Church organ playing Hans Zimmer’s epic ‘Interstellar’ theme makes our world feel tiny

24 September 2020, 17:07 | Updated: 25 September 2020, 14:29

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

This music somehow makes you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t exist.

Hans Zimmer’s music for Interstellar has the power to lift you up, fill your heart and make you feel like a tiny dot in this great universe.

Now, watch it played live on an organ and piano, just as it was composed.

In the video above, pianist and composer David Robertshaw performs the great ‘First Step’ from Zimmer’s soundtrack at the organ of St John’s Church, Rastrick, in Yorkshire. He posted the video in 2016 to YouTube, where it has had more than 10 million views.

From the moment he plays that first chord, the music immediately transports us to another world. It’s a simple melody, but one with great emotional depth.

Read more: Hans Zimmer’s ‘Interstellar’ theme is terrifying on this crystal organ >

The performance took place at St John's Church, Rastrick
The performance took place at St John's Church, Rastrick. Picture: YouTube/David Robertshaw

When director Christopher Nolan brought Zimmer onto the project, he had barely started making the film. And – kinda cruelly – he didn’t tell the composer the genre of the film. He simply said: “I am going to give you an envelope with a letter in it. It’s going to tell you the fable at the centre of the story. You work for one day, then play me what you have written.”

Blind to the fact this movie would be a futuristic, sci-fi adventure, Zimmer wrote a four-minute piece for piano and organ in one night.

For the German film giant, that piece contained something close to his own heart: the essence of “what it meant to be a father”.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Zimmer said that after hearing what he wrote, Nolan told him: “Well, I better make the movie now... now I know what the heart of the story is.”

Zimmer also said it related to people in complete isolation – something felt by many around the world in these strange times, but also by the composer, who isolated himself at his apartment in London for a month in the summer of 2013, to live as a hermit.

Read more: Netflix wanted a symphonic version of their iconic ‘Ta-Dum’. So, they called Hans Zimmer. >

It took Zimmer two years to create the intergalactic score. For the final recording, he and Nolan visited London’s Temple Church to record on the 1926 four-manual Harrison & Harrison organ, played by church’s music director, Roger Sayer.

He later added an ensemble of 34 strings, 24 woodwinds and four pianos, and Zimmer himself played some solo piano scenes.

Thank you to David Robertshaw for taking us back to the moment of conception of this timeless film score...