Birmingham’s Symphony Hall captured the magic, atmosphere and excitement of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi as it showcased one of Hollywood’s most iconic films with a live orchestra.
I was 12 years old when I first watched Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. I remember the queue to get in to the old Cannon Cinema in Redditch went all the way down Unicorn Hill; and I recall sitting right at the very front of the auditorium, neck stretched, mesmerised as the opening titles, almost like magic, disappeared into the distance. There’s no doubting that even 40 years later, it’s a film that remains an absolute cinematic icon.
But for me, even as a young girl, it was John Williams’ seismic score – from its Wagner-inspired orchestrated leitmotifs to The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) – that really struck a chord. So to see it brought to life by the magnificent Novello Orchestra, with conductor David Mahoney at the helm, was a proper goose bumps experience. I’m sure the story of this climactic sixth episode of the Star Wars saga needs no introduction, suffice to say Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia et al venture across the galaxy as Darth Vader prepares to unleash the final blow to the Rebel Alliance. It was the film that first introduced the world to the Ewoks, saw the demise of Jabba the Hutt and the unmasking of antagonist Vader (is it wrong that he was always my favourite character?).
Taking centre stage, the orchestra played almost non-stop from start to finish; the opening of oh-so familiar 20th Century Fox Fanfare right through to the end of the closing credits, every bit note-perfect, boomingly brilliant and as stirring as it gets. Seeing it with a live symphony accompaniment added a whole new dramatic depth, and I often found myself watching the musicians rather than the film being shown behind them on the huge HD screen. Even at their loudest, the orchestra allowed the film to be heard; while in the more moving scenes it played gently enough to evoke all the right emotions. Unsurprisingly the audience (yes, I spotted a few Star Wars costumes amongst them) greeted the showing with resounding cheers at the beginning and finished with a very well-deserved standing ovation.
I was lucky enough to see the recent showing of Joker Live at Symphony Hall and I could happily watch all my favourite films this way. It’s a genius idea to allow the music to take a lead role alongside the characters on the big screen, and an undeniably treat for film buffs and music lovers alike.