever written to accompany space operas on the large and small screen.

The delighted audience spanned several generations, and many attended in costume, representing the human and Vulcan races, the Jedi and Sith, and other characters from both sci-fi franchises. Even R2-D2 made an appearance. Members of the New England Garrison of the 501st Legion were on hand in storm trooper uniforms (captained by Darth Vader himself) to escort the costumed concert-goers to the stage.

Rhodes has rarely exhibited such excitement about a concert in his 20-plus years with the orchestra – and that’s saying a great deal, because as Springfield music-lovers know, his energy is limitless and his commitment to musical excellence fierce and thorough. But this was the music of his youth and the fire for his imagination, and so when he said “there’s not a bar of this program that I don’t love!” it was easy to believe him. He even brushed up his Vulcan for the occasion!

His musicians gave their utmost in the endeavor as well. Superb solo efforts were numerous, including Ellen Redman’s heartbreakingly beautiful penny-whistle solo in Jay Chattaway’s Inner Light, French hornist Robert Hoyle, acting principal flute Ann Bobo and Concertmaster Masako Yanagita’s lovely work in Princess Leia’s Theme, Glenn Mayer’s trombone playing in Jerry Goldsmith’s score from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and many more.

The orchestra was at its absolute peak performance across the board. The music happens very fast in sequences like The Asteroid Field from The Empire Strikes Back, Battle of the Heroes from Revenge of the Sith, and Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace, and every instrumentalist played at the top of their game. They rivaled the sound of a slick studio orchestra with plenty of rehearsal time – tight, precise brass and winds, lush, supple strings and sparkling percussion.

The finest musicians in the country travel to Skywalker Ranch to record these epic scores in state-of-the-art conditions. The Springfield Symphony Orchestra musicians, running on two rehearsals, sounded remarkably close to the soundtracks. When Rhodes said “this isn’t Boston – this isn’t New York, – this isn’t Tanglewood – this is SPRINGFIELD – give it up for the Springfield Symphony!” his praise and his pride were justified.

It was glorious to hear this music live, particularly the early Star Trek material like Amok Time and The Menagerie Suite which were majestic in real time, rather than emanating from a two-inch speaker in a black-and-white TV.

A 40-voice subset of the Springfield Symphony Chorus, fancifully named “The Sci-Fi Singers,” contributed significantly to the excitement as well, bringing their wordless vocalise to Michael Giacchino’s Main Title from Star Trek 2009, and John Williams’ Battle of the Heroes, and delivering the Sanskrit text of Duel of the Fates with compelling vigor.

The Star Wars & Star Trek Sci-Fi Spectacular was one of the best Springfield Symphony Orchestra pops concerts in years.

No big-name soloists, no modern hype, just great music played by excellent musicians, led and inspired by a charismatic and dedicated conductor.



Apr 2024