A “Roaring” Success! (Lynn Kerstan)

It wasn’t all glamor, being a small-time performer in the Star Wars in Concert extravaganza. In the San Diego arena, 10,000+ people were taking seats for the show.  Here we are hanging around in a tacky room alongside a group shower room. Later, though, there was pizza. Good pizza!

The charming, elegant narrator of the show, actor Anthony Daniels (aka C3P0) dropped by to let us know what to expect during the performance, which was a great help. He also noted that the chorus, garbed in black, represented the Dark Side of the Force. We were eeeevil. What’s more, we enjoyed being eeevil. Our wicked power and glee should resonate when we sang. And so it did.

During the sound check, we got more advice from the friendly percussion guys. “Sing loud!” they told us. And so we did. They also told us we’d be amazed at the response from the audience. And after months on the road with this show, they oughta know.  Here we are backstage, waiting to go on.

                                                   Finally we seated ourselves behind the orchestra as  the audience continued to file in. A late start, to allow for everyone to be seated.

At last the house lights dimmed, and the crowd roared approval. The conductor took his place, and another blast of sound from the audience. Clearly they’d come to enjoy themselves. They cheered the famous opening of the Star Wars theme and then settled back to take in every sight on the screen and every sound from the musicians. Lots of them had light sabers that flashed every now and again. Many were in costume.

Our theatrical “Korah! Matah!” performance concluded to wild cheering and applause. Only the space shuttle taking off makes more noise than Star Wars in Concert fans. Every set piece in the concert elicited the most remarkable response I’ve ever seen and heard from an audience. They were dead silent during the narration and music, though, not wanting to miss a word or a note or a flicker on the screen. I loved every member of that crowd.

The chorale sang only during the first half of the show, so at intermission, a pal and I set out for the costume and props exhibition where I was to meet up with my date for the evening. Along the way, we noted that much of the audience was made up of families, many of them with young children. Those in costume were happy to pose with fellow SW fans.            Finally I arrived at my destination, where my date had taken care to protect himself from the hordes of swarming females.

No, I don’t mean Darth Vader.  The Dark Side is fine for an occasional drop-by, but a goodhearted gal like myself wants a tall man with plenty of hair and his own teeth. So here we are, me and Chewie the Wookiee, alone together at last.

But our rendezvous was brief. Soon, bypassing the stands selling Star  Wars T-shirts for $35 (talk about your Dark Side!), we chorale members took seats in the audience to enjoy the second half of the performance. Here’s a picture of the stage from where we were sitting.         And yes, we cheered and applauded right along with the rest of the audience. May the Force be with us all!

In an Arena Far, Far Away (Lynn Yoda Kerstan)

Tonight, with light sabers flashing—okay, laser lights flashing, but they’re mighty impressive—I’ll be on stage at the San Diego Arena with a full orchestra, sixty members of the San Diego Master Chorale, and an HD LED screen that’s three stories tall.  I love extravaganzas!

I’ve also loved science fiction/fantasy since childhood, and (despite George Lucas’s clunky writing), I’m a fan of Star Wars films. Well, mostly the first three. The last three were more like pets you adore despite their untrainable bad behavior. They did, however, play into themes deeply embedded in the human psyche: father/son relationships, the hero’s journey, “power corrupts,” and the never-ending battle between good and evil.

Star Wars in Concert is a touring show that has appeared more than eighty times in the U.S. and Europe, most of them with Anthony Daniels narrating (photo below). In the films, he played the prissy, loyal C3P0, and his shiny gold robot costume is one of many featured in the costumes exhibit. I’m hoping to have a chance to see it and take some pictures.

The Star Wars music, composed by the brilliant John Williams, has been called the best movie score ever. It’s pretty great, especially because he wove in themes for major characters the way Wagner did for the likes of Siegfreid and Brunhilde in his operas. Frankly, Maurice Jarre’s music for Lawrence of Arabia gets my vote for best movie music, but Williams is a close second. Not to mention he composed for six films.

We choristers are a teensy part of all this to-do. Even so, and not counting the time spent on rehearsal, tomorrow’s event will eat up about ten hours. Well, not for the guys, who won’t primp up their hair and  smear on theatrical makeup. Nor will many of the gals, but hey, I didn’t get a degree in theatre to go out there bare-faced nekkid! We have a mid-afternoon call for sound-check and will be provided a light snack afterward, but I foresee several hours of sitting around on the backstage floor. Must. Bring. Book. IPod. Camera. And, oh yeah, my folder with the music.

Actual singing time? About 9 1/2 minutes! For this, the tour company pays the Master Chorale or its equivalent in each of the cities where they perform. It’s all terribly dramatic, though, with the orchestra and chorus working seamlessly with the movie clips on that ginormous screen.

In one piece, “Battle of the Heroes,” we mostly sing Ah. Ahhh. Ahhh. In the other, “Duel of the Fates” (aka Darth Maul’s theme), we repeat a few words many times in different orders. My Sanskrit is a trifle rusty, but best as I can figure, here’s what we’re saying:

Dreadful  Head  Speak  Give  Battle  Raging  Purify Going

You can see and hear “Duel of the Fates” on this clip from an earlier performance of the show. I hope! Still trying to learn how to deal with the technology at our new digs. If it doesn’t work for you, let me know in comments. Maybe the Goddess Tara can fix it.

http://www.last.fm/music/John+Williams/_/Duel+of+the+Fates

Let me just add that it’s great fun to be a singer, no matter what the song. Within the next three weeks, I’m performing in a Star Wars show, warbling at my high school reunion, and chirping at a concert of all-Latino music in Symphony Hall. Who’d have thought it? Last year at this time, I was chemo-fogged, bald as an egg, and could barely walk.

We’ll never know what life will bring us. We can only wait with open arms, in case it’s something good.