Lasers and lightsabers. Horns and Holst. Fireworks and flying saucers. Our journey through space at the Royal Albert Hall was fabulous!
If you didn’t already know, we kicked off our week away with a stopover in London to attend the Space Spectacular concert, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and conducted by Anthony Inglis.
I’d nagged for tickets for my birthday, having wanted to attend a classical concert for a while, and as this featured many of my favourite musical scores with the added bonus of being held in an iconic venue, well…I nagged a lot!
The Hall itself was nothing short of stunning – I’ve obviously seen it plenty of times on TV but that didn’t detract from the grandeur of the place. It’s classically beautiful, just the kind of architecture I love, so it’s no surprise that the design was inspired by Roman amphitheatres.
I find the daftest of things exciting though and after doing some research on the best places to sit, I was far more intrigued than I should have been by the fact that the chairs swivel, so that wherever you are, you can twizzle back and forth to face the stage and the light show. What can I say? I like spinning on chairs…
The actual concert was so fantastic. Forget any preconceptions of classical music being uptight and stuffy and only for people of a certain age. This concert appealed to the masses. The audience was a broad spectrum from all walks of life: there were families with young children, die-hard Trekkies wearing their favourite geeky T-shirts, fans of film and TV and young couples on dates, with a peppering of bow-ties and velvet jackets that suggested classical afficionados did not think it was too mainstream. It even won over my screamy-metal / hip-hop loving other half!
The line-up of music opened with the main theme from Star Wars. Okay, so I’m a massive fan of both the films and the score (and John Williams in general) but if you get all goose-bumpy when that opening scroll starts in the cinema, it’s nothing compared with hearing the theme played by a live orchestra. Just the sheer noise created by the instruments was tremendous and clichéd or not, it stirred the emotions. Certainly everyone around us was beaming from ear to ear!
One of the nice things for me was simply experiencing hearing the range of classical instruments. We were sat to the left of the conductor, fairly close to where the harpist was. A harp isn’t something ordinary folk see everyday and I was taken aback by how huge it was and the clarity of sound that came from it – it was easy to distinguish this above the other stringed instruments when it was playing. And luckily for everyone concerned, all the cellists turned up so my services were not needed… 😉
The rest of the evening took us through well known intergalactic scores and compositions from Battlestar Gallactica and Star Trek, waltzing through Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey past Mars and Jupiter, courtesy of Holst and throwing in a Man of Steel and some crime fighters that are FAB.
Anthony Inglis was great at interacting with the audience and whilst some of his jokes were a little cheesy and like ‘dad trying to be cool’, it all added to the fun of the evening. He shared his love of Star Trek and interspersed the music with trivia about the composers, whilst adopting a few costume changes to complement the current score – although let’s just say his Superman outfit left little to the imagination. I’m very glad I wasn’t needed to step in to the cellists’ seats that were far too close to the ‘action’…
The laser show that accompanied each piece was another element that enhanced the spectacle – when the audience was encouraged to sing (badly) to the instantly recognisable 5-note motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I certainly wasn’t expecting a UFO to drop down out of the heavens!
And then these guys turned up for an encore of Star Wars and a stop through the whole series, bringing it right up to date with Rey’s theme. We weren’t supposed to film but I tried to sneak a recording of the Imperial March but I fussed about too much and they seamlessly went into Padme and Anakin’s love theme. Marvellous – Probably served me right!
But for me, the absolute highlight was the score from E.T. It’s remains one of my all-time favourite films from childhood and I’m a huge fan of the score, so again, to hear it live was amazing. Couple that with the light show and it can only be described as magical. In fact I teared up. And then continued to ‘sing’ it after the show whilst doing a fine job of ‘air conducting’ (I guess you always air-conduct don’t you? But you know what I mean!)
I can’t recommend the show enough. It’s a great ‘in’ to classical music if it’s not your normal genre and having easily recognisable themes mixed in with possibly lesser known pieces, caters to everyone and hopefully introduces people to other composers.
So, have you been to the Albert Hall? Is this a concert you think you’d enjoy? To see it at the RAH, I think you’ll have to wait until next year but it seems they perform at other select venues around the UK. Get tickets, you’ll love it!
Image Credits: Mine and YouTube.