Source: Alicia Forestall-Boehm
Clarinetist Laura Stibich had never been a “Star Wars” aficionado, so she didn’t know what to expect when Northshore Concert Band director Mallory Thompson announced its season would be themed around the popular film series. But after playing the music, she said she was pleasantly surprised.
“Not sure who Yoda is, but I love his theme,” she said.
The Northshore Concert Band will open its 62nd season with “Star Wars: A New Hope” on Nov. 5 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. This year’s season will feature music from the original trilogy, with each concert geared toward a unique theme, Thompson said. The central theme for this concert will be “Stars.”
The foray into popular music is a new adventure for the band, which has previously focused on classical work alone. Thompson — a Bienen professor who also serves as NU’s director of bands — said these beloved movie themes are just as well-composed and challenging as classical pieces.
“(‘Star Wars’ composer) John Williams is the most successful film composer that has ever existed,” she said. “Williams took a lot of ideas from (Richard) Wagner’s operas, like having a recurring theme for each of the characters.”
The arrangement of the film music for this concert will include “The Imperial March,” “Princess Leia’s Theme,” “The Forest Battle” and “Yoda’s Theme.” In addition to the “Star Wars” music, the program will feature classical pieces like “Smetana Fanfare,” “Tears of St. Lawrence” and “Brooklyn Bridge” — the latter of which will feature guest soloist and third-year Bienen doctoral student Andy Hudson on clarinet.
Hudson — who received his master’s from NU in 2012 — has had a prolific career thus far, including stints with the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra and an upcoming gig at Carnegie Hall with his group F-PLUS. Thompson said Hudson fits perfectly into the “Stars” theme, as “he’s a rising star himself.”
“He’s a beautiful musician and an ‘A-plus’ human being,” she said. “After his first rehearsal, the band cheered for him more than I’ve ever seen them cheer for anybody — even the principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”
“Brooklyn Bridge” is a 25-minute clarinet concerto with four sections. Each section represents a view from a cardinal direction on the eponymous bridge, Hudson said. Although the piece is “frenetic,” “poignant” and fun to play, Hudson said he was still challenged by its intricacies.
“It’s taxing not only musically and physically, but (also) emotionally,” he said. “You have to inhabit these different spheres and be able to move through them and bring the audience with you. The preparation for that comes from just living in the piece.”
Hudson credits the high level of musicality in the band as a serious asset in tackling the solo; the ensemble includes community members who play at a professional level.
Stibich, a long-time member of the band, said Thompson’s prowess and genius is the backbone for the ensemble’s high level of musicianship.
“She can hear things that nobody else can hear,” Stibich said. “She gets to the problem immediately and can give you the perfect phrase to fix it.”
Hudson agreed with Stibich, and said he’s “never seen musicians work so hard.”
“She refuses to let anybody phone it in,” he said. “To Mallory, getting to play music is an honor and a gift, and if we can’t bring our all to it we should just go sell insurance.”
While the band may have an intense work ethic, its members still like to infuse some fun into their concerts. Hudson’s small children will make a guest appearance onstage dressed as Darth Vader and an Ewok.
Hudson himself will come dressed as Luke Skywalker, which he hopes will help the strength of his playing.
“It takes a person who’s able to swing a lightsaber to play a piece like ‘Brooklyn Bridge,’” he said. “I’m thankful that I’ll have ‘the Force’ to guide me.”
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