The Music of Star Wars
December 21, 2018
December 22, 2018
December 23, 2018

Language of the Event:
French and English
Suggested Age:
All Ages

This December, Ottawa Pops Orchestra (OPO) channels the Force to bring you three epic evenings filled with the music of Star Wars. Join us as OPO celebrates the musical legacy of John Williams and his contributions to one of the most enduring film franchises of all time with a program that will excite new and old fans alike! Program suitable for all ages - families with young children encouraged to attend!

Main Title is the powerful brass fanfare the plays repeatedly throughout the entire series, representing the triumph, courage, and heroism of Luke Skywalker. It is the first installment in the program; with straightforward harmonies and powerful orchestration, especially from the brass section. It is the iconic opening to an unforgettable adventure.

Anakin’s Theme is innocent and playful, with a sinister twist near its end when the characteristic harmonies of the Imperial March are heard. Designed to represent Darth Vader, the appearance of the March foreshadows Anakin’s eventual fall to the Dark Side of the Force. Throughout the piece, the melody remains ambiguous regarding its major or minor leaning; the perfect portrayal of Anakin’s exploration of both the dark and the light sides of the Force.

As the first anthology film, Rogue One introduced the complexity of the Star Wars universe to fans of the franchise. Jyn Erso and her team are charged with the task of finding the architectural plans of the Death Star for the Resistance, which ultimately cost Jyn her life. The film is rife with intense emotion as it explores the humanity and sacrifice of those who are not part of the central Star Wars narrative, emotions echoed in the Jyn Erso and Hope Suite. Even as Jyn and her team make the ultimate sacrifice, they bring new hope to the Resistance.

Princess Leia’s Theme begins gracefully with the flute, oboe, and horn. Her theme showcases her regal nature as well as the romance inherent in her role as love interest to Han Solo. However, as the theme grows in intensity and musical complexity, it’s clear that she is anything but a damsel in distress. Leia is a fierce leader of the Resistance on the path of becoming a General.

Cantina Band is big band swing for a small ensemble, with only a select few musicians in the orchestra playing. In the arrangement today, you will only hear one saxophonist instead of the three required, with two extra clarinets joining the fun instead.

In Here They Come, the straightforward space adventure narrative of A New Hope is clear. When the film was first released, it wasn’t certain if the saga would be a box office success, so the first episode was simply titled Star Wars and released without an episode number to avoid audience confusion. The plot was designed so the film could stand well on its own, as well as work within an eventual trilogy. A few years later, Episode IV was renamed A New Hope, but the music still supports the standalone space adventure narrative in a charming and playful way.

In the first installment of the prequel trilogy, John Williams updated his compositional style by composing not only for a symphony orchestra but includes synthesizers as well as a choir. With the addition of voices and ethereal sounding electronics, the music gains a futuristic and mystical quality. The Flag Parade depicts the moments before the pod race that would determine Anakin’s fate – to stay a slave on Tatooine or travel with Obi-Wan Kenobi as a student of the Jedi Knights. As such, the piece is filled with excitement, anticipation, and suspense due to the race’s high stakes.

Luke and Leia is a rich, peaceful, and wistful piece that illustrates the maturation of the original trilogy between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, when the piece made its debut. Luke and Leia, having realized their relationship as long lost twins, look back on their journey together. Star Wars is no longer just a space adventure, but a nuanced epic with much more complex themes and relationships between its characters.

Since Rogue One explores the devastation wreaked by the Empire outside of the direct point of view of the main characters, it’s fitting that the Guardians of the Whills are introduced as a religious order that was all but wiped out by the Empire in their search for kyber crystals. The Guardians of the Whills Suite is suitably mournful, bringing in religious elements with the use of a choir who do not sing any specific text, but rather vowels that sound like a slow chant.


Imperial March, the most recognized theme from Star Wars, represents pure evil. The auditory embodiment of Darth Vader, it is used time and again in the original trilogy in battle scenes and is also used as a base for the themes for both Anakin and Kylo Ren in their respective films. Imperial March serves a dual purpose as it not only represents Darth Vader directly but also any act of evil or violence by the Empire and thus, the music is also used in battle scenes where Darth Vader is not present.

As fighters from the Empire chase Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, and the droids, the Millennium Falcon faces a myriad of troubles. First, the hyperdrive motivator was damaged, followed by an asteroid hitting the ship. In a daring manoeuvre, Han Solo takes the Falcon through the asteroid field and successfully escapes their pursuers. The Asteroid Field is frenetic, chaotic, and depicts the crew’s controlled panic during this scene.

Parade of the Ewoks encapsulates the charming and quirky nature of these creatures of Endor perfectly, though a steady militaristic string heartbeat can be heard under the wind melodies, making it clear that they are a valuable ally for the Resistance.

The Forest Battle is unique because it was written as a suite to be included in the original motion picture soundtrack for Return of the Jedi but did not appear in the film. It pulls motifs from Episode VI and is a source of thematic material for subsequent films. It is also where classical influences from Shostakovich and Prokofiev can be heard most clearly.

The sequel trilogy is marked by a more complex relationship between Light and Dark, Good and Evil. Rey and Kylo Ren both grapple with their respective commands of each side of the Force. As The First Order tries to pick up where Darth Vader left off, the stakes are higher than ever before. Rey’s Theme is a classic example of Williams’ method of characterization in his music. The melodies here are equally curious and fierce, denoting Rey perfectly. This theme represents Rey for the remainder of the sequel trilogy.

Scherzo for X-Wings is another fantastic battle piece, this time showing chaos through non-tonal harmonies, displaced rhythms, and gunshot-like staccatos. Just as in The Forest Battle, references to Shostakovich and other great classical composers of the 20th century are clear.

Duel of the Fates, the infamous moment during the lightsaber duel between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Phantom Menace elevates the scene to a ritualistic level with the introduction of a choir. The text is in Sanskrit and comes from a medieval Welsh poem entitled Cad Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees). The orchestra plays a short, repeated figure underneath the voices that gives the piece forward momentum and intensity as the battle continues.

The last piece of the program, Throne Room & End Title, comes from the triumphant ending of A New Hope, and is a perfect close to the show. With regal triplet rhythms, brass fanfares, and a majestic transition to the same Main Theme music heard in previous films, this piece is a celebration of the fantastic adventure from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

20th Century Fox Fanfare - Alfred Newman, 1933

Episode IV: A New Hope - John Williams, 1977
Main Title

Episode I: The Phantom Menace - John Williams, 1999
Anakin's Theme

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Michael Giacchino, 2016
Jyn Erso & Hope Suite

Episode IV: A New Hope - John Williams, 1977
Princess Leia’s Theme
Here They Come
Cantina Band

Episode I: The Phantom Menace - John Williams, 1999
The Flag Parade

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi - John Williams, 1983
Luke and Leia

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Michael Giacchino, 2016
The Guardian of the Whills


Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back - John Williams, 1980
The Imperial March
The Asteroid Field

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – John Williams, 1983
Parade of the Ewoks
The Forest Battle

Episode VII: The Force Awakens - John Williams, 2015
Rey’s Theme
Scherzo for X-Wings

Episode I: The Phantom Menace - John Williams, 1999
Duel of the Fates

Episode IV: A New Hope - John Williams, 1977
Throne Room & End Title