24 Apr 2019

The Empire and NZSO Strikes Back

From Upbeat, 1:00 pm on 24 April 2019

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is bringing Star Wars to life with live performances of the score as the films play on the big screen.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Photo: © 2018 & ™LUCASFILM LTD. All Rights Reserved © Disney

The NZSO is taking The Empire Strikes Back, and the original Star Wars: A New Hope to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The first of the performances is in Wellington this weekend.

Conductor Hamish McKeich says the Star Wars score and films bring back nostalgic memories. “It’s a cultural phenomenon,” he says. “You only have to hear that first chord and you’re like ‘yep, that’s Star Wars’.”

When Star Wars was released Hollywood film scores were moving towards more of a jazz flavour, but composer John Williams brought back the big orchestral, late romantic sound. "Now you couldn’t imagine it any other way,” Hamish says.

The score has to be perfectly timed with the film playing on the big screen behind the orchestra. Hamish has his own screen that has “streamers” – flashes and time codes which provide information on the timing of the music with the visuals.

 “You get a sense of responsibility that this is important,” he says. “It is different, certainly you feel the weight of the tradition more than normal.”

Last year the NZSO performed the John Williams score to the original Star Wars: A New Hope to sold out audiences in Wellington.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is performing The Empire Strikes Back in Wellington and Auckland:

  • Wellington, April 28, TSB Arena | The Empire Strikes Back
  • Auckland, May 4, Spark Arena | Star Wars: A New Hope
  • Auckland, May 5, Spark Arena | The Empire Strikes Back
  • Christchurch, August 3, Horncastle Arena  | Star Wars: A New Hope
  • Review: NZSO plays Star Wars
  • Review: NZSO perform music from the movies