February 28, 2016
Ottawa, ON Review
The Sunday, February 28 performance of Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, was a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. It was a nostalgic trip through time for someone like myself, who has enjoyed all 50 years of the Star Trek adventures, but the concert would have been enjoyable for even the uninitiated.
Directed by Nicholas Buc, one of the three concert tour conductors, the 31 musicians of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra superbly played highlights of the music from all five television series and all 12 movies. Seated in a stage setting that called to mind a starship, complete with lighting effects and the low pitched background thrum of warp drive engines, there was no question before a single note was played that this was going to be a concert unlike any traditional classical music concert. And then there was the 40-foot screen above and behind the orchestra, which over the next two hours displayed clips, and sometimes full scenes, from the Star Trek archives perfectly synched with the music of the orchestra.
Music and videos were expertly arranged into thematic sections, like “The Captains,” “Life Forms,” and “The Enterprise,” with video clips from different series and movies smoothly matched to appropriate musical accompaniment. Sometimes whole scenes were played in their entirety with the orchestra playing the actual score. During those times, it was hard to remember there was a live orchestra playing in front of us, not just the soundtrack from the movie or show. It was a remarkable experience. It was not like listening to some orchestra’s arrangement of Star Trek music—this was the orchestra playing the actual scores from the Paramount/CBS musical archives. According to a member of the tour, sometimes we were even hearing music that had never before been performed in public.
One of the most poignant sections was the “Inner Light Suite,” music from one of fandom’s all time favorite Star Trek: Next Generation episodes in which Captain Picard plays an otherworldly flute. While the audience was treated to a montage of some of the most touching scenes involving characters’ relationships, the orchestra was pulling on our heartstrings and the flutist performed the solo part impeccably. I am sure that I was not the only one without dry eyes at the end of that Suite.
To put together a two-plus hour concert from the wealth of music from great composers the likes of Alexander Courage, Jerry Goldsmith, Dennis McCarthy, Jay Chattaway, James Horner, and others is great, but to be able to choose key scenes from 50 years of television and movies and pair it with the music, must truly have been a labor of love, requiring musical talent and an intimate knowledge and love of Star Trek.
It was clear from the reaction of the audience that these concertgoers were both Star Trek fans and music lovers. There was laughter prompted by some great Star Trek one-liners, repeated thunderous applause, and a final standing ovation (which prompted a wonderful encore with scenes from what appeared to be “the making of Star Trek”). There were, as expected, a few concertgoers in various degrees of costuming, including pointed ears, but this was not a Trek convention. Rather this audience was clearly looking forward to being entertained, both visually and musically, for over two hours and being transported into a familiar yet fantastic world that after 50 years continues to enchant. That a tour such as this can play 100 concerts between January and May in Canada and the U.S. and draw such an enthusiastic crowd as was in Ottawa on Sunday shows that the music and world of Star Trek continue to “live long and prosper.”
Written by: Dale Stafford