By George Basler
The Binghamton Philharmonic will celebrate an iconic entertainment franchise and salute an iconic movie composer Thursday (May 4) in the final concert of the 2022-23 season.
The franchise is Star Wars, created by George Lucas that began as a 1977 film before morphing into a cultural phenomenon that includes television series, video games, novels, comic books and theme park attractions.
The composer is John Williams, whose film compositions (including those for the Star Wars saga), have made him “probably the most prolific and best-known film score composer of all time,” said Paul Cienniwa, the philharmonic’s executive director.
The May 4 concert, “May the Fourth Be With You,” will feature Maestro Daniel Hege and the orchestra performing 12 themes from Williams’ various Star Wars scores. Narration will be by Joshua Sedelmeyer, a local actor, director and self-described Star Wars fan from the time his grandparents turned him on to the saga.
The event will take place on “Star Wars Day,” an informal commemorative day that began as a grassroots effort by devoted Star Wars fans to celebrate the franchise. The date originated from the pun “May the fourth be with you,” a variant of the catch phrase “May the force be with you,” uttered in the films.
The concert is intended to be a fun event, and some audience members may show up in costumes, Cienniwa said. It’s also an opportunity for people to get turned on to symphonic music, he added, humorously calling it: “A gateway drug to classical music.”
Cienniwa is a big fan of film music that can heighten the emotional impact of visual images on the screen. “Very well-written (film) music leaps off the page” and “makes an orchestra sound great,” he noted.
“The Star Wars music is iconic. You can’t have the Star Wars films without John Williams’ music,” he added.
Sedelmeyer said his narration will be “lighthearted in sort of a nerdy way” and “playful” as he talks about plot elements in the saga and provides his personal impressions. “My role is to bring audiences into the world of Star Wars if they’re not acquainted with it. And, if they are acquainted, to see deeper levels in John Williams’ music,” he noted.
Sedelmeyer said he thinks Star Wars appeals to multiple generations, because it creates a fantasy world with a clear distinction between good and evil. “And a big thing for me is the music. It engages the audience in a fantastic and exciting way. Star Wars wouldn’t be what it is without the music of John Williams,” he said.
Cienniwa said Sedelmeyer’s narration will play a practical role in the concert as well. Performing Williams’ “high octane” music can be exhausting, and the narrative moments will give orchestra members an opportunity to take some breaths.
Cienniwa agrees with the concept that film music, at its best, is one of America’s greatest contributions to classical music. And John Williams is master in composing such music. His resume includes 25 Grammy Awards, five Academy Awards and 53 Academy Award nominations. He also has composed classical concertos and other works for orchestral ensembles. In 2005, the American Film Institute selected his 1977 Star Wars work as the greatest film score of all time.
The music for Star Wars is so well written that even people who don’t know the films will enjoy the music, Cienniwa said. “We want to showcase a symphony of excellent players playing excellent music.”
IF YOU GO: The Binghamton Philharmonic will present May the Fourth Be With You at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (May 4) at Binghamton University’s Anderson Center. Tickets can be purchased in advance through the Binghamton Philharmonic box office (607-723-3931) and will be available day of show only in the Anderson Center lobby. Tickets are $25, $45, and $65.