Reflect on the first time you saw “Star Wars.” The hum of a lightsaber, the epic laser battles, the intricate ships, and different planets each with their unique cultures — and most importantly, the swell of the strings and brass as they serenade you. Think of the wonder, magic, and excitement that comes alongside those films and their sounds.
Now think of when you go to the Kodak Hall at Eastman. You feel a jolt of excitement as you walk across the red carpet and through the elegant wooden doors. Ushers bow to greet you and you pass elaborate paintings on your way to the great hall. You feel regal, welcomed, and wondrous.
Now imagine all of that, but times ten. On Saturday night, the Rochester Philharmonic accompanied a film screening of “The Empire Strikes Back” with a live performance of the original score by John Williams. The orchestra, if you’ve ever heard it, is incredible on its own. But the few times I’ve seen an orchestral concert with a musical program featuring Tchaikovsky or Mozart, the concert hall isn’t exactly packed, and few spectators are under 40.
But this particular show in the concert series had the room bursting at the seams. Every seat was full. Lines flowed through the building, and adults and children alike were chattering with anticipation of the performance. The 501st Legion was there with imperial generals, Darth Vader, and storm troopers ushering people to “move along” in the direction of their seats.
The audience was encouraged to applaud throughout the movie, at every iconic scene, the theater erupted. “The Empire Strikes Back” was the most fitting film for Saturday, as it opens with a scene on Hoth, a freezing ice planet — a scene that Rochester knows very well.
The performance itself was brilliant. At certain moments, I forgot there was a live orchestra playing, while at other times I was drawn closer to the music, noticing sounds I never noticed before. (The live performance was louder than the original recording.) Audience members could hear the soundtrack enhancing the drama and understand its importance more than ever. I could feel the whole audience trying to hear what the music was telling them.
Everyone stayed seated until the credits were over, and the orchestra got a standing ovation. The magic didn’t stop there. As we walked out of the theater, R2D2 was there to greet us, while the storm troopers led people to the exits (after pictures, of course).