Cleveland Orchestra plans farewell to summer with ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’

August 29, 2018

Cleveland Orchestra plans farewell to summer with ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Vinay Parameswaran, assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, isn’t a “Star Wars” fan. Before this summer, he hadn’t seen a single film.

Even he, though, is pumped for Labor Day weekend and the orchestra’s three performances of “Star Wars: A New Hope” at Blossom Music Center. He’s known and loved the music for years, and now’s his chance to appreciate it in its original context.

“It’s been a real pleasure spending time with this score,” Parameswaran said. “It’s been a pretty cool way to get to know something so popular.”

Parameswaran may be young enough to have “missed the train,” as he puts it, when it comes to the film franchise. No matter that he grew up in San Francisco, a short drive from Skywalker Ranch.

But there’s no escaping the music. Already, the still-young conductor has performed suites from “Star Wars” several times, instilling in him both a deep appreciation for composer John Williams and the significance of the people and worlds in the films. Now, though, he’s learning the whole soundtrack, the less famous but no less masterful music between the hits.

“Even if you aren’t a musician,” Parameswaran said, “you recognize the music that goes with certain characters. You become really aware of the music and how it all relates. You don’t get that in concert.”

One thing you definitely don’t get if you’re not a musician: how difficult it is to perform live with film. Especially an action-packed, science fiction film like “A New Hope,” the fourth installment of the “Star Wars” saga and first in the original trilogy.

No fan of the click track, the audio system some orchestras use to keep time with films, Parameswaran instead relies on a small screen on the podium showing him the film and various streams of musical data. His job, then, is to align what he’s seeing with what he’s hearing.

“You’ve got things blowing up, so you have to make sure you’re right with it, or the audience is going to be able to tell,” Parameswaran said. “I have to know the film as intimately as I know the music. It’s definitely a different skill.”

That skill might not be so demanding if the film weren’t so long. An epic unlike other films the orchestra has presented of late, including Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” earlier this summer, “A New Hope” spans two solid hours. In that sense, it rivals any grand symphony by Mahler or Bruckner.

Not that Parameswaran is complaining, mind you. Far from it. He may not yet be a full convert to “Star Wars,” but he’s been looking forward to conducting “A New Hope” this summer since ... well, a long time ago (and something about a galaxy).

“It’s a weekend the whole community has been waiting for, and the fact that it’s finally here is really exciting,” Parameswaran said. “I think it’s going to be a great end to the season.”


Cleveland Orchestra

What: Vinay Parameswaran conducts “Star Wars: A New Hope”

When: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31 and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 1 and 2.

Where: Blossom Music Center, 1145 W. Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls.

Tickets: $26-$120. Go to clevelandorchestra.com or call 216-231-1111.

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