The GCSE pupils headed for a night out in Manchester. A feast at Pizza Express put food in tummies and smiles on faces before heading to the Bridgewater Hall for an evening’s entertainment and of course musical inspiration and analysis!
The Manchester Concert Orchestra, plus the Bridgewater Hall organ with the stops out, can make the seats at the back of the circle vibrate – as they discovered during the first piece played at the sound-and-light extravaganza: Richard Strauss’s ‘Sunrise’ from Also Sprach Zarathustra. Memorably used for 2001: A Space Odyssey, the music was also used in the UK as the musical backing for TV coverage of the Apollo space launches. It was immediately followed by John Williams’ Star Wars main theme, the new GCSE set work; before self-confessed Trekkie conductor, Pete Harrison, introduced us to Arthur Bliss’s march from the 1936 film Things to Come.
The things to come included Holst’s ‘Jupiter’ and ‘Mars’ from The Planets suite; Jerry Goldsmith’s stirring main theme to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Stu Phillips’ theme for the original Battlestar Galactica. Given his long and triumphant association with the science-fiction genre, it was no surprise that John Williams’ music featured heavily. Not only was there much more from Star Wars – including pieces from Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace which proved that the music at least was worth revisiting – but we also heard from E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Throughout, the swirling stage smoke and sweeping lights provided a visual accompaniment that was almost as stirring as the music. There was audience participation for Barry Gray’s Thunderbirds theme (the final piece listed on the programme), with the orchestra and audience providing the 5 – 4 – 3- 2 – 1 countdown as well as a hearty shout of “Thunderbirds are go!”
When Harrison returned to the stage in Jedi robes and wielding a light-sabre, it was clear that the entertainment wasn’t over. For an encore, he led the orchestra through the end-title theme to Star Wars (A New Hope). The second encore, and final piece, was heralded by Harrison pulling his white shirt open to reveal a Superman t-shirt beneath, and again the theme was accompanied by pyrotechnics and a dazzling display of lights and lasers.
It was a stirring, dramatic finale to a wonderful concert enjoyed by all!