Growing up in Orange County, California in the 80s, music prodigy, Justin Freer never imagined he’d one day become Maestro Freer conducting for a 100-city North American tour of Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage 50th Anniversary Concert Tour. It’s presented by CineConcerts, CBS Consumer Products and Paramount Pictures.
Too young to watch the original Star Trek series, but a fan much later through countless re-runs, “I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, which ran from 1987 to 1994,” Freer, 36, says on the phone from Los Angeles.“But the older I get, I’ve come around to respect and appreciate the original series,” he says. I love the escapism.”
Freer began his formal music studies on trumpet, playing in wind ensembles, marching bands and community orchestras. He quickly turned to piano and composition and composed his first work for wind ensemble at age eleven. He gave his professional conducting debut at a staggering 16-years-old with a mix of his own music and that of well-known wind composers.
Coincidentally, Freer was mentored by the late legendary Academy Award-winning composer and conductor Jerry Goldsmith, who wrote the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979; the theme song for Star Trek: The Next Generation; Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek : First Contact. He also scored Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek Nemesis.
Though Freer cut his teeth on classical repertoire and composition, he has served as composer for several independent films and has written motion picture advertising music for some of 20th Century Fox Studios’ biggest campaigns including Avatar, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Dragonball Evolution and Aliens in the Attic. As a conductor he has appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and Sydney Symphony Orchestra, to name just a few.
He founded CineConcerts with co-founder and producer, Brady Beaubien when they saw an exciting niche in which to connect audiences with iconic films and the amazing theme music written for them in a live symphony format. They have collaborated on many full symphonic live to projection projects including The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Godfather, Gladiator and Breakfast At Tiffany’s, performed all over the world.
Freer conducted the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra for The Godfather CineConcert at the closing gala of the Jerusalem Film Festival last year. “I’d never been to Israel before and it was just a wonderful opportunity,” exudes Freer. “I hope to do more there in the future.”
Just the logistics and research involved in putting together Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage was mind-boggling and many of the older episodes of Star Trek required restorative efforts before the team could edit everything together. “Assembling 50 years of anything is a monumental task,” Freer laughs. “We started with iconic scenes to tell a very well-defined emotional arc and tried to create a narrative that tells an engaging, immersive story,” he explains. “The idea is to tell the story of Star Trek without being a documentarian, to approach it as though we’re creating a brand new feature film. We also arranged it around themes like “Enterprise,” “Captains,” and “Klingons,” and then integrated the clips from over fifty years of Star Trek on the forty-foot screen, accompanied live, by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.”
The multi-disiplinary show had it’s World Premiere at the lavish Royal Albert Hall in London, England last year. Following the current 100-city North American tour, Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage will perform in Paris, France in September, 2016.
I asked Freer if he approached any of the original cast members to take part in any of the live productions. “William Shatner has been really fantastic in promoting the concerts but unfortunately, it was very difficult to work with actors’ schedules over 100 concert venues in both the U.S. and Canada,” Freer admits.
In addition to attending each concert in full Star Trek regalia, “audience response to the concerts has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Freer, who must concentrate on the orchestra and not the film while he’s conducting. But he hears people “laughing and yelling out for their favorite characters” and sometimes even sees “people crying their eyes out!”
“We just announced plans for a Harry Potter series where we’ll play the John Williams score live for each one of the films over the next few years,” confirms Freer.
“You know, it took a long time for film music to get to this point. It’s been a very important art form from the beginning. Orchestras are seeing that these concerts are acting as an efficient and celebratory bridge between the classical guard and nuanced modern music.”
TOP PHOTO: 100-city North American tour of Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage 50th Anniversary Concert Tour.
Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage 50th Anniversary Concert Tour will be in LA April 2nd; Los Vegas, April 4th; Seattle Washington, April 8 and Vancouver, Canada April 9th.
For all U.S. & Canadian Tour Dates: Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage Website