There was a time I thought I would never make a living in music. Today, as a professional singer, my voice has been on a number of film soundtracks—Jumanji, the most recent Transformers, Pixels and various television shows. But last summer I was called to a recording session that was shrouded in greater secrecy than all the others. One item on the non-disclosure agreement seemed to give it away: “Lucasfilm.”
Could it be? I wondered, already hearing my voice in a galaxy far, far away.
We got into position and suddenly famed film-scorer John Williams walked to the platform...Here I was, part of his world, and clearly part of the Star Wars universe.
I teach voice lessons at CUI, while making half my living as a singer. I thoroughly enjoy Concordia because the choirs are so good and Dr. Michael Busch is a great boss. I feel blessed to work for a university that treats you well, and where the students are amazing.
Christina Bristow with Star Wars movie posters
On the singing side, I became a member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale five seasons ago through a series of intensive sight-reading and soloing auditions. It’s one of the top choirs in the country, so I was elated to be hired. Being that we’re so close to Hollywood, film-makers often recruit from among us to provide choirs for their movies.
Including the mysterious “Lucasfilm” opportunity.
I and the other choir members arrived at the appointed time at a Sony Studios scoring studio in Culver City. Strangely, and excitingly, a full orchestra was also there. This was unique. Normally, the choir performs by itself, wearing headphones and standing directly in front of microphones. Today looked like more of a live concert experience. No headphones, no visible microphones, and a huge orchestra right in front of us, supporting us, and us supporting them. It already felt great.
Choirs typically sing for big moments when emotions swell. Indeed, not every Star Wars film includes a choir. But here I was hearing Luke’s theme and other familiar elements that Williams intertwined with new music.
The room was unusually full of people—producers, photographers and others. The energy was a lot higher than for other movies I’d done.
We got into position and suddenly famed film-scorer John Williams walked to the platform. Oh, my gosh! I thought. You go to see John Williams conduct; you don’t sing for him. Yet, here I was, part of his world, and clearly part of the Star Wars universe. I felt crazy nervous-excited. Don’t mess up. Do this moment right, I kept thinking, and then: Is this really happening? Indeed it was.
Williams had us sing a few lines a cappella, and we did well enough that the orchestra applauded. Then it was time to work.
Normally when singing for a film score, you watch the scene simultaneously on a screen. Not this time. The only screen was the small one in front of Williams, and only he and the producers could see it. That was smart because I probably wasn’t the only one wondering what would happen with Luke Skywalker.
Choirs typically sing for big moments when emotions swell. Indeed, not every Star Wars film includes a choir. But here I was hearing Luke’s theme and other familiar elements that Williams intertwined with new music. It was simply magical to hear my own voice singing the lines.
It took just two hours. Per our contract, we didn’t even talk about it with one another as we left the building, but I couldn’t help texting my husband and my parents to suggest what film it might have been, and who might have conducted us.
Seeing The Last Jedi in the theater was amazing. Every time I heard the choir, I pointed to the screen to make sure my husband caught it, too, hopefully without taking him out of the moment.
In addition to working at CUI, I am the director of music at Christ Lutheran Church in West Covina. No matter what I’m singing, I feel a connection to worship of God, because singing is where I feel satisfied musically, artistically and spiritually. There’s nothing else I can do but praise in my heart whenever I’m singing. Including in a galaxy far, far away.
Christina Bristow is an adjunct voice instructor in the Music Department at CUI.