Friday Night Classics: STAR WARS – Birmingham Symphony Hall 16th October 2015

What a splendid night, not only was I in my favourite Concert Hall listening to the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra playing film music but I also got to meet fellow IFMCA member Tim Burden who was the Concert Presenter & Announcer. The music was to be tracks form all 6 Star War film composed by maestro John Williams

Pretty much full!
A packed Symphony Hall
A couple of strange looking guys I met before the concert!








The hall was pretty much full when the white dinner jacketed Birmingham Symphony Orchestra took their places followed by the 90 strong chorus seated on a raised balcony above them. The lights dimmed, someone from the audience shouted an enthusiastic ‘yes’, then we heard the voice of Tim saying the immortal line:- ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way …. and we were off with the 20th Century Fox Fanfare followed by one of the greatest film themes ever ‘Star Wars’. Surely everyone knows this tune note for note?
Voice Actor Marc Silk was the evenings presenter. 16 years ago Silk worked with George Lucas in The Phantom Menace. He took us through the Star Wars journey. I’m not going to attempt to review each track as all Star Wars fans know them better than I – this I witnessed by the guy who was sitting next to me tapping out every melody/note on his knee! But there were glorious highlights which have to be mentioned:-
Flag Parade from The Phantom Menace – has such a historical aura to it which goes in line with George Lucas wanting the score to have a classic ‘Hollywood’ feel to it. The luscious strings from Anakin’s Theme and the comedic tones and timing of Adventures of Jar-Jar Binks.
Duel of the Fates opened with terrific vocal force from the choir and made much use of the percussion section. It was absolutely thrilling! Onto one of the most hummed pieces in film music history, The Imperial March – after playing this Marc made sure that the percussion section got a round of well deserved applause. And then the oddly out-of-place fun track The Cantina Band which harked back to Williams jazz days.

Another stand out track was Princess Leia’s Theme. A superb character cue which is beautifully symphonic. This was followed by another well-known cue, Throne Room played with such vigour by the BSO. As Silk said afterwards ‘it’s goose bumps all the way”. He also introduced the next track saying ‘from the best Star Wars film EVER. The Empire Strikes Back’ which the audience seemed to agree with as we launched into The Asteroid Field.
Parade of the Ewoks was fun watching it performed live and I think the strange percussion I saw played was Glockenspiel bells [I may be wrong here!). The end came way too soon and Silk said he hoped we had enjoyed ‘an extremely joyous evening of music’ … yes to that! He also gave well deserved praise to Tim who pulled the concert together.
The last track was a treat as it is rarely performed live and we were treated to The Forest Battle from Return of the Jedi. Thankfully we did get an encore, a second sounding of the Star Wars Theme, of course!

One other mention I need to make is the extensive programme notes, these no doubt made the fans happy. It also included a letter [below] sent from John Williams sent to the BSO and it’s conductor Michael Seal. I just wished it hadn’t of all happened in the blink of an eye!



20th Century Fanfare
Star Wars Theme
Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – Flag Parade
Anakin’s Theme
Adventures of Jar-Jar Binks
Duel of the Fates
Episode 2: Attack of the Clones – Across The Stars
Yoda’s Theme
The Imperial March
Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith – Battle of the Heroes
Episode 4: A New Hope Here They Come!
The Cantina Band
Princess Leia’s Theme
Throne Room
Episode 5: The Empire Trikes Back The Asteroid Field
Episode 6: Return of the Jedi Luke and Leia’s Theme
Parade of the Ewoks
The Forest Battle




26th June 2015 – Birmingham Symphony Hall 2015-06-26 19.22.10

As enjoyable as this concert was, it was a little weird. To start with there was no Programme Guide plus in such a prestigious setting as the wonderful Birmingham Symphony Hall – I don’t think it was half full which is a shame especially as the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the exuberant  Nicholas Dodds were ,on fine form. I have seen a fair few concerts here and every artist says how much they love the Symphony Hall. The acoustics are perfect and Arnold himself said it was ‘sensational’.

