An otherworldly symphony performs Star Wars at VCU

Norfolk Governor’s School for the Arts and VCU students performed at the Singleton center. Photo by Brooke Marsh
Norfolk Governor’s School for the Arts and VCU students performed at the Singleton center. Photo by Brooke Marsh
Norfolk Governor’s School for the Arts and VCU students performed at the Singleton center. Photo by Brooke Marsh

The grandiose Star Wars saga, known in part for its iconic music score, came alive in Richmond last weekend in a collaboration between the VCU Symphony and the Norfolk Governor’s School for the Arts.

The concert was held in the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall in the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts, which was nearly at its maximum capacity by the start of the show. Admission was free for VCU students.

The two symphonies had been rehearsing for weeks, with GSA conductor Jeffrey Phelps and VCU’s own Daniel Myssyk, the director for orchestral studies, reintroducing the music that has been immortalized by the series’ success.

Phelps and Myssyk chose this concert after much deliberation since last performing together in 2013. The collaboration took place just 15 days before the premiere of the latest Star Wars installment, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“The timing is absolutely impeccable,” said Myssyk. “I don’t consider myself a fan (of Star Wars), but I know that it’s a very important part of the culture here in the country and worldwide.”

Emily Nesbitt and Hayleigh Wilson of the VCU Music department pose with lightsabers before the concert. Photo by Brooke Marsh
Emily Nesbitt and Hayleigh Wilson of the VCU
Music department pose with lightsabers before the concert. Photo by Brooke Marsh

The two bands rehearsed entirely separately prior to the night of the show’s opening. While Phelps was able to travel from Norfolk on one occasion, the symphonies didn’t run through the entire performance until the dress rehearsal immediately before the show.

One notable difference in the duo’s performance from the original was the addition of several scores that were created after the original movies. One of these, “Ceres,” composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage, was created in 2005 as a testament to the awe of large, slowly-moving celestial objects.

“Imagine the impact of an asteroid on a planet, like Earth, and the damage it would cause,” Myssyk said. “The music tries to depict that, in a sense. It’s quite apocalyptic in essence.”

Myssyk said he was pleased to find the students didn’t struggle with the new music, compared to the original compositions like “Princess Leia’s Theme” and “The Imperial March,” which he said are in their generation’s blood.

“The way (the students) got invested in performing those pieces was phenomenal,” Myssyk said. “It really feels like they own the music.”

Myssyk said he sees the students naturally connect with the music the same way a German symphony connects with Beethoven or Bach.

Myssyk also dismissed the idea that the music wasn’t important to the students’ learning because of it being the soundtrack to a series of science-fiction movies. He said it was his job as the department’s director to expose his students to a range of musical styles and influences.

“Frankly, to work on the music of Williams for me has been really enlightening,” Myssyk said. “These are real classics from the 20th century, when you think about it. There’s no way to be so snobbish about that kind of music, because it’s really well done and extremely well-crafted.”


Spectrum Editor, Austin Walker

meh_mehAustin is a sophomore print journalism major. He started at the CT as a contributing writer, and frequently covers work done by artists and performers both on and off campus. He hopes to one day be a columnist writing about art that impacts culture, politics and documenting the lives of extraordinary and everyday people. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

walkeraw@commonwealthtimes.org

Photo Editor, Brooke Marsh

11209558_10203974774890060_3683361422074303280_nBrooke is a senior pursuing a BFA in photography & film and a minor in media studies. Prior to her role as Photo Editor, Brooke was a staff photographer for the CT. Brooke’s work has been featured at a number of exhibitions and she previously interned at Candela Gallery in Richmond. Brooke has experience photographing for news, sports and entertainment. // Twitter | Facebook | Portfolio

marshba@commonwealthtimes.org

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