There's music from Star Trek and Star Wars and everything in between. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra takes off on a sci-fi flight of fancy with host George Takei, the original Mr. Sulu from Star Trek.

Jack Everly

Conductor Jack Everly created the Sci-Fi Spectacular (Michael Tammaropress)

The program was put together by guest-conductor Jack Everly who will make his Winnipeg debut at the helm of the orchestra this weekend.

SCENE caught up with Everly on the edge of the universe to get some background on the show:

What's it like working with George Takei as host?
George is such a delight and such a gentleman. He's one of the nicest people in the world to work with. He brings such a resonance to the whole evening.

In the second half, he recites the speech exactly as it was written for the original The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1953. What he brings to that, with that magnificent voice of his, is even on a higher level than what the great British actor Michael Rennie brought to it. 

'In this day and age, especially when we have access to all these films, what our audiences actually enjoy is hearing this music that they know -- and they feel it's iconic and they understand the associations -- they hear it without the visuals and it's a revelation to them.'- Jack Everly, conductor

In his first appearance, he basically comes out and kibitzes with the audience and with Kristen Plumley [guest soprano] and sets up the reason for the existence, as it were, of why Star Trek came to be and his experience with it. It's all improvised and it's really quite something to hear. Often it goes into uncharted territory so I never quite know what that opening banter is going to be.

How did you get introduced to the world of sci-fi?
Science fiction for me as a kid was something I read a lot. I wasn't even that aware of the film and TV part of it until I saw Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and the film The Day the Earth Stood Still. That was a big deal for me, it had a tremendous impact on me.


It was a combination of the brilliant writing of the script -- I was just riveted through the story because it's an allegory for so many things about the human race and the fear factor of the unknown. Then when that's combined with Bernard Hermann's music, it all came together for me.

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (Keith Levit)

What is the reaction of the audience to these concerts?
Ecstatic! Otherworldly sometimes. 

Do people ever show up in costume?
All the time, they really do. We're always amazed at who shows up in what. Of course my favourite thing to watch is the observation of your, shall we say, 'ongoing concert-goer' who suddenly finds himself sitting next to a Starship Trooper or Princess Leia or Dr. Spock. You never know.

What's your own favourite scene from a sci-fi movie?
I have so many, but one of my favourites has to be in ET, when the young boys are trying to save him and he's in the bicycle basket with the robe over him and they take off and just when you think all is for nought, they levitate and there's a marvellous image of them cycling in front of the full moon. And that is also in the music that we are going to play -- you hear it and you think, 'wow there it is!' The music is just as inspiring as the imagery in the film.

Just to be clear, there are no visuals in the concert, there are no film clips. Are people OK with that? How do you translate these highly visual movies to the orchestra only?
In this day and age, especially when we have access to all these films, what our audiences actually enjoy is hearing this music that they know -- and they feel it's iconic and they understand the associations -- they hear it without the visuals and it's a revelation to them.

They hear it acoustically and they hear it on a large scale that only the live symphony orchestra can bring to it. We've never heard, 'oh gee, I wish there had been film clips.' We've never heard that, frankly.

To what do you attribute this fascination with sci-fi?
I think it's because of what is says about humanity and the possibilities for the future. I do believe at its core, that is where the passion comes from, from its fans. It's become visionary, it's become inspiring and hopeful for the future, all the while pointing out perhaps not only the foibles of aliens but the foibles of humanity.

I think it's a marvellously inventive and fertile ground for storytelling and because of that, it's a marvellous reason for really great music.