Dodd strode on stage first with his flowing white hair followed by  Arnold in a sharp 3 piece suit. Immediately we were thrown into the The Main Theme to Wing Commander, a strident score Arnold wrote with Kevin Kiner. Staying strident Godzilla raised the roof tiles, the orchestra note perfect especially in percussion. It’s was an odd sight to get use to as Arnold sat right at the front of the stage with a small keyboard and an Apple laptop with his 2 guitars beside him. Apart from the few times he played said guitars, he would introduce the next piece and then he sat there whilst it was played. He played keyboards when it was called for but otherwise he sat gazing over the audience. I found it quite distracting especially as the house light never dimmed.

2015-06-26 20.59.54

The deliciously Slight yWicked Waltz from Stepford Wives was next being both evil and comic. Arnold reminded us that he was responsible for the 2012 Olympics Closing Titles and the music for when the winners collected their medals. When introducing this he said he had ‘very creatively’ called the piece Medal Ceremony.

His chit chat was very good  mentioning that John Singleton was the youngest director to be given an Oscar. This was for Four Brothers and his remit was to make the Opening Titles ‘in the style of Marvin Gaye’. This was a fab piece and he nailed the Gaye style! Although it was a Night At the Movies the next was a song from the music to the stage musical of Made In Dagenham and Arnold sung it [didn’t know he sang and he has a pretty good voice]. Title was Nearly Had It All. Seemed a little out of place to be honest. Back to the movies and the comedy Paul and a cue called Goodbye It’s A Little Awkward which gave echo’s of E.T.

It occurred to me that early on in his career he wasn’t able to let loose with his own style, whilst remakes of Stepford Wives and Godzilla were good they were obviously a tad derivative. But to be fair whilst walking the path of John Barry in his 007 scores he did come into his own eventually.

And onto Arnold’s guest whom he called his ‘secret weapon’, on stage the lanky, white suited and utterly captivating vocalist David McAlmont strode. This lifted the audience and the first ‘whoops’ of the night could be heard. The next piece was the very first ever Arnold track I heard. Play Dead was written by Jah Wobble, featuring and part produced by Arnold. McAlmont did the vocals which on the recoding, are performed by Bjork. Was a bit of a thrill to hear live I must say. A loud and exciting Suite from Stargate followed which the mighty orchestra pushed to it’s maximum. This suite showcased Arnolds composition and orchestration skills.

We enter the wolrd of 007 which Arnold said was a ‘composers dream’ and he fully embraced that dream. Starting with the title song from The World Is Not Enough with lyrics by Don Black. On the soundtrack of this 1999 James Bond movie is a track which Arnold wrote a song specifically for the character of Bond and how ultimately he is the one who has to take responsibility for his actions. Only Myself To Blame was recorded by Scott Walker. Arnold sang it with a sad weariness and it worked.

I’ve always thought that the Arnold/Black song Surrender performed by k.d. Lang should have been the theme song to Tomorrow Never Dies and apparently that’s what it was written for. Arnold bought back McAlmont to sing it for us and boy did he sing it, loud and clear with a last note going on for an insanely long time and which received the longest applaud of the evening.

The 007 section included Night At The Opera which Arnold said was ‘music for the Quantum organisation and an instrumental of the Casino Royal song You Know My Name. This was followed by a track from Amazing Grace [wasn’t made clear what track] and an excellent suite from the Sherlock Holmes tv show with a perfectly sweet violin, plenty of danger and full of the madness of Holmes erratic brain.

As it was almost July 4th his last track on his playlist was the End Titles from Independance Day with it’s patriotic under theme played wonderfully by the BSO. He did 2 bows and then we were treated to an encore which was the 007 theme with Arnold complete [with schoolboy grin] playing the riff on guitar. It was full throttle!

A good trip through Arnold’s career so far, he was personable and the orchestra and Dodd was superb but somehow it was a little lack lustre in it’s presentation. But you still can’t beat hearing film score music live.