WATCH: The Iconic Musical Themes Of ‘Return Of The Jedi,’ Explained

February 21, 2020

The third installment of the beloved original trilogy, “Return of the Jedi” builds on the memorable themes that composer John Williams first created for his Oscar-winning score in “Star Wars: A New Hope.”

The floating and forboding visage of Emperor Palpatine, first glimpsed in the “Empire Strikes Back,” was finally given a persona when the dark figured strolled onto the deck of the rebuilt Death Star.

“Luke… Luke… do not… do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor or suffer your father's fate you will.”

Yoda, Return of the Jedi

Later, as he sat upon his throne and plotted against the Rebel Alliance, Williams created an ominous theme for him. As Colorado Symphony Music Director Brett Mitchell explained, Williams broke new ground with a men’s chorus that sung in a chant-like style in their lowest range.

This technique is fairly standard now but in 1983 it was novel and laid the groundwork for video game music like “Final Fantasy” and “Middle Earth: Shadow of Modor.”

There are many musical ties between Jedi, Empire and Star Wars. Mitchell explores the themes in the video below.

Instantly recognizable, the “Imperial March,” made its appearance in “The Empire Strikes Back” and is musically part of the opening scene in Jedi as the new Death Star is revealed.

The march is one of many leitmotifs scattered throughout the score for Star Wars and usually heralds the dark and imposing appearance of Darth Vadar. As Mitchell says in the video below, you can’t go to a professional sporting event without hearing it.

The Colorado Symphony will perform the score of “Return of the Jedi” live as the film is screened on Feb. 27, Feb. 28 and Feb. 29 at the Boettcher Concert Hall.

CPR's Jim Hill contributed to this report.

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