No less than 10 bursts of applause, the loudest for the opening title and the reveal of the late Leonard Nimoy. That was the atmosphere at last night’s Star Trek in concert event at the San Francisco Symphony, where the live orchestra provided the score to a screening of J.J. Abrams’ 2009 feature film reboot of the nearly 50 year old franchise. There were Starfleet uniforms a plenty in the audience, a themed “red matter” cocktail at the symphony bars, display cases with props from the film, and a pervading admiration and respect for everyone’s own personal connection to Star Trek. What better show of respect than for conductor Sarah Hicks to hold up her hand in the iconic ‘live long and prosper’ gesture before launching into the prologue.
The San Francisco Symphony has these live film screening events throughout the year, and I’ve been to a few, but this one was the best by far. Much of that is due to Michael Giacchino’s incredible score (he made a special guest appearance at Thursday’s show). The score features elements from the original series, but also reinvents a very bold brass-based Star Trek main theme that plays throughout the film at every “heck yeah!” moment. There’s also the opening sequence, involving Nero’s destruction of the USS Kelvin, where George Kirk, father of soon to be born James T. Kirk, was stationed. It’s a truly emotional roller coaster ride of an opening, featuring the birth of James T. Kirk amidst an epic scene of destruction and tragic loss. And the performance of the music was astounding and powerful, bringing the entire Davies Symphony Hall auditorium into hushed focus, culminating in a rousing applause as the film’s title rotated and shined bright on the screen.
There were multiple moments like this throughout the evening. The common thread of discussion during a short intermission was “I keep forgetting the music is live! And then I shift my sight down to the orchestra and can’t believe it.” That may be the best compliment the orchestra can receive — that their performance was so perfectly in sync and carried the same emotional heft of Giacchino’s score that many forgot that it wasn’t the recorded soundtrack they were hearing. Or maybe it was just the “red matter” talking.
Either way, it was an excellent performance for an excellent audience and you still have the chance to experience Star Trek in concert with the added performance this Monday evening, July 20th. Tickets available here. And of course, I can’t imagine tonight and tomorrow night’s live orchestra accompaniment to Back to the Future will be anything less than awesome as well. Go enjoy a cinematic night at the symphony!
Tickets and info for the SF Symphony film series is available here.