Manchester Arena was packed and in a party mood for this very special event, a screening of The
Empire Strikes Back live in concert. Vigorously conducted by David Mahoney, The Novello Orchestra performed John Williams dramatic score, the most emotional of the Original Trilogy, to perfection.
The beloved second movie of the Original Trilogy making a rare public appearance is reason enough
to come out, but having the music presented as a separate element lends that much more depth to
the familiar pieces. Each of the Original Trilogy scores embodies the characteristics of the movie it
accompanies. A New Hope is full of heroic drama and swashbuckling adventure. Return Of The Jedi
is initially light-hearted but as the final confrontation draws near the menace of the dark side is
revealed. The Empire Strikes Back however, as the middle act of the trilogy, is the most magical and emotional of the three, dealing with the nature of the Force as Luke struggles with his destiny and the choice between the dark side and the light.
Opening with the Fox fanfare, the crowd responds with enthusiasm and then settles as the opening
crawl appears. The maestro begins to warm up, his movements growing larger as the Star Wars theme
music builds to a climax and then falling away as we descend into the icy tranquillity of Hoth.
As much as the performance of the orchestra was entertaining, watching the orchestra perform added yet
another dimension to the film. As the music intensified, David flipped the pages of sheet music
faster and faster, his gestures stabbing at the musicians to emphasise the strongest notes. The
musicians stopping altogether to watch along with audience from time to time made me realise for
the first time how many scenes are unscored. These musical pauses allowing the audience time to take in
the rather frantic editing of the separate plot threads in the first act.
The two main plots of Luke’s training, and Han and Leia’s romance are well supported throughout by the rich string section, equal parts romantic and sad for the inevitable parting to come. The brass section vibrates the floor during the grandiose Imperial March and the more lively battle scenes, mirroring the action on screen.
All of my favourite moments were anticipated with high expectations, and delivered not only note
perfectly, but also in a fresh coat of paint. Each snare roll and flute accent standing out clearly from
the background. The swooping grandeur of the asteroid chase, the military fanfare of the Imperial
March, and the high energy of the snowspeeder attack on the walkers highlighting the scenes they accompany. The shift in tone to mournful notes and strange percussion as we explore Yoda’s swamp, clear and more prominent than in a traditional viewing where the imagery dominates.
At last the journey nears its end. Absentee fathers have been revealed. Hands chopped. Corellian Captains placed into perfect hibernation once more. The music swells to a crescendo and we ‘iris wipe’ out to the credits, again the audience bursts into applause seemingly in appreciation for the classic movie as much as the musicians excellence. The orchestra, as they say, played on throughout the credits and earned their own well deserved, long lasting standing ovation. The happy crowd made their way outside, friends agreeing with each other it had been a marvellous night and a thoroughly enjoyable performance. Several remarking they were already looking forward to Return Of The Jedi.
There are still shows left in the U.K. tour of The Empire Strikes Back live in concert, and this is not to be missed for true Star Wars fans. You can purchase tickets here
I would like to thank Deacon Communication and Senbla for the opportunity to review this show. Please visit Senbla for similar upcoming events.