Saturday, February 2, 2008

To Boldly Go!

Wow! This was a fantastic evening. My boyfriend and I, along with another couple, went to the Minnesota Orchestra "Boldly Go. . ." performance. It was a selection of science fiction (or otherwise space-related) music presented by none other than George "Mr. Sulu" Takei. Originally it was supposed to be presented by Leonard Nimoy, but he had a scheduling conflict with shooting for the next "Star Trek" movie, so it was great that Takei stepped in.

Our evening started across the street at "Brit's Pub" for a drink and dinner. I used to work downtown years ago within walking distance of it, it was nice to get there again for a proper pint of cider and some fish and chips. My boyfriend was in his Han Solo costume and our friend was in his "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" uniform - which, given it was designed after the British "red coat" uniform, he didn't look out of place at all in a British themed pub! LOL. What's with the costumes you ask? Well, thankfully the Minnesota Orchestra isn't all snooty and snobby - they understood their audience enough to realize some would come in costume whether it was kosher or not. So they had a "costume contest" scheduled before the main event. Nobody I knew won anything, and frankly the Trek uniform SHOULD have won - not just because he's a friend of mine, but because so many people in the audience were commenting that he should have. But, alas, the audience wasn't the judge. I should maybe mention that this was also the first time I've ever attended a real orchestra concert in a concert hall. I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

They also renamed the drink offerings at the bars in the lobby area of Orchestra Hall, calling (for example) one of the beers a "Romulan Ale," there were also Tribbles stuck all over the place, and all the staff were wearing Star Trek TOS-era uniform shirts, which made scifi geeks like us feel we were among people who "get it" instead of a bunch of mundanes. Though I suspect some of the staff wouldn't have, under any other circumstances, worn a Star Trek uniform shirt.

The concert itself started with a medley of Star Trek music. Then they played selections from Gustav Holst's "The Planets." Which George Takei mentioned was used as "temp track" music by George Lucas when he was editing "Star Wars." Then came Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" followed by the "Adventures on Earth" composition from "E.T." I should mention that, on a projection screen above and behind the orchestra, they were showing images from the movies and NASA images from the Mars Rover and Hubble Space Telescope.

A 20 minute intermission was a welcome break and gave a much better notion of just how many people were AT this concert. I had actually looked around the auditorium and there were very few empty seats, mostly up front. When my boyfriend had purchased the tickets in November all but some scattered Main Floor seats were sold out. Oh, yeah, we ended up in ROW TWO of the Main Floor - so we were practically on stage with the orchestra. Hopefully it was such a success they'll do more concerts like this in the future!

After intermission the conductor (Sarah Hatsuko Hicks) came out wearing a ST:TOS uniform shirt and pants too - and the Tribbles had multiplied all over the conductor's podium (well, that's what Tribbles DO, right?). The orchestra kicked the second half off with "Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss and then into "Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss.

Before going onto the theme from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" the conductor took a moment to explain that the "hand signals" that go with the alien sounds are actually part of a method for teaching music to young children, developed by another conductor. It turned into audience participation as she had everyone doing the hand signals. However, on the last time through the orchestra (which had been playing the tones) finished with the extra loud "response" from the spaceship - which I don't think the conductor knew the orchestra was going to do that because it looked like it took her by surprise - and then she (and everyone else) just about died laughing!

After actually hearing the "Close Encounters" theme they went into another medley of "Star Trek" music, which I felt was better than the first one. It was kind of sweet that the audience erupted into spontaneous applause when an old "Star Trek" publicity photo of "Mr. Sulu" on the bridge of the Enterprise was shown. Finally the concert finished up with two selections from the "Star Wars" saga: "Duel of the Fates" from "Phantom Menace" (which sounded a bit different as it was lacking a chorus) and the main theme from all the "Star Wars" movies.

While it was a nice selection of music, I'm hoping they'll do another such concert in the future so they can maybe include some other pieces I was dying to hear performed live by an orchestra. For example, the theme from the original "Battlestar Galactica" would have been a great addition. I was also sort of disappointed they didn't play the "Imperial March" song everyone knows goes so well with Darth Vader - making him menacing just walking down a hallway. I'm sure I could come up with some other ones if I looked through my MP3s. Nonetheless it was a magical evening.

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