Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s holiday pops concert this weekend will include Christmas carols as well as favorite movie themes.
Listen for “Star Wars: Suite for Orchestra,” which conveys six of the biggest musical moments from the first “Star Wars” trilogy, including “Princess Leia’s Theme,” “Yoda’s Theme,” and “The Imperial March” from “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Stephen Shepherd, associate concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony, said the suite is “devilishly hard for string players, especially the violins.”
“The speed at which the notes go by is very fast,” Shepherd said. “You really have to do your homework, practice, and know the piece like the back of your hand. If you don’t, you might get caught up in a spot where you will have to make a split-second adjustment or end up with what we call a finger twister.”
Trumpeter Scott Winks said he always looks forward to playing the “Star Wars” suite. “I’ve never gotten tired of playing it. It’s quite the fanfare and challenging,” Winks said.
Even for percussion, the “Star Wars” suite presents a lot of challenges. So you might see principal timpanist Florian Conzetti bending over and tapping a drumhead to check the tone.
“It has so many changes in pitch,” Conzetti said. “Keep in mind that movie scores are not written for the concert hall. They are written in studio settings where you can change things and do another take.”
You might also see Conzetti switching between different sets of mallets. From a distance, they all look the same, but if you can see them up close, you’ll find that they are different.
“Some mallets are harder and some softer,” Conzetti said. “So it depends on the musical style and the effect that you want. You might use a harder mallet to create an articulate and present sound, but a softer mallet will help you to make a lighter sound and certain timbre or pitch.”
The concert will offer a number of other pieces from the world of cinema, as well. It will start with music from “Gladiator” in an arrangement that captures the bold themes centered on the Roman general Maximus, who was played by Russell Crowe.
For James Bond fans, you’ll hear “Themes from 007: A Medley for Orchestra,” which includes bits from “Dr. No,” “For Your Eyes Only,” “Live and Let Die” and “Goldfinger.”
The orchestra will also play music from the 2013 animated Disney hit “Frozen.” Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “Frozen” tells of a princess who finds her estranged sister after getting help from an iceman, his reindeer and a snowman. Of course, the music ends with the unforgettable song, “Let it Go.”
The “Tribute to Henry Mancini” will honor the legacy of the legendary Hollywood composer who won 20 Grammy awards and four Oscars. You’ll hear memorable tunes like “The Pink Panther,” “Peter Gun,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Charade” and “Baby Elephant Walk.”
Lovers of pirate movies can put on their eye patches when the orchestra plays music from the 2003 blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Rest assured that the holiday pops program will include some Christmas carols. They will be covered in Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival,” which features “Joy to the World,” “Deck the Halls,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Good King Wenceslas,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “The First Noel,” “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
The concert will also include a seasonal favorite, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” You have to wait until the end of the piece to hear principal trumpeter Bruce Dunn do the whinny that always gets chuckles from the audience.
Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Tristch-Trastch Polka” has been a hit ever since Strauss uncorked it in 1858. Tristch-Trastch is Viennese dialect for chitchat, and the piece delightfully depicts gossiping but with a lively step.
For the past several years, the holiday pops concert has closed with Johann Strauss Sr.’s “Radetzky March.” This is the one where conductor Salvador Brotons gives the signal to the audience to clap along with the music. It has proven to be a big hit with patrons and with the orchestra too.
“I really enjoy playing the Strauss waltzes, polkas, and marches,” Conzetti said. “I grew up in Switzerland, and this music brings back fond memories from childhood. So I’m especially glad whenever we play them.”