Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Portland Symphony Orchestra STAR WARS Symphonic

Back in August, I received an invitation to participate in the Portland Symphony Orchestra's STAR WARS Symphonic.  I was in Portland, visiting the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital and had the opportunity to meet Joe Boucher, who is their concert manager.  We had a great chat and he had plenty of time to meet R2-D2 and see what we do!

Since then, and many charity & children's events later, the date came for our journey to Portland for the concert.  

A quick thing I want to point out here:  I have never been to a symphony orchestra before.  If you were to go through my music playlist on my iPhone and Spotify account, you would see it is chock full of movie soundtracks.  Rocky, Superman, Star Wars, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, TRON Legacy and the list goes on and on.  I like movie soundtracks as they set the mood for these great stories we know so well from the movie.  I wanted badly to see STAR WARS in Concert when it was in New Hampshire but I couldn't pull it off.  So, that said, hearing a symphony orchestra was big on my bucket list.

Portland is 125 miles south of me, a two hour trip down interstate 95.  The Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO) was gracious enough to put me up in a hotel Saturday night so I could have R2-D2 and I available to rehearse with them at 10am Sunday.  Despite some drunks pulling the fire alarm at 2am, forcing a complete evacuation of the hotel, we got a few hours of sleep.  (Yes, I left R2 to fend for himself)

We arrived before 10:00 and with the help of staff, got R2 unloaded from the van and situated in our dressing room...the laundry room!  R2's white and blue colors matched perfectly the staff's Whirlpool washer and dryers!

I plugged R2 into the battery charger to top them off.  While that was going on, I was given a tour of the concert hall and sat down to listen to the rehearsal.  

Simply amazing, that's the only way to describe my first experience listening to a symphony orchestra up close!

Merrill Auditorium seats 1900.  That's a lot of people! 

Enjoying the view and the music
 Here's some video, from my iPhone, of the rehearsal...

After a break, we had our first practice rehearsal.  Besides R2-D2 and I, there were members of the 501st there.  We had a Threepio, Darth Vader, 3 stormtroopers, a TIE pilot and 3 Rebel Alliance pilots.  The event had a script, where between each song, the narrator (Threepio) would guide you along this symphonic journey.

R2 was to drive on out to the conductor, interrupting him and they would carry on a short "conversation".  Well, wouldn't you know it, the batteries to my XBOX controller [for Windows] died right then and there.  No remote sounds would play.  An easy fix, with new batteries.  I just hoped this wasn't an omen of things to come, such as rolling off the stage!

I really felt for the Storm troopers and Vader, they work tirelessly on their helmets and especially having the tinted/dark lenses in place  In a darkened theater, its hard to navigate!  

As we neared showtime, the 501st guys were outside the Merrill Auditorium for pictures with the fans.

Our Threepio got suited up and I peeked from behind the curtain to see all the people in their seats.  Wow!

The show went off without a hitch.  R2 rolled out and interacted with the conductor and then stayed on stage for the duration of the show.  I sat by the curtain, intermittently moving the dome around.  I was pretty happy I had added servos to the front holoprojector a few months ago.  It was a really nice effect to see that twitching around every few seconds while R2 sat there.  When it was time to roll off stage, we did so and waited for our queue to come back and on for our final bow.

When we returned to the stage, we wrapped up the show and stayed put for after show event, meeting with the Discovery Club members for their Questions and Answers with the conductor.  

We posed for some pictures and then we were free to go!

Conductor Norman Huynh , R2-D2 and me!
"Anakin" practices patting R2-D2 on the head
I can't say enough good things about our experience with the PSO.  If you have never been to a symphony orchestra, you need to do so!  Even more so if they are playing movie music!