Steven Jarvi will take the Tucson Symphony Orchestra to a galaxy far, far away this Thanksgiving weekend.
The conductor will lead the TSO in a cine-concert of “Star Wars: A New Hope” in two performances this weekend at Tucson Music Hall. The orchestra will perform John Williams’ original score while the movie plays in glorious 3D on a screen overhead.
Expect an audience of enthusiastic “Star Wars” fans, but perhaps none more so than Jarvi, the interim artistic director of Charlottesville Opera who recently wrapped up his tenure as resident conductor of the St. Louis Symphony and music director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra.
We caught up with him on the phone from Michigan to talk about his personal connection with the film and why John Williams’ score has withstood the test of time.
Why is “Star Wars: A New Hope” a special film to you? “I would say that ‘Star Wars’ is the most influential film of my life. I was born in 1978 and the first movie I ever saw in theaters was “Empire Strikes Back.” I am a ‘Star Wars’ nerd. I was Luke Skywalker and my friend was always Han Solo when we would play pretend around the house. That’s all we would do. We would ride bikes and pretend that we were in ‘Star Wars’ so it brings back all sorts of childhood memories. It is one of the greatest presentations of a modern hero myth and that idea of a person feeling out of place looking for something bigger is so relatable. I always lived in a small town and I always had a feeling that I wanted to go somewhere bigger.”
Have you conducted the “Star Wars” soundtrack before? “I have conducted selections from ‘Star Wars’ many times, literally hundreds of times. This kind of closes the loop for me because I get to do all the music from ‘A New Hope’ with the film right above me, and I guarantee I will have a big smile on my face.”
Is John Williams an icon for you? “Yes, he is such an inspiration. In 2005, I was seated next to John Williams at an event and I got to spend the evening with him. It’s an incredible thing to be able to thank your hero face to face. To be able to say, ‘Listen, Mr. Williams, if it weren’t for you, I would not be involved in music,’ is surreal. All of these iconic film scores inspired me so much and very specifically for John Williams, it was the 1984 Olympic theme that he wrote. That was the first time I can remember the Olympics, when I was a 6-year-old kid, and the impact of that music and people going for their dreams resonated with me. This is seriously closing the loop for me to be up there with John’s score and recreate exactly what would have been happening in the studio to create the soundtrack to ‘Star Wars.’”
What song are you looking forward to conducting the most? ”I’m lucky to very often conduct the main title and I’m used to having to imagine that really exciting moment in my head. Now I just get to look up and see the screen. I think I am going to get goosebumps during the 20th Century Fox music and I may shed a small tear when I conduct the main title.”
What about the music do you think has let it remain so relevant, even today? ”This music is so well constructed and film music is often pooh-poohed, but this music is so beautiful and has so much depth. When I’m there, conducting this music and standing inside the sounds that John Williams created, I’m a 5-year-old boy up there. I’m transported back to a magical time in my life and I think that’s a part of why people like this music and why they like this experience. We can all let our inner child live.”