I can think of few more iconic father/son duos in American intergalactic lore than Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Talk about the apple falling the farthest possible distance from the tree. In fact, Vader cutting off his own son’s hand with a laser sword isn’t even the worst thing he does to him. Much like many Boomer parents with adult Millennial children, their values systems are just too far apart to reconcile.
For the second season in a row, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra has performed the score to a “Star Wars” film while the audience enjoys that film. Last year was “A New Hope,” and this year was, predictably, “The Empire Strikes Back.” I haven’t Googled it, but I am holding out hope that I’m able to get my photo with Fluke Skywalker (not a joke) for a third year in a row for “Return of the Jedi” next season.
Writing a review of an orchestra accompanying a film is a tricky proposition. I don’t want to review the film — everyone in the world has seen the Star Wars movies. Reviewing the Pops performing the John Williams score comes down to, ironically, how easy it is to forget they are there. And I did forget, often enough. I found myself forcing myself to stop watching the movie so that I could focus on watching the musicians. It’s no easy feat when just above the stage you have an enormous screen haphazard with blasters, lightsabers, tiny green grammarians and hordes of militarily ineffective stormtroopers.
Conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Damon Gupton, the Cincinnati Pops delivered impeccably on the promise to take us to a galaxy far, far away. The nuance in the quiet scenes, the subtle crescendos, the clanging cacophonies when the “bad guys” fill the frame got us there. You truly feel like you’re just watching the movie, except in a beautifully renovated Music Hall and with greater acoustics than you’ve ever experienced in any movie theater.
It’s heartening to see young adult parents sipping Galaxy Cocktails and bringing their kids — the next generation of patrons of the arts. I left my toddler at home, but one day she’ll be there with me, bribed with chocolate almond bark to sit still while daddy listens. That the Pops gives us this opportunity to bridge these artistic divides between the ages is a gift, and we’re lucky to receive it.
This weekend only, the Cincinnati Pops performed the John Williams score to “The Empire Strikes Back.” Check next season for similar opportunities.
John David Back is a Cincinnati native who lives and works in OTR. He’s an avid reader and a mediocre writer who loves the experience of art and beauty. Tell him what he should experience and send fan mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.