The Arts Barn receives a major test May 5 when it hosts a full-house audience and a 50-piece orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia (SONOVA), in a concert of John Williams’ music for Star Wars. Jeffrey Dokken, conductor of the orchestra, spoke with us about the SONOVA portion of Arts on the Green’s Star Wars Weekend.
“We are performing the ‘professional suite’ so all the music the audience will hear was scored by Williams himself,” said Dokken. The 50 pieces of the orchestra—the stage is simply not large enough for the entire orchestra—will be enough. Even in reduced numbers, Dokken promised, “It’s going to be SO LOUD!”
Dokken noted that not only are the themes from Star Wars familiar to audiences, but Williams reinforces the feeling of unity by using predominantly the same keys in all of the movies—Bb major and G minor as well as lots of work in the key of D. Dokken suggested the audience listen for the rhythmic changes Williams makes so that themes are familiar but not exactly recapitulated.
And get ready for a tour de force. “Though the music from the film is often performed as ‘pops’ music,” Dokken said, “its scoring is very difficult and challenging for any orchestra.” For the musical part of Star Wars Weekend, the offerings will be in three parts, identified by the films included in each part.
Williams, of course, has written music for more than films. He has a vast repertoire of concert music for orchestra and wind ensemble as well as chamber music. Dokken reminded us that other composers, notably Andrew Lloyd Webber and Aaron Copland, have written for film and concert with no problems; Williams may be cursed by the success of the very music you will hear on May 5 into having you believe he wrote only for the screen.
Who will take John Williams’ place when he retires after Episode 9 of the series (currently in pre-production)? Dokken has no idea but suggested one of the young tigers of the film score field may be in line—composers such as Michael Giacchino (“The Incredibles,” “Star Trek” and “Jurassic World,” as well as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the first Star Wars project not scored by Williams).
Part of the Arts Barn’s Star Wars Weekend, the concert will be flanked by a Film and Brew Party featuring “The Last Jedi” on Friday, May 4, and Star Wars Family Day with all sorts of film-related activities on Sunday, May 6. See the Arts on the Green home page for pricing and times: www.gaithersburgmd.gov/leisure/arts/arts-on-the-green.