Thirty-eight years after the first installment of Star Wars, the epic space odyssey that changed movie-making forever, Centre College’s Jaemi Loeb, assistant professor of music, had her own epic adventure preceding the Dec. 18 release of the eighth in the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Loeb was in England this month to conduct the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra (PSO), including Star Wars-themed performances at the independent Star Wars fan convention, For the Love of the Force (FLF), at the The Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Trafford Park.
“I’ve conducted in Carnegie Hall,” Loeb says, “but FLF really felt like the highlight of my career. It was absurdly fun for a Star Wars fan like myself to conduct such a wonderful orchestra with a light saber, surrounded by thousands of appreciative fans.”
The orchestra performed the Star Wars Suite twice a day over the three-day FLF event, held Dec. 4, 5 & 6, which has been called the biggest-ever independent Star Wars fan convention.
“Everyone was very very excited about and happy with the quality of the PSO and the fact of its presence,” Loeb continues. “The orchestra has been invited to return to the event next year and has already been approached by several organizers of similar events to get involved in the future.”
Those performances were followed by a sold-out charity Christmas concert at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on Dec. 8, organized by well-known British comedian Jason Manford and many of his celebrity friends, to benefit The Children’s Adventure Farm Trust for disabled, terminally ill and underprivileged children.
Loeb goes on to describe how she became involved in these two very different performances.
“The artistic director and founder of the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, Tom Newall, is a good friend and colleague of mine, whom I met at a masterclass a few years ago,” Loeb explains. “We’ve gotten together a few times since then, but this summer I conducted the PSO along with Tom when they ran the Open Day educational event at Bridgewater Hall. The event included workshops, recitals and all kinds of musical events for families.
“After that event, I was named the principal guest conductor of the Piccadilly Symphony, so when it turned out that Tom could not be at one of the days of FLF, I was invited to fill in,” she continues. “Since I was coming all the way over, it made sense for me to also conduct part of the concert at Bridgewater Hall. Having both of those concerts right after the other meant that there was a lot going on, so having a second conductor around was also just generally helpful.
“While I was there, I also sang in a Messiah performance that Tom was conducting and did a clinic for the Leeds College of Music Wind Orchestra focusing on the music of Holst. Yes, I went to England to teach an English band how to play the music of their greatest national band composer!”
Loeb shares yet another exciting announcement connecting the Piccadilly Symphony and Centre College.
“The Piccadilly Symphony will be serving as the ensemble-in-residence for the International Conductors Festival-Danville, which will be taking place July 18-30, 2016, here on Centre’s campus,” Loeb says. “Conductors will be coming from all over the world to work with the orchestra and the festival, which will include community outreach events, educational events and four public concerts.”
Above: Loeb conducts the Piccadilly Symphony using a light saber baton.
by Cindy Long
December 15, 2015