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Classical 101

Columbus Symphony Performing 'Star Wars' Score Live at Film Screening

The Walt Disney Studios
'Star Wars: A New Hope' premiered in 1977, starting the Star Wars saga.

Star Wars: A New Hope, the 1977 George Lucas film that began a whole new era of outer space swashbucklers, will be shown Friday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Ohio Theatre. There's nothing necessarily unusual about the screening in itself, since Star Wars is a bona fide classic. What is perhaps not so common is that the Columbus Symphony will perform the film score live along with the movie.

And why not? Once you hear the spectacular Star Wars opening theme music, who can ever forget it? You know a grand adventure is about to start.


John Williams has written many outstanding film scores, and this is one of his best ever. It's in the spirit of the great movie music from the Golden Age of Hollywood by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner and others. Indeed, with its lush orchestration, memorable themes and emotional expressiveness, the music in Star Wars was intended to evoke the same kind of responses as the classic film scores of long ago.

Think of Errol Flynn in Captain Blood or The Adventures of Robin Hood and the exciting music that accompanies his exploits rescuing Olivia de Havilland. Or, the quieter romantic interludes.

In Star Wars, Williams seems to have an endless supply of inspiration, such as "the Force" theme when it's time for Luke to go in search of his destiny.


As we hear in the final scene, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and company have had their adventures in a similarly rich soundscape.


Williams' use of leitmotifs in the scores he wrote for the entire Star Wars saga also evokes Richard Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung. The main characters in Star Wars have their own themes that increase the emotional resonance of what we're watching on the screen. In popular movie series, the only music on a comparable scale I know of is Howard Shore's scores for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.   

Yes, Williams looked back to his great predecessors, but he added his own wonderfully rich imagination to expand the musical dimension out of this world. Speaking of which, Gustav Holst's The Planets with "Mars, the Bringer of War" is not far off, for instance, when the evil Galactic Empire shows up on screen in The Empire Strikes Back with "The Imperial March."


Star Wars: A New Hope is the film that started it all, and you can hear Williams' great music performed live by the Columbus Symphony on Friday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Ohio Theatre, while watching the movie on a 40-foot screen suspended above the orchestra as they play.