Since “Star Wars” arrived in theatres in 1977, music has been at the core of the franchise.
Growing up in a family of diehard fans, I learned “The Imperial March” along with nursery rhymes.
So when I learned that at the end of the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” panel at San Diego Comic-Con, director J.J. Abrams invited all 6,500 fans in attendance at Hall H to a free, secret “Star Wars” concert — I knew I had to get in.
I did. And it blew away my expectations.
There was no way I was going to get into Hall H for the 'Star Wars' panel. People camp outside day and night to snag a seat. But I happened to be sitting nearby the exit while the panel took place, and watched a dozen Stormtroopers marching toward it. It seemed odd.
Just as the panel let out, I got a text from my colleague Kirsten, advising me to look out for a parade of Hall H attendees. Twitter was aflutter.
We quickly pieced together that the crowd was headed to the waterfront for a surprise 'Star Wars' concert featuring the San Diego Symphony. I raced alongside the roped-off line.
Everyone who emerged from Hall H wore a special badge around their neck, granting them admission to the concert.
Fans of all ages turned up. Calvin Center first watched 'Star Wars' when he was eight years old, and later introduced his son to it. 'It shows the power that the franchise has,' Center said, 'that it can permeate through the years like this.'
Dance music by artists like LMFAO, Bruno Mars, and Walk the Moon blared through the speakers. The venue quickly filled up.
The San Diego Symphony took their seats on stage, where a large screen displayed the 'Star Wars' logo. But we had a while to wait.
I made friends in line. As a teenager, Bruce Anderson (right) skipped school to see 'Star Wars: Return of the Jedi' in theatres. He felt humbled to be part of this experience.
Mike Oliver (left), a diehard fan since the first grade, loved being surrounded by so many fans who shared his appreciation for the franchise. 'We're home,' he quipped -- a reference to the 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' trailer.
At last, executive producer Kathleen Kennedy and director J.J. Abrams took the stage. 'This is a remarkable thing,' Abrams said before introducing the cast one at a time.
Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, and Domhnall Gleeson joined the gang on stage.
The crowd went berserk for Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford, groaning 'Luuuuuke' and chanting 'So-lo! So-lo!'
A pre-recorded message from composer John Williams introduced the symphony. 'You fans have always been what's very special about 'Star Wars,'' Williams said. He ended saying, 'May the force be with you.'
Time for the show to begin! The San Diego Symphony kicked off the performance with a chilling version of 'The Imperial March' while footage from all six films played in the background.
The symphony ended with a roaring performance of the 'Star Wars' theme music, punctuated by a fireworks display over the bay.
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