RDSO conductor Claude Lapalme (left) and ESO conductor William Eddins (right) will direct the combined symphonies as they tackle the work of famed movie score producer John Williams (middle).

A Star Wars-powered symphonic evening

Claude Lapalme was completely bowled over by the original 1977 Star Wars movie when he saw it in theatres as a 14-year-old.

Claude Lapalme was completely bowled over by the original 1977 Star Wars movie when he saw it in theatres as a 14-year-old.

“It made a huge impression, an immense impression, a very, very long-lasting impression,” recalled Lapalme, conductor of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.

Not only were the movie’s futuristic visuals like nothing he’d ever seen before (“All of a sudden, things I thought could only live in my head were living on the screen,” he recalled), but Lapalme was also struck by the stirring movie score by John Williams.

“As a young musician, the music made a real impression on me.”

Therefore, it’s fitting that The World of Williams concert — which will be jointly performed at the soldout Red Deer Arts Centre on Wednesday by the Red Deer and Edmonton Symphony Orchestras — will end with the same theme from Star Wars: A New Hope.

Now that he’s all grown up, Lapalme admittedly prefers some of Williams’ other compositions, such as Three Pieces from Schindler’s List, which he will conduct during the concert with the blended orchestra.

But there’s still something about the Star Wars theme (to be conducted by ESO conductor William Eddins) that resonates.

Lapalme believes the music gives the story of Luke Skywalker additional humanity — perhaps because actual instruments were used instead of synthesizers in a movie that already features so much technological gadgetry.

“It’s the real emotional backbone of the movie that they use real instruments that you can hold in your hands,” said Lapalme.

With five Academy Awards and 47 nominations, Williams, who’s worked with many directors on a multitude of popular Hollywood films, obviously has a ingenious gift for capturing different movie moods.

Some other Williams works on the program are his 17-minute magical Suite from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, his anxiety-provoking themes from Jaws and Jurassic Park, his western overture from the John Wayne film, The Cowboys, and his heroic themes from Superman and a later Star Wars movie, Attack of the Clones.

A medley of Fiddler on the Roof tunes, originally written by Jerry Bock for the stage musical and arranged by Williams for the 1971 movie, will also be played by a total of about 80 musicians from the two orchestras.

“It will be loud,” predicted Lapalme, with a chuckle.

While both orchestras are more used to performing complex classical music by Mozart or Beethoven, he believes tackling Williams’ “highly imaginative and original music” will be no cakewalk.

The 81-year-old composer has a fine reputation for writing within the limits of each instrument, but can be notoriously hard on French horn and trumpet players. “It’s a great thing we’ve got six horns for the concert so they can take turns doing things … the pressure will be very high,” predicted Lapalme.

He noted it’s the continuous playing and holding of long notes that makes a live performance difficult, since Williams “is used to working with studio musicians who can stop and take breaks.”

Besides featuring ESO conductor Eddins, who will take turns with Lapalme in leading the orchestra during various selections, two violin soloists will also be featured during the concert: The RDSO’s Naomi Delafield will perform on the Schindler’s List pieces and the ESO’s Eric Buchman will play the Fiddler on the Roof tunes.

Although the 7:30 p.m. Red Deer concert, to be attended by Alberta Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell, is soldout and there’s a waiting list for any free seats that might turn up, the two orchestras are also playing together at Edmonton’s Winspear Centre on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Some tickets might still be available by visiting www.edmontonsymphony.com.


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