Darth Vader and Pinoy rockers at John Williams tribute show

It's one thing to listen to a live concert of John Williams' film scores. But when film characters appear in it, the experience is taken to a whole new level.

On Sunday, Sept. 2, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra paid tribute to the multi-award-winning composer through a live concert entitled “The Magic of John Williams,” held at the Meralco Theater.

The orchestra, led by conductor Gerard Salonga, performed themes from some of Williams' more familiar work: from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Fanfare, to the themes from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” “E.T.”, “Harry Potter,” “Jaws,” “Superman,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Jose Mari Chan and Nikki Gil

Salonga and the orchestra also performed the Williams-penned theme for NBC News, “The Mission.” According to Salonga, the piece was the peg given to him for the creation of the music for TV5's Aksyon TV.

“It made sense to perform it here,” Salonga added.

Special guests Jose Mari Chan and Nikki Gil joined Salonga and company for a beautiful rendition of “If We Were in Love” (from the 1982 film, “Yes Giorgio” starring Luciano Pavarotti). Gil also returned for the tender number “Can You Read My Mind” from the “Superman: The Movie” soundtrack.

Stormtroopers on stage

No John Williams tribute will be complete without the Star Wars suite, and that's what Salonga and the ABS-CBN Philharmonic did. The “Stars Wars Main Title” gained a standing ovation from the audience, prompting Salonga to laugh and say, “Hindi pa tapos!”

After performing “Leia's Theme” and the “Imperial March,” Salonga introduced the surprise of the evening: members of the Philippine outpost of international Star Wars costuming group, the 501st Legion, accompanied by some members of its sister group the Rebel Legion.

As stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Jedi, and even the Star Wars droids C3PO and R2D2 paraded, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra proceeded to the encore, “ The Throne Room” from “Star Wars Episode IV.”

Rockers, represent

Former Sponge Cola drummer Chris Cantada, who is also part of the 501st Legion, was asked by Salonga to join the orchestra, on bass drum. A stormtrooper with the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra is a sight one does not normally see in such events.

At the very end of the show, Salonga could not help but hug Darth Vader as the audience gave a standing ovation.

Personalities spotted in the audience included maestro Ryan Cayabyab and his family, film director Marie Jamora, Buddy Zabala of The Dawn/Eraserheads, and Cinemalaya film score winners Mikey Amistoso (also of the band Ciudad) and Jazz Nicolas (also of the Itchyworms!).

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