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Symphony Performs Star Wars with Force

03/16/11 • by Sherli Leonard • The Riverside Press-Enterprise

So monumental was the sound from the Redlands Symphony Orchestra at Saturday night's concert that Conductor Jon Robertson's baton flew from his hands, the Memorial Chapel windows shattered, and the roof blew off.

Just kidding about the roof and the windows - although it may have come close - but Robertson did lose his baton during the frenzy of the first part of John Williams' "Star Wars Suite." Neither he nor the jumbo-sized orchestra missed a beat.

The jumbo-sized sound exuded from the orchestra playing works that hooked up with every ear (unless those ears were attached to people raised by wolves) in the hall: Rossini's "William Tell Overture," Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra, 2001 Space Odyssey," and Williams' "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters." The only unfamiliar work was Alexander Arutunian's "Trumpet Concerto," played masterfully by soloist Miles McAllister, and that piece melded neatly with the other ear-pleasing works.

McAllister, winner of the 2010-2011 University of Redlands School of Music Concerto Competition, treated the audience to a totally listenable piece of moody melodies, rich orchestration, and a listener-friendly trumpet expression.

Perhaps the concert's sweetest treat came at the beginning, with the performance of the "William Tell Overture." The orchestra set all clichés aside with the celli opening, tender and expressive behind principal Kyle Champion's solo work, and the poignant flute and English horn exchange in the third part, not-so-rudely interrupted by the brassy brass call which arrived to an audible audience chuckle.

The horns, under the leadership of principal Dylan Hart, gave everything a conductor and audience could hope for in every piece.
The violins, also, sounded twice their numbers, and Robertson pulled every ounce of power from them, even without his baton.

Concertmaster Pavel Farkas, with a clean long solo high note in "Leia's Theme," principal Kyle Champion with deeply rich cello solo to open the concert, the assertive and brilliant trumpet section led by principal David Scott, and the exact and precise five-person percussion section.

Robertson, himself, connects with the audience, unabashedly enjoying his work, reaching into the orchestra for every bit of musicality, and reaching out to the audience to share in the immense fun he brings to the concert. "That's it," he said to the audience at the big end of the very short, very big "2001 Space Odyssey." The audience loved it, and they seemed to love hearing interesting and seriously good music, brilliantly performed.

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