Friday, December 20, 2013

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

20 December 2013

I was nine years old when the original Star Wars film came out. My friend Anthony won tickets, in a Manchester Evening News competition, to the Manchester première of the film, which made us the first kids in our school to see it. Needless to say, I was a big Star Wars fan. When I got a copy of the original soundtrack album featuring the London Symphony Orchestra (a double LP in a gatefold sleeve containing a free poster – ah, those were the days!), I poured over and over John Williams' detailed sleeve notes and the full list of orchestral players – I can still recite most of the names of the LSO brass section. So it was a dream come true to perform the 'Star Wars Symphonic Suite' by John Williams at the Northampton Symphony Orchestra's Christmas Cracker concert last Sunday. The theme of this year's concert was 'Christmas at the Movies' and the programme also included a medley from 'The Sound of Music' by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Danny Elfman's music for the Tim Burton film 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' and a selection of James Bond themes. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, famously said of the experience: “Acting in this movie I felt like a raisin in a giant fruit salad. And I didn't even know who the coconuts or the cantaloups were.” I felt very similarly about our Christmas Cracker concert: there was so much going on it was hard to take it all in. We had a capacity audience of 600 in the Spinney Hill Theatre at Northampton School for Girls. The stage was packed with a huge orchestra bedecked in tinsel, Santa hats and reindeer antlers. Quite a few members of the audience (and some of the orchestra) had come dressed as their favourite film characters – there was a Clint Eastwood, a Harry Potter, two Batmans and an assortment of Princess Leias! At the interval Imperial Stormtroopers were on hand to guide the audience towards the mulled wine and mince pies. Our excellent compère, Graham Padden, opened the second half of the concert stripped to the waist to bang a gong in the manner of the Rank opening credits. And, two seats to my right, Darth Vader was playing the third Horn part! It was a challenge to concentrate on playing the music amongst everything else going on but I think our performance went well and it was certainly a fantastic, festive occasion.

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