LIVE REVIEW: MSO Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert

Star Wars MSO

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Hammer Hall Thursday 1st February
Media passes provided by Event Organisers
Words by Callum Needham

I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra but their performance of the score from the film, Star Wars: A New Hope, was perfect down to the last note. Even the guy with the triangle was spot on.  What the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra created wasn’t just a film with a live band playing, it was a completely new experience, unlike anything I’d seen or heard before.

Before even stepping into Hammer Hall at the Arts Centre Melbourne, you were greeted by two huge crossed red and blue glowing Lightsabers, acting as a doorway into the venue. But what I found inside was even more impressive: Darth Vader himself walking around flanked by Storm Troopers searching for photo opportunities, and a 3 piece jazz band playing the Star Wars Cantina music. It was impossible not to get swept up in the Star Wars hype.  

‘What I found inside was even more impressive: Darth Vader himself walking around flanked by Storm Troopers searching for photo opportunities, and a 3 piece jazz band playing the Star Wars Cantina music’

Entering into the seating area you could tell just how far the Star Wars films reach. Children as young as 6 were dressed up as their favourite character, along with the adults. The stage was draped in Jedi (goodies) and Sith (baddies) banners, and the room was a buzz as we all waited for the Orchestra to finish their final preparations.

When the Conductor, Benjamin Northey, stepped out on the stage (accompanied by Stormtroopers) and addressed the crowd saying ‘This is going to be the best night of our lives’, nobody had any reason to disagree, and the show hadn’t even begun yet.

The excited murmurings from the crowd died instantly as the first note of the iconic Star Wars opening crawl theme tune hit the air. The rooms collective jaw hit the floor. We knew this was going to be something special.

‘The excited murmurings from the crowd died instantly as the first note of the iconic Star Wars opening crawl theme tune hit the air’

With audience participation encouraged, flashing lights simulating Stormtrooper gunfire and ships jumping to hyperspace, it felt more like a 4D experience than a fancy night at the Orchestra. I was so amazed at the talent and precision of the players, I didn’t even glance at the screen where the film was playing for the first 5 minutes. Even when I finally did look up my attention was divided throughout the whole experience,  always unsure where to look.  

As the film progressed and famous scenes and characters popped up the audience would go wild with applause and cheering. It seemed that the presence of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra made every moment feel more emotionally charged and vivid. On more than one occasion I found myself getting goosebumps at scenes I’d seen multiple times before.

‘On more than one occasion I found myself getting goosebumps at scenes I’d seen multiple times before’

Not many films could pull off an experience of this scale and with this reception. With such a iconic and loved soundtrack, the fact is this film is a cult favourite, making it so special to watch surrounded by other fans.

When the last bar of the credits ended it was met by resounding applauses and a standing ovation that lasted for some minutes. Just when we thought it was over Northey teased their next project, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which would include what could be one of the most famous pieces of cinema music of all time: ‘Darth Vader‘s Imperial March’. To sum this experience up in words was quite hard. You really had to be there surrounded in the atmosphere to fully understand and appreciate it.