16 Feb 2019

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Guy with a Baton!

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Meet Stuart Chafetz. By day he’s a mild-mannered, unobtrusive musician who’d blend into any crowd.

But by night Maestro Chafetz becomes — wait for it now — Superconductor!

Maestro Stuart Chafetz conducts Superhero Soundtrack

Just to clarify, that’s using the second definition of the term. (We aren’t talking about a metal that allows electricity to pass through it without resistance.) This superconductor will emerge when Chafetz takes the podium Friday, March 8, to lead your HSO in “Superhero Soundtrack,” the fourth in the musicthatPOPS series.

The program includes movie themes related to superhero films old and new, from the William Tell Overture to The Avengers.

“This is really a great way to show off the chops of the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra,” says Chafetz, principal pops conductor of the Columbus Symphony. Chafetz will also be conducting Stu Conducts Brahms the following two nights (March 9 and 10) at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Even people who say they aren’t into classical music — who wouldn’t think of trudging out to a stuffy concert hall and sit quietly while listening to an orchestra — are tempted with a program like this, Chaffetz says.

“Superheroes have become quite the thing in pop culture,” explains Chafetz. “I thought this was a great way to get people in the community who wouldn’t necessarily go to the symphony to go through the doors.”

Hawai’i is another stop along the way for his superhero program. He previously conducted it with the Fresno Philharmonic, North Carolina Symphony and the Fort Worth Symphony.

One advantage of a concert setting for such classic soundtracks as Batman, Superman and Spider-Man is that you can focus on the music itself while still carrying over the memories and emotional attachments you still have to the movies.

“What I love about this concert is you don’t need the visuals,” Chafetz says. “We have that vivid imagery in our own minds.”

“Orchestral movie scores can also serve as a sort of gateway for listeners to appreciate more “serious” forms of classical music. Often the great movie composers, such as John Williams, refer back to earlier composers. The Superman love theme is a direct quote from Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration, Williams was also greatly influenced by Holst and Prokofiev (part of the Stu Conducts Brahms program the following two nights). Once you get hooked on movie scores as a listener, it’s almost natural to want to move onto other orchestral works as well.”

“That “borrowing” tradition continues today. Michael Giacchino, who has composed scores for such films as Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Incredibles, is himself a big fan of Williams,” continues Chafetz, “and you can hear homages in Giacchino’s works to the older composer.”

As for our “superconductor,” it helps that Chafetz has a deep and abiding love of the superhero movie genre. He loves the enthusiasm of the audience. Those attending Friday’s concert are invited to dress up as their favorite superheroes and enter the Costume Contest – to be judged by none other than Hawai’i’s own superheroes, such as fireman, first responders, ocean safety and military personnel. At the Fort Worth concert, an entire family dressed up as the Incredibles. “Another guy looked like the scariest Batman I’ve ever seen,” Chafetz says.

And if Chafetz could be any superhero for a day, which one would it be?

He ponders the question. “I’d say the Invisible Man,” he says.

Wouldn’t that be a moment? He’s up there on the podium and then, whoosh, he’s gone. But hopefully, maybe we could still see the baton. Someone has to keep the beat, after all.

This article originally ran on Munroreview.com, has been modified for the HSO, and reprinted with permission. Mahalo to Donald Munro!


“Superhero Soundtrack” by the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 8, Blaisdell Concert Hall.
Tickets are available online, by calling 94-MUSIC or visiting ticketmaster.com