Left - Conductor Anthony Inglis
On arrival at the Perth Concert Hall for WASO’s Space Classics, there was a buzz of excitement in the foyer filled with young families, groups and couples of all ages. Patrons were having photos taken with Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers while the friendly front of house staff adorned with “alien bobble” headbands, ushered us to our seats. It was not the atmosphere one may expect to encounter on a standard evening out at the symphony, but as the night went on, so did the theatrics.
After the two opening pieces, the charismatic and delightful (not to mention internationally acclaimed) conductor Anthony Inglis turned around to address us. He requested that for the next couple of hours we imagine ourselves to be passengers on a spaceship, and join him on a tour of the galaxy. Although you may never have imagined the Concert Hall this way before, it is quite easy to visualise the box seats as those pods at the Senate Meeting in Star Wars Episode 1 (The Phantom Menace).
Inglis divided the audience members into “aliens” and “earthlings” and talked us into singing the 5 notes made famous by John Williams’ “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to each other. The orchestra cast amused grins in our direction as we bashed out our interpretation of the melody. Inglis’ cutting wit dealt with the hecklers in the crowd and kept us in giggles all evening.
Despite the light hearted nature of the show, the performance of the orchestra was impeccable and it is easy to see how WASO gained the reputation as one of the finest orchestra’s in the world. The familiar classics, such as Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz” and Holst’s “The Planets” (Mercury, Mars and Jupiter) were enthralling. I found myself drawn into the sight and sound of the musicians’ fingers darting up and down their instruments at light speed (pun intended), and so captivated I felt breathless as the final clear sounds drifted away at the conclusion of a piece.
One of the most distinctive qualities of music is its ability to evoke images and memories of places and events. Hits from the movies, like “ET”, “Superman”, “Thunderbirds”, “Star Trek” and many of the “Star Wars” series, transported us back to our relationship to the time. I had some spine tingling moments and must admit that when we wandered out at interval, I had to dismiss a little tear that had escaped as I remembered the love between a boy and a certain little brown, long-necked extra terrestrial in the front basket of his flying bicycle.
The second half of the program continued with the spectacle of the first and the orchestra continued on in flawless fashion. Prior to the concluding number, Inglis quizzed us on the first thing that a superhero does when trouble arises. My friend suggested “rips off his shirt!”, and to the delight of the audience, Inglis did just that. Tossing his tails aside and tearing open his vest to reveal a Superman shirt underneath; he went on to conduct the final piece like that. After Inglis left the stage, thunderous applause continued until we noticed a figure walking down the stairs from the back of the stalls dressed in a Jedi Knight cloak and holding a light sabre aloft. When he reached the stage, Anthony Inglis threw back the hood to even more claps and cheers. There is no doubting the incredible passion this man has for music and for the theme of the evening.
The Ernst & Young Contempo Series is “sexing up” symphony, making it accessible and perhaps inviting for new audience members. I know that I will certainly be looking out for the next instalment, which is The Best of the West End in October.
West Australian Symphony Orchestra presents
Conductor Anthony Inglis
Venue: Perth Concert Hall
Dates/Time: 7.30pm, Friday 9 & Saturday 10 July
Tickets: $70 - $85
Bookings: WASO 9326 0000 | www.waso.com.au | www.bocsticketing.com.au | 9484 1133