Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 4, 2009

Springfield Symphony & George Takei

Symphony Hall, Springfield
by Shera Cohen

"Flights of Fantasy," the Springfield Symphony Orchestra's final pops of the season, was called "the combination of a symphony concert and a Star Trek convention." This might be an odd mix, but consider the source. The man who made such a bold statement was George Takei, aka Mr. Sulu of "Star Trek" fame.

The full house was treated to an atypical event. This concert format was different from the expected, as was the maestro. Oftentimes, guest conductors are hired for pops, with Kevin Rhodes taking the baton for formal symphonic performances. Well, Rhodes was very much present and enthusiastic. It is obvious that his musicians like and respect the man at the podium. Rhodes' mundane repartee and skilled leadership is appreciated just as much by the audience. Rhodes’ introduction to the concert was, "Music can take you into magical worlds." He was right, proving so with significant help from the orchestra and Takei.

Many consider "movie music" less important than works of symphonic masters. Listen again. Composers Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams are familiar names not just for their prolific work but for their outstanding talent. The SSO concert included "Star Trek" (Goldsmith) and "Star Wars" (Williams).

A section of the concert's first half was a Q&A with Rhodes and Takei. While talk about Japanese detention camps (Takei's childhood in the U.S.), gay rights (his recent marriage), and dubbing foreign films ("Godzilla") was interesting, the time could have been better spent making music. Nearly everyone has heard the "Star Wars" theme, but not everyone has heard and seen it live, where it is better and bigger. It's just a little unfortunate that the wonderful SSO didn't have the opportunity to fill the beautiful Symphony Hall with more magical sounds from outer space.

"The Lord of the Rings Symphony" was the post-intermission performance. The long piece seemed incredibly difficult yet flawless, meshing Takei's baritone voice narration and creation of character voices with the SSO instruments' voices. The words and music, sometimes together and other times separate, created strange new (Tolkien) worlds - infinitely beautiful to the ear.