Music from “Star Wars,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Apollo 13” will take center stage this weekend during the Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra’s final concert of the season, which has focused on movie music.
“As I was putting this concert together, I couldn’t help but want to do science fiction movies because so many great film scores have come out of [them],” Christopher Swanson, LSO’s conductor, said about “A Journey Through Space,” which is set for Sunday in the E.C. Glass High School auditorium.
“‘Star Wars’ is just about the most fun music to play and listen to and conduct that I can imagine. I really wanted to do that all along.”
“2001: A Spacey Odyssey” also presents a unique opportunity. Much of the 1968 film’s score came from existing classical repertoire, Swanson said.
“There’s that real famous fanfare that happens every time the big black monolith shows up in the movie,” he said. “That comes from a larger work by Richard Strauss. Even if people don’t know it, they probably know it. It’s one of those super famous pieces of music.”
Later in the film, he said, there’s another well-known scene “where the spaceships are sort of dancing through space,” scored to Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube.”
“We kind of knit those two pieces of music together,” Swanson explained, “to make one continuous work.”
For each concert this season, Swanson has made sure to pair the well-known movie music with symphonic music. In the case of “A Journey Through Space,” he’s using Gustav Holst’s “Planets” suite, a musical description of each planet in the solar system, alongside John Williams’ iconic “Star Wars Suite.”
The concert also will feature women’s choirs from Lynchburg College and Longwood University and the E.C. Glass String Orchestra.
“We’re just bringing in as many people as we can,” Swanson said. “Music is more fun the more people you have.”
LSO will be joined by the E.C. Glass Orchestra, directed by the symphony’s former concertmaster Gina DiCarlo, for the show's first two pieces.
Swanson said he invited the students to perform as a way to see out the symphony’s 35th season in style.
“We have done so many concerts at E.C. Glass over the years. I’ve been with the orchestra for four years now and we have done the majority of our concerts there,” he said. “… Collaborating with the high school students was sort of a way to say thank you for letting us share the space.”
DiCarlo said the opportunity provides students with invaluable first-hand experience.
“Even with the high expectations I set for my students, there is a fundamental difference in rehearsal pacing and repertoire preparation between a high school orchestra and a city symphony,” she said via email this week. “I think this opportunity will give students a taste of the environment that professional musicians are part of on a regular basis.”
After the collaboration was set, she and Swanson discussed which pieces from Swanson’s program would be suitable and accessible for students, eventually settling on music from "2001: A Spacey Odyssey" and "Apollo 13."
DiCarlo said they’ve been rehearsing those two pieces in class and expect to pull it all together during Saturday’s dress rehearsal.
Like Swanson, DiCarlo sees the potential for this season’s movie music theme to reach audience members who might otherwise be intimidated by classical music.
“Movie music is often familiar to listeners in a way traditional repertoire might not be,” she said. “Showcasing popular and familiar movie themes is a great way to draw an audience in while still allowing the director to introduce listeners to wonderful classical works on the same program.”