Interview with NJSO Conductor Constantine Kitsopolous
Posted on 10/24/2018
Don’t miss Star Wars: A New Hope In Concert, with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performing John Williams’ Oscar®-winning score live to the complete film on November 25. Conductor Constantine Kitsopolous joins us to discuss what it's like playing a score live to a film and especially with such a great movie!
Read the transcribed interview below
with Bert and Kelly from All Access and special guest Constantine Kitsopolous.
Bert: Hello again and welcome to all access with State Theatre New Jersey, this is the show that takes you backstage behind the scenes and behind the curtain at the legendary state theatre in downtown New Brunswick. Brand new show for you this week, I am Bert Barren joined as always by State Theatre New Jersey’s director of communications Kelly Blithe, hello there Kel how are you again?
Kelly: good how are you Bert?
Bert: I’m good and we’re gonna write another great chapter this week in the illustrious history of State Theatre New Jersey. It is so cool to be a part of something so historic isn’t it?
Kelly: I would say so, I’ve been a part of the State Theatre for a long time and we got a lot going on all the time and something for everyone and just it’s something I’m very very excited to be a part of.
Bert: Absolutely and we’re going to write the next great chapter involving State Theatre New Jersey and the New Jersey Symphony on November 25th, when the very popular shows that come back featuring sort of a film experience with a live sound track, people just love this. We’re so honored to be joined this week to open up the program, the conductor of the one and only New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, it is great to have Constantine Kitsopolous here on all access. Constantine welcome back it's Bert and Kelly, great to have you on all access.
Constantine: Its great to be with you
Bert: This takes sort of movie going and going to see the orchestra, I think it takes both of them to sort of a new unique level where not only do you get a great film and a live soundtrack, now you get to see New Jersey symphony accompanied by a film that everyone is kind of familiar with. Do you feel the same way about how it’s made sort of movie going and enjoying the symphony kind a unique experience for people?
Constantine: It sure has, and in more ways than one. Having the story played live, especially by the New Jersey Symphony, makes watching these movies even more of a visceral experience. You get that sound that kind of what I call a wall of sound coming from the orchestra coming at you. You know 70, 80 players play John Williams Score, such is that for Star Wars. And it’s just a great way to see a movie. And you know it especially for people who are lovers of star wars but not only that, if you’ve never been to hear a symphony or orchestra before, this is a great first step. Coming in to see a film with live orchestra, you get more bank for your buck, and it’s the best of all possible worlds. It’s just a wonderful wonderful happening.
Kelly: Yeah I agree and you know especially with this film Constantine, Star Wars: A New Hope, I guess you could say the original Star Wars right, right Bert. On November 25th come to State Theatre for two performances, 3pm and 8pm. And then later of course January 6th bringing you guys back for Empire Strikes Back, very exciting of course. You know people know Star Wars and the music of Star Wars, so that’s I feel like a much easier jump for them. If they’ve never have been to a classical performance or seen an NJSO performance I think this is a great way to bring them into that world. This I assume you have been doing this for a while, this kind of attraction what was you first kind of entry into playing a live score?
Constantine: Well, I first started doing film with live orchestra back in I think it was 2004. And people didn’t really know what to make of it. You know, orchestras were nervous because there was a lot of walk up business and of course if you think about it, if you’re gonna go to a movie on a Friday night you don’t buy your tickets a month in advance, but we hope that you will. You show up at the movie theatre you buy your tickets and you go in and enjoy the movie. So, what it’s turned into is something quiet different Its own genre now. You know there’s standard symphonic repertoire, threes going to the opera, there’s you know going to see a Broadway show, and there’s you know a pops concert with orchestras and now there is films with live orchestras, so the whole experience has taken on a life of its own. And has become wildly popular, especially with some of these great films, how can you beat Star Wars, especially that music. John Williams has this ability to take the human condition and put it into music. The music supports the drama and the story and you get a little bit more of a deeper inside into what the characters are feeling and what might be about to happen in the story. The cool thing with the first Star Wars, this is the first one that was released, Star Wars: A New Hope, Its actually episode number four in a triple trilogy. Empire Strikes Back is episode number five so you get to see, if you come to both, you’ll see how some of the music developed. How much the characters have matured, what the new characters are, it’s really an all-encompassing thing.
Bert: It really is, and Constantine we know that the fans of the Star Wars movies, lets see how can I put this, we know how particular they are about every seen, every frame, every line. There are people that know those movies inside and out. When it comes to the score are the fans that particular about that as well, like “oh that’s not how the music went when I watched the movies,” do the fans pay that close attention, I mean the real fans to the score of the firm.
