Friday, April 29, 2016

The Music of the Final Frontier

Last night, I went to see Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, a concert performance of music from Star Trek. It's been touring all over the U.S. and Canada, and as the tour is now winding down, it stopped at the Paramount Theater (appropriately) here in Denver for a night.

The show was fun, getting to see live performances of a wide variety of music from Star Trek series and movies -- both iconic and more obscure samples. Being a fan of composer Jerry Goldsmith, I enjoyed how much of his work was represented in the show: his main title music from The Motion Picture (which became The Next Generation theme), First Contact, Insurrection, Voyager, and themes from within those movies for the Klingons and the Borg. In particular, the emotional theme to First Contact struck me more powerfully than ever before -- a truly beautiful piece of music.

The classic Trek fan in loved to see and hear the famous battle music from "Amok Time," and the climactic music from "The Doomsday Machine." The completist in me enjoyed music from James Horner (The Wrath of Khan), Leonard Rosenman (The Voyage Home), Cliff Eidelman (The Undiscovered Country), and Michael Giacchino (J.J. Abrams' newer films). Even under the umbrella of Star Trek, there was a wide variety to the musical styles, and packing them all into a single concert was a good experience.

But it wasn't a great experience, for a handful of reasons. One was that this touring orchestra was not as talented as the people of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra just down the street. The poor trumpet player twice missed a note in that famous Star Trek opening blast. The mixing was off at times, burying the french horns completely. The bass and cello players seemed to occasionally lag behind the rest of the orchestra.

Then there were instruments that were missing entirely. I don't suppose I expected a touring production to lug around an actual blaster beam (the massive instrument that makes that weird BWONG sound in The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan), but they were missing the instruments that produce the crisp percussion in the Klingon theme, and the lack of harp was conspicuous during several of the movie score samples.

Then there was the video element of the presentation. On a screen behind the orchestra, montages of clips from all 50 years of Star Trek were presented. They were a decidedly mixed bag, often featuring moments that had little to do with the music being played (if they even came from the right series). There was a rather ridiculous amount of repetition in the clips. (700+ hours of footage to work with, and they couldn't come up with two hours of unique material?) And sometimes they'd let too much of the dialogue play, occasionally competing with the orchestra to be heard. (If I wanted to hear people talk over Star Trek music, I could have stayed home and actually watched the show.)

So overall, this Ultimate Voyage was a fun concept with a less than ideal execution. I still love that I had the chance to see some of this music performed live. But I wish that there wasn't something happening every other song to briefly snap me out of that current of joy. I want to say the experience was grade A, but the truth is it was probably more like a B at best.

No comments: