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NJSO Reaches for the Stars
by Sherri Rase      |   follow us...

   
photo courtesy of NJSO
Marina Sirtis
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New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) typically kicks off a new year with something for everyone and this year, 2018, saw guest conductor Bob Bernhardt leading NJSO in “Star Wars, Star Trek and Beyond,” at both NJPAC and New Brunswick’s State Theatre. It was star studded indeed with the vocal brilliance of Kristen Plumley; the stars-to-be of the Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir under the direction of Shayne Austin Miller; and the star who will always be in our pantheon, the delightful Marina Sirtis. Sirtis provided insight into what happens on a movie set, and drew rueful laughter from the audience with her Brit-take on our earthbound situation. Truly a delightful afternoon!
The first act prominently featured composer John Williams’ iconic work on some of our favorite films in the Sci-Fi genre! It led off, of course, with the “Main Title” from “Star Wars,” and the thrill of hearing that music live that I first heard in a movie theatre in Miami, Florida as a child, and playing the record album smooth, was palpable. It was skin tingling, head to toe and this was just the beginning! Bernhardt was eloquent in explaining for the audience of young through experienced, and not the usual NJSO crowd, that the “Jedi Steps” and “Finale” from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” is written by Williams in the same way that an operatic overture is written, containing various themes that we hear for each of the major characters, and throughout the program, he gave us nuggets that will pique continued interest.
Next was John Barry’s sweeping theme to “Somewhere in Time” when the achingly young Christopher Reeve finds a way to go back in time to meet a woman with whom he’s fallen in love–from a picture 80 years old. In nearly every piece, the young voices of the Paper Mill Broadway Show Choir added non-syllabic richness to the tapestry of sound in layers of nuanced texture that were so seamless, with the orchestra, that it sometimes took a moment to know what was happening.
Bernhardt gave us a bonus in the first act with “Princess Leia’s Theme” as a tribute to the late Carrie Fisher. Long before “…but she persisted,” this Princess gave heart to young women wanting to make change. And still, we persist with her example in our hearts. It was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. Within that single piece, we hear a young woman come into the fullness of her power and influence, and such is the genius of John Williams.
The act rounded out with “Adventures on Earth: ET,” the stirring “Superman March,” and Custer’s arrangement “Star Trek through the Years,” combining the film themes in a dazzling manner. We needed a breather after that!
The orchestra had two harps, three times their usual cello presence, and a wealth of violins to make this happen. It was lush, gorgeous and memorable and I look forward to much, much more programming like this in the future!
The second act was equally iconic with Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” the momentous theme to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” followed immediately by Williams again with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Many of us came away from the experience wanting to spend an entire weekend with our favorite films! Parenthetically, Bernhardt pointed out that John Williams has been nominated for an Oscar more than 50 times for his work in his 83 years of life, competing with himself 7 times, with more on the horizon!
Michael Giacchino’s score for the latest reboot of the “Star Trek” movie franchise was next. Stirring in a very different way, followed by Bernard Herrmann’s in five vignettes from the film “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Darryl Kubian is part of the first violins who also has a great collection of electronic instruments, among them a Moog Theremin. This unearthly magnetic resonance instrument, the only one played without actual touch, doubled Plumley’s vocals for a haunting experience. When Sirtis recited Klaatu’s famous speech, again tears came to my eyes. With our present situation, as in the mid-century when the film was made, we find ourselves in need of perhaps galactic intervention.
There were two bonuses in the second act: the Cantina Band flourish cleansed our palate between our close encounter and our trek to the stars, and Plumley was featured, before the final pairing in the act, in “When You Wish Upon A Star,” from Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio. After a moment to savor the end of the song, Bernhardt took us home with first “The Duel of the Fates” from “Star Wars: Phantom Menace,” and the thrilling end sequence “Throne Room” and “End Title,” from “Star Wars.” What an afternoon! Several thoughts crowded for attention as we shuffled out into the bruising cold–first, how worthwhile it was to brave the weather for such an amazing show! Next, how Gershwin-flavored Kylo Ren’s theme is–A galaxian in Paris? And what wealth we have in NJSO and their programming–State Theatre in New Brunswick was filled with all ages, all levels of experience, united by our love of the final frontier. You owe it to yourself to check out what’s next on their event horizon.
What is next? Join me at the Winter Festival, America, Inspiring starting on January 12–get your tickets now for the very best seats at www.njsymphony.org.



 

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