Constantine: Well I think they do and how theyre going to be pleasantly surprised is what we do when we do these concerts, when we play the score as it was recorded and subsequently edited for the movie, so if you just went to the movie and saw Star Wars: A New Hope, and then you compared the music to that to this live experience, we’re playing the exact same score, every note, none of it’s been changed. So, I think that they’re going to be very pleased to hear that.
Kelly: Yeah and I love how you said there’s number three and four right, or that the numbers are four, five, six, and all that, because that’s always the big debate right, is what came first and what order everything is. My sister is a big Star Wars fan so I hear it all the time. But you know about this performance in particular its very different in a sense that sometimes you guys are, you know, we’re watching the film and like you said its all on point and it has to be all on point and we kind of forget there’s an orchestra there, and you look over and you’re like oh, and do you find yourself conducting a little bit differently as if you know you weren’t just front and center and everyone was paying attention to you guys, and you know looking right at you. This is a different experience for you right?
Constantine: Well you know in terms to how I approach the music I approach the music and the performers music the same as, pretty much the same as I approach anything else, I mean its great music and it preserves a great deal of attention to detail. How the audience perceives it in terms of its connection to the film and kind of sometimes even forgetting it’s there, forgetting there’s a live orchestra that’s there, it’s more of a case of what the audience perceives and that’s probably the whole thing. You know I can tell you that when I’ve done these shows elsewhere and even with New Jersey Symphony , quit a bit of film with live orchestra, the audience goes nuts at the end of the evening, and they’re going nuts for the orchestra and their performance of the music. And even at the beginning of the film we play the 20th century fox theme, it’s written by Alfred Newman and everyone starts applauding. And then there’s that moment when you see that scrolling text on the screen so once a long time ago in a faraway land, and then we dive In with that Star Wars theme and the audience goes nuts! It’s like a rock concert it’s so cool.
Bert: I was gonna say how could they not, I mean you guys break in with the 20th Century Fox theme and right away everyone is like oh this is going to be so great I can’t wait to see how this is going to play out. For you Constantine how is it for you to b a fan of the material cause we know New Jersey Symphony does so many of these and so many different genres I mean we’re talking everything from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Bugs Bunny cartoons for crying out loud. Do you have to be on board with the film to get behind this and really pull it off convincingly?
Constantine: Well I mean it certainly the case of Star Wars, I love this music, I love it I mean I saw the film when it came out at the movie theaters in 1977. How important is it for me? You know in a general sense, my favorite piece of music is the piece of music that I’m working on at the time and you have to be committed to the music. There are some things that I may or may not like in a particular piece of music or whatever but it’s my responsibility to give it 120 percent. In this case, certainly in the case of John Williams’ music, I just love what he’s written and you know I’ve done a lot of his stuff, I did the Indiana Jones raiders of the lost dark with the New Jersey Symphony years ago again he’s just a master he’s an absolute master at what he does.
Kelly: He is.
Constantine: You know and he can write in any style from the opening theme to that what we call the cantina band, you know. Which is a totally different kind of music. A totally different style required in some scenes and the music that accompanies the battle scenes, all of the above I guess. I just love John Williams’ work.
Kelly: and just thinking about the two movies, is there a particular moment, and I could think of multiple moments that would be like my favorite of like music and like cantinas one of them right cause it’s kind of quirky and a little bouncy music. Is there a particular scene that just every time gets you while you guys are performing it that just is really the ultimate scene for you?
Constantine: You know, the final battle scene with the Ty fighters, that music is just exciting. So you know, I remember the movie and listening to that music back then in 1977 would be absolutely riveted. That’s the most challenging piece of music to play cause it’s an extended piece that requires an tremendous amount of endurance, you know. These musicians are so highly trained that you know I won’t say it’s like falling off a log for them but they know how to do this well. But I think that’s probably really my favorite bit of music.
Bert: It’s an Oscar®-winning score for a reason, absolutely and wow you will want to be there on Sunday November 25th, 3pm and 8pm. You think we’ll have a couple people Kel that will go to both, I think so?
Kelly: Oh for sure.
Bert: You have to you have to, you know what if you like three o’clock so much see if you can snare a ticket for eight o’clock. But get your tickets at stnj.org and just immerse yourself in Star Wars: A New Hope accompanied by the finest symphony orchestra in all the land, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Under the leadership of our guest Constantine Kitsopolous, Constantine what a great pleasure to speak with you, fantastic stuff that you and the orchestra have been doing for such a long time and what an honor to talk to you today, good luck with everything going forward and we’re looking forward to November 25th at State Theatre.