Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Concert – CSO at the Movies

David Newman is conducting Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Concert over the course of three nights at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

David Newman
David Newman. Photo credit: Alan Weisman.

This was my first time getting to see a film at the CSO, let alone watch the CSO in action. It was a fun experience–anytime I get to watch a Star Wars film on the big screen is always a good time. The last time I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the big screen was opening night in 2015. It was a few weeks after coming out and a much different experience. This time around was very different with not having to deal with so much dysphoria. Anyway, I missed out on getting to see John Williams in Chicago so seeing David Newman–son of the legendary Oscar-winning composer Alfred Newman–is the next best thing. Hell, any time getting to experience the works of John Williams in person will always make for a fun and amazing night.

If you know anything about film music, the Newman name is legendary in the industry. David’s brother is also a film composer, Thomas Newman. Their cousin is Randy Newman. And this is just a small selection of Newmans in the music business! Williams, the legendary maestro, is a family friend of the Newmans. In fact, David did some work for both the E.T. and 1941 scores. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Even as David Newman conducts a John Williams score, he keeps Alfred Newman’s legacy alive. We don’t talk about Alfred Newman enough but he is among the film music titans who set the tone for what film music should be alongside Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Erich Von Korngold, etc.

Daisy Ridley and John Boyega in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Daisy Ridley and John Boyega in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Courtesy of Lucasfilm/Disney/

The acoustics in the room were absolutely astonishing. I wasn’t sure how it would be with the score and the film’s audio but it sounded perfect to me. In watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Concert, it’s really interesting to see where they use the score rather than sound effects. It was something I could really take in my center-right aisle seats in the lower balcony. The seats feature a lovely view of the full orchestra and the screen. The building was just dark enough to see the movie but light enough to watch the orchestra work their magic. It’s still weird watching a Star Wars film with an intermission but these are necessary with live orchestras. In any event, David Newman certainly made it a night to remember.

The Star Wars screenings mark the last film of CSO at the Movie’s 2022-2023 season. According to the calendar, the 2023-24 season will include a pair of John Williams scores performed live: Home Alone and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. What a treat for movie fans!

If you have tickets or are looking to purchase tickets, the NASCAR street race is this weekend. It will impact traffic so take public transit to the Chicago loop if you can. The Adams/Wabash stop is the closest L station.

DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
SCREENWRITERS: Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt
CAST: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Max von Sydow

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra presents Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Concert on June 30-July 1, 2023.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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