Friday, October 14, 2011

A Science Fiction Themed Evening at the Symphony

Sci-Fi at the Pops Comes to Seattle
By Errin Patton

Let me begin by saying that I am a huge geek, both in sci-fi and fantasy as well as classical music. So you can imagine my delight and joy when I found out Seattle Symphony was doing a Sci-Fi at the Pops and then triple that when they announced Jonathan Frakes (Commander William T. Riker of Star Trek:The Next Generation) as the host for the evening।

Before I even set foot in Benaroya Hall, I was tweeting back and forth with the magic person behind their social media. An hour before the concert, they tweeted at me and a few others to welcome us to the show. The Seattle Symphony was in fine form, and the musicians gave the whole evening no less effort than the most serious music in the classical repertoire.

At the downbeat, conductor Victor Vanacore was immediately engaging and affable, gesturing for the audience to sing along to the national anthem. While introducing Jonathan Frakes to the stage, he kept listing credit after credit until finally Mr. Frakes just walked out and told him to get on with it. That friendly rapport was present for the whole concert, and made it more enjoyable for me to watch what I felt like were two friends chatting instead of two professionals working.

The program began with the theme from E.T., titled Adventures on Earth (composer John Williams, arr. Victor Vanacore), and continued with Independence Day Suite from the same-titled movie (composer David Arnold, arr. Nicholas Dodd).

One of the thrilling highlights, if you’ll forgive the pun, was undoubtedly the Seattle Thrillers performing their dance routine to Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Beat It (arr. Victor Vanacore). Their energy and enthusiasm surpassed the surreal experience of watching zombies dance on the S. Mark Taper Auditorium stage, and I was almost tempted to get up and start dancing with them.

Audience participation was resoundingly solid on the next piece, beginning with this fun introduction from Jonathan and Victor: “If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?” I’m sure you guessed correctly that the fourth piece of the program was Ghostbusters (composer Ray Parker, Jr., arr. Nicholas Dodd) and the audience chimed in right on cue the whole time. Concluded the first half of the concert was Superman Returns Suite (composers John Ottman & John Williams).

With a nod to Seattle Symphony’s classical programming, the second half of the program began with Mars (“The Bringer of War”) from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. As a side note, a small part of me welcomed Pluto’s demotion because it made Holst’s suite complete।

Continuing the theme of audience participation, the next segment of the program was Name that Sci-Fi Theme, or alternatively titled “Musical Jeopardy”. SPOILER ALERT: some truly great clips were played, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Psycho, and The Addams Family. By far my favorite, and the part where tears really started streaming down my face, was Johnathan Frakes narrating the prologue to the Star Trek: The Original Series theme.

Next up was music from Battlestar Galactica (composer Stu Phillips), followed by Suite from “Avatar”(composer James Horner, arr. Victor Pensavento). I particularly enjoyed Jonathan’s introduction to the final piece, which including a delightful crack about Stormtroopers not being able to hold a candle to the Klingons. Wrapping up the program was Throne Room and Finale from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (composer John Williams).

Of course, after the final bow the audience clapped and screamed and gave a standing ovation, and they came back for an encore. We were sent marching home to the tune of The Raiders March, also known as the Indiana Jones theme (composer John Williams)।

The entire evening was a great deal of fun, with many a squee-worthy moment. Of course, the most exciting moment for me was the meet & greet with Jonathan Frakes directly following the show. He was very gracious and engaging to each and every person standing in line, and I now possess the following photo for all time:

The Sci-Fi at the Pops performance repeats Friday October 14 at 8:00 pm, Saturday October 15 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sunday October 16 at 2:00 pm. Tickets available online at