Movie & TV MusicJosh’s Thoughts on Star Wars: The Story in Music

Josh’s Thoughts on Star Wars: The Story in Music

This past week I had the pleasure of seeing Star Wars: The Story in Music, performed by the Boston Pops, conducted by Keith Lockhart.  John Williams has had a long connection with the Boston Pops; he was their conductor from 1980 to 1983.  In the years since, the Pops has often performed Mr. William’s music.  Star Wars: The Story in Music was a performance of John Williams’ music from throughout the Star Wars saga.

The performance was structured in order by movie, from Episode I: The Phantom Menace to Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, with around three pieces of music from each film.  (There were four pieces each from Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and only one, “Across the Stars”, from Episode II: Attack of the Clones.)  This was an interesting approach!  I don’t care too much for the films at the start or end of this nine-film saga, so that meant I was most interested in the films in the middle of the concert.  On the other hand, this presentation reminded me of something I already knew: John Williams composed great music even for bad Star Wars movies!  (His “Duel of the Fates”, from Episode I, is one of the best pieces of music in the entire Star Wars saga.)

Overall, the performance was a ton of fun!  The Pops (specifically, we heard the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra) is incredible, and of course John William’s music for the Star Wars saga is extraordinary.  It was great fun to get to hear this wonderful music performed live.  The only aspect of the performance I didn’t like was the narration inserted between the songs.  They had an actor present a summary of the films to go along with the progression of the music, and I found it to be terribly grating.  He was doing some kind of weird over-acting, like a caricature of bad theatre acting, that I found pretentious and annoying.  (Example: he insisted on mis-pronouncing names, such as putting the accent on the end of the names of C-3PO and R2-D2, so their names sounded like “See Three Pee OH” instead of “See THREE Pee Oh” and “R2-Dee TWO” instead of “R2-DEE Two”.)

The selection of music was solid.  They hit a lot of the greats from all three trilogies, the classic themes that of course had to be included.  So we got, for example, “Princess Leia’s Theme” and “Binary Sunset” from A New Hope, and “The Asteroid Field”, “Yoda’s Theme”, and “The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back.  I’ve already mentioned “Duel of the Fates” and “Across the Stars” from the Prequels.  From the Sequel trilogy, we got “March of the Resistance,” “Rey’s Theme,” and “The Jedi Steps” — all classics from The Force Awakens (another not-great film for which Mr. Williams composed amazing music!).  There were also some nice deep cuts such as “Luke and Leia” and “The Forest Battle” from Return of the Jedi.

The performance seemed to focus on individual character themes, which on the one hand makes sense, but on the other hand resulted in some weird choices.  The theme for General Grievous (from Episode III) and Jabba the Hutt (from Return of the Jedi) were included — neither one of those are particularly great, in my opinion — but not the “Han Solo and Princess” love theme from The Empire Strikes Back, which might be the best piece of music from the entire saga?  Wow, that surprised me!

I was also bummed at the choices made for Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  That movie is filled with extraordinary music, but they only chose to include two lesser tracks: “General Grievous” and “Enter Lord Vader.”  We didn’t get “Battle of the Heroes,” the incredible theme Mr. Willaims wrote for the climactic Anakin vs Obi-Wan duel??  How about the wonderfully unique, creepy music for “Padme’s Ruminations” (which plays as Anakin slips towards darkness) or the heartbreaking, mournful music of “Anakin’s Betrayal” and “Anakin’s Dark Deeds”, which plays when Anakin as Vader wreaks havoc.  Or how about the incredible music that closes the films, weaving together multiple classic themes into a beautiful climax: “The Birth of the Twins and Padme’s Destiny” and then “A New Hope”.  Wow I’d have loved to have heard some of that amazing music!!

Personally, I’d have preferred to have seen some of the individual character themes dropped in favor of some of the great action music from throughout the saga.  For example, I think the music from the last twenty-minutes or so of The Empire Strikes Back is some of the best movie music ever made.  It would have been incredible to have gotten to hear that music performed live!!  (For you soundtrack nerds out there, I’m thinking specifically of the tracks called “The Clash of Lightsabers” and “Rescue from Cloud City”.)

Hmm… maybe I need to put together my own playlist for how I think Star Wars: The Story in Music should go…!  That sounds like fun!  I just might be back in the next week or two with that…

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