Music preview: 50th anniversary concert celebrates the music of 'Star Trek'
February 28, 2016 12:00 AM
"Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage" features video clips on a 40-foot-wide screen accompanied by an orchestra.
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jay Chattaway came to “Star Trek” from the sky and the sea but, first, from Monongahela.
The composer, who has written music for the “Star Trek” TV series “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” and “Enterprise,” was interested in space exploration when he belonged to the band Astro Notes at what is now Ringgold High School. He later explored his fascination with the ocean as a composer for documentaries by National Geographic and Jacques Cousteau.
It was the latter that brought him to the “Trek” television universe, which turns 50 years old in September. “Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage,” a concert that features a live orchestra with video clips on 40-foot-wide screens, is at the Benedum Center Tuesday. It represents compositions from Alexander Courage’s original “Star Trek” theme to movie composers Jerry Goldsmith and Michael Giacchino to Mr. Chattaway. For each TV episode, he wrote 40 minutes of original music to be played by a full orchestra.
‘Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage’
Where: Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents Series at the Benedum Center, Downtown.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Tickets: $32.25-$82.25; trustarts.org or 412-456-6666.
His “Trek” to television, though, began with whales.
“I did a bunch of work for Jacques Cousteau, and I digitally sampled whales’ songs, which I would translate to the keyboard and fit in to the music,” he said by phone last week, talking from a sailboat in Mexico.
In its third season, “Star Trek: TNG” was looking for new composers to make guest appearances. Mr. Chattaway’s agent sent “the whale thing, which must have seemed odd and weird and alien-esque” — and having nothing to do with the song of the humpback whales that was a key element of the movie “Star Trek: The Voyage Home.”
His audition was scoring a complete episode, and he became a regular composer in the “Star Trek” TV world, starting in 1990 with “The Next Generation” episode “Tin Man” through 2005’s “Enterprise” series. He has donated his “Star Trek” scores to his alma mater, West Virginia University, where they are preserved and available to aspiring composers “or anyone who wants to see what a Klingon opera looks like,” he said.
Just before he left Monongahela for WVU, he was inspired by another composer known for his screen work.
“I went to see Henry Mancini conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and I knew then that this is what I wanted to do.”
Mr. Chattaway, 70, met Mr. Mancini years later, and they connected over their shared Western Pennsylvania heritage.
“I was thrilled to be able to tell him how he had inspired me,” he said.
These days, the composer is as likely to be found sailing as he is at a keyboard. But he was among the guest conductors who participated in the launch of the “Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage” concert when it debuted at London’s Royal Albert Hall in November, and he plans to be back on stage when the tour continues on the West Coast.
“I guest-conducted one of the pieces that is my most requested from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ It’s from the episode ‘Inner Light,’ and in it, Patrick Stewart [as Captain Picard] plays the pennywhistle. It’s been expanded from the show into an orchestral suite, and they’ve edited clips of the show to go with the music.”
The crowds in London were appreciative but not as raucous as Mr. Chattaway has experienced at other events. He has been at events where cosplayers are out in force in full “Star Trek” regalia, and he was escorted into a Pasadena convention hall by an entourage of Klingons.
“It was pretty nuts,” he said of facing true Trekkers. “I would play two notes, and they would call out the name of the episode, who wrote it.”
You will know you are listening to Mr. Chattaway’s work not just by Picard and his tin whistle but also by the video montage that it accompanies.
“In my particular case, they edited the scenes all about relationships — men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters. It’s a warm, wonderful piece of filmmaking, edited to my music.”
Sharon Eberson: email@example.com or 412-263-1960. Twitter: @SEberson_pg.
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