January 17, 2011 | 5:26pm
Long Beach Symphony
Jan. 15, 2011
Long Beach Arena
Remember that Vanessa Williams song, "Save the Best for Last?" Yeah? So does the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, who closed out its 90-minute POPS! concert Saturday with six leitmotifs from the Star Wars double trilogy during its tribute to legendary film composer John Williams. The 69-piece group--conducted by Steven Reineke--opened with "Olympic Fanfare and Theme," and later tore through recognizable songs from Indiana Jones, Superman, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Saving Private Ryan, but I didn't see dudes dressed up like characters from any of those films in the lobby.
I take that back. The coolest part of the show was when the band broke into the Star Wars leitmotifs. They played the opening theme, the closing theme, the Darth Maul fight scene from The Phantom Menace, a love motif from the scene where Anakin and Padme Amidala are frolicking in the grass from Attack of the Clones and a piece from (and I could be wrong here--Star Wars geeks, please don't email me to tell me how lame I am) a love motif played at some point when Leia and Han Solo are on screen together.
And then there was "The Imperial March," known to most as the Darth Vader theme. The Storm Troopers, Boba Fetta and Vader came out for this portion and, not one to be shown up, the Dark Lord of the Sith raised his right hand and used the dark side of the force to choke Reineke. Without an available conductor, Vader grabbed the baton and led the band through his tune. Then, like a bad ass, he left.
Surprisingly, the non-musical highlight of the concert was not the on-stage appearance of the robot formerly known as Anakin Skywalker. It was when a woman named Cathryn Smyth took the baton from Reineke during "Superman March." Before the song, the conductor explained that Smyth won the opportunity to conduct the orchestra at a silent raffle. The duo began the song together, but a few seconds in, Reineke stepped to the side of the stage to let Smyth work her magic.
Was Smyth really conducting the orchestra? My gut and my brain say no, but the perma-grin on her face was worth the price of admission alone. I mean, this woman was having the best four minutes of her life and it was impossible not to feel some of her good vibrations emanating throughout the audience. The song ended and the massive uproar could have been a signal to the band because they were taking an intermission, but I think it had more to do with the passion and exuberance shown by the guest conductor.
Not listed on the bill but pleasantly welcomed was the theme from Indiana Jones. One could call it an encore if orchestras performed such things. Do they? Really, that's not a rhetorical question. Someone please tell me because I don't know.
The audience: I'm 31 years old and was by far the youngest person there by at least a decade.
Personal Bias: If they played "The Imperial March" for four hours, I still would have said they didn't play it for long enough.
Random Notebook Dump: POPS! concerts are the best way to get a know-nothing like me into orchestral music.
"Olympic Fanfare and Theme"
Themes from Jurassic Park
"Adventures on Earth" from E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial
Suite from Memoirs of a Geisha: Sayuri's Theme
Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Theme from Schindler's List
"Call of the Champions"
"Hymn to the Fallen" from Saving Private Ryan
Star Wars Suite for Orchestra
Indiana Jones Theme