With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson reminisces recording for the original Star Wars soundtrack when he was a cellist for the London Symphony Orchestra.
John Williams brought the music recording for the first Star Wars film to the London Symphony Orchestra whilst I was still a cellist in the orchestra. Today it is hard to imagine there was ever a time when no one had heard of Star Wars! In those days, film music recordings were made with a large screen behind the orchestra on which the movie was shown, to enable the conductor to coordinate the music with the film. Nowadays, the conductor has a small screen that only s/he can see. We all used to spend every recording session both playing the music but also trying to watch the film out of the corner of our eye. However, as is the case with almost all movie soundtrack recordings, John recorded the music in short sections of perhaps one to five minutes, and completely out of order, so we had absolutely no sense of the story. Although we were all blown away by the music, it never occurred to any of us that we were playing a part in movie history; on the contrary, we all wondered who would ever go to see the film as it just looked like a light kids’ movie!
Once the movie was finished, George Lucas arranged a private London screening for everybody in the UK involved in making the film, including the orchestra musicians. Because the screening was free, almost every player attended, but with minimal expectations. All the more extraordinary then that at the end, the cinema exploded with applause; everyone was totally blown away by the film.
From that day onwards, there was not a Star Wars film or, for that matter, any film involving John Williams’ music, that anybody would ever have missed, even if they were at death’s door. The thing that to this day amazes me about John’s film music scores is that you only need to hear the first fragment of the music and the film appears before your eyes. He has a magical ability to capture the essence of a film from the first note of music.