Lights, saber, music

British conductor Anthony Inglis has some surprises planned for his Star Wars concert with the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra

Some conductors bring batons on stage. Anthony Inglis has a green light saber, which he may or may not use to conduct the Star Wars And Beyond concerts tomorrow and on Saturday at the Marina Bay Sands MasterCard Theatres.

Secrets are part of showmanship for Inglis, who turns 64 this year and this week leads the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra in a programme of historic and hummable music from American film composer John Williams.

Apart from the Star Wars themes, the 80-member orchestra, an independent professional ensemble based here, will also play movie themes from E.T., Superman, Jurassic Park, Jaws and Harry Potter. There will be no videos, but the music will be accompanied by a light-and-laser display designed by Durham Marenghi, the lighting designer for the 2016 Olympic ceremonies.

"Anybody who loves Star Wars will love this concert," Inglis says, singing a snatch from Duel Of The Fates, the recurring theme of the three prequel movies featuring Anakin Skywalker.

He stops after a few bars. "This one part where the strings go into triplets, I can't even sing it, it's so quick," he says.


Anthony Inglis may conduct the Star Wars And Beyond concerts with a light saber. ST PHOTO: TAMARA CRAIU

  • BOOK IT/THE ICONIC FILM SCORES OF JOHN WILLIAMS: STAR WARS AND BEYOND

  • WHERE: MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands

    WHEN: Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Saturday, 2 and 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $65 to $165 from Marina Bay Sands box offices (call 6688-8826 or go to www.MarinaBaySands.com/ticketing) or Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)

He can conduct it, though. He is the man who can conduct anything. His engagements run the gamut from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to The Royal Ballet in London and almost every major British ensemble, including the London Symphony Orchestra.

Brought in three months into the original West End staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera, he has remained with the show for 27 years. A recording of the musical with the London Symphony Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy for pop instrumental performance in 1994, though the award went to Kenny G's Forever In Love.

Inglis is still music director and consultant on the musical for Her Majesty's Theatre in London and once a year conducts a show in person.

Married with three children, he has been to Singapore twice before. He conducted the Singapore Symphony Orchestra in 1996 and again in 2011, accompanying Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins with the National Symphony Orchestra of London. Inglis is music director of the latter freelance orchestra, which is one reason he was interested in working with a similar ensemble in Singapore.

The other reason: His parents met and fell in love at Changi Yacht Club in the 1940s, when his father (Squadron-Leader Jeremy Howard-Williams) and maternal grandfather (Air Vice-Marshal Inglis) were both stationed here with the Royal Air Force.

"If it weren't for Singapore, I wouldn't be here," he says.

His real name is Anthony Inglis Howard-Williams, but he changed it at the start of his career to avoid being confused with an unrelated, older conductor named Howard Williams.

A graduate of the Royal College of Music, he does not look down on movie music like some of his peers might. He subscribes to the idea that soundtracks are a continuation of classical music.

"John Williams uses the romantic orchestration of a large symphony orchestra. The tradition he follows goes back to Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner," Inglis says.

"He uses a leitmotiv, a snatch of a line, a snatch of a song and when you hear it, you know it matches what's on screen." Such as the portentously repeated two notes in Jaws, which instantly call to mind an approaching shark.

And then there is his belief that the audience deserves to enjoy the music as much as the musicians enjoy executing it.

He talks about conducting a contemporary work which thrilled him and the musicians with its technical complexity. "The audience, though, they hated it," he says, shaking his head.

It goes back to his reason for becoming a conductor. At age six, he was plucked out of a bunch of students at Freston Lodge School to conduct an old Irish melody. During his debut, he lost control of the baton and it flew into the audience.

A kind viewer handed it back to him. He took it back, whispered "Thank you" and received a thunderous round of laughter and applause.

"They loved it and I've been making audiences laugh ever since," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Lights, saber, music'. Print Edition | Subscribe