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John Williams concert in Columbus

 
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DT76
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Joined: Apr 15, 2003
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 3:30 pm   Post subject: John Williams concert in Columbus Reply with quote


Last week those of us in central Ohio got a rare treat, with John Williams himself as guest conductor of the Columbus Symphony. I'm curious whether any other SSTers made it, but if not here's a brief description.

I was hoping that they wouldn't focus entirely on his well-known works, but with so many scores to his credit, there's no way to cover them all. I was also a little disappointed that they had a shortened program compared to the one printed in the booklet. The first piece was an extended version of The Cowboys Overture, one I wasn't familiar with. I'm always surprised that composers manage to still make things that sound 'western' without being exactly like all the other western themes out there, but this piece does it very well. Next up was excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the first couple apparently covering some off his older work. He then turned to the audience and said something about how he'd discovered what residents already knew; that Columbus had a world-class orchestra and how pleased he was to conduct them and so forth. He then introduced the next 3 pieces of music: the suite from Harry Potter. Hedwig's Theme, Nimbus 2000 (for the game of quidditch), and Harry's Wondrous World (for Hogwarts and so forth). The Sorcerer's Stone was originally listed, but cut to save time, it seems. Now, I'm no Harry Potter fan (books or movies), but these were still enjoyable, and the audience applauded loudly after each one. The next one he introduced was Adventures on Earth, as he called the music from the final reel of E.T. He gave a quick description of the bicycle chase scene (for those who somehow missed it) and E.T.'s departure and how the music would add a flourish each time the bikes went over a rise and hung in the air. After that, it was time for intermission.

The piece listed after intermission was "Monsters, Beauties and Heroes" arr. Williams, and I didn't know what to expect. It turned out they used the screen and projector for this one, displaying a series of pictures of famous villains and evil creatures (from old ones like frankenstein's monster and Dracula to Darth Vader and the Green Goblin) while the horror-sounding music accompanied it. It quickly segued into the 'beauties' part, with something of a love theme and lots of famous actresses from cinema history. Last up was the heroes, with all the famous ones super- and otherwise. As the screen went by spider-man, 3 James Bonds, Dirty Harry, and others I recognized the music as the theme from Superman, and sure enough he was the last one displayed as it reached the end. Williams then turned around and described the difficulty of writing music to go with a film and matching it to timing points where the music reacts to what is displayed on the screen. He proceeded to give us a demonstration, (this part was listed as Escape From Venice but changed to Opening Chase from the Last Crusade) with the scene playing out silently as he described how the music would change with each new scene. He set up the description of young Indiana Jones escaping with the Cross of Coronado, the appearance of the bandits, Indy missing the horse, the chase to the circus train, the snakes in the reptile car, and so forth. The last part was the magic caboose, and he described how the music would get softer and softer as Indy got into the chest and the bandit leader approached it, then pick up again as the chest collapsed and as we see Indy running off along the train tracks, the adult Indiana Jones theme comes in for the first time. That meant about 42 timing points for the orchestra to try and meet, and as they reset the video he turned around to lead them through it. It seemed to me that the orchestra was just a fraction of a second behind at first, but caught up somewhere along the way. In all, they did a good job of matching the on-screen action. Next was the theme from Schindler's List, and fortunately the lead violinist was up to the challenge. Afterwards, Williams spoke about his friendship with Steven Spielberg and how they had been watching the film the first time he saw it. He mentioned the final scene as the survivors placed stones on Schindler's grave, and how choked up he was. After taking a walk around the building, he came back and said, "Steven, you really need a better composer than I am to score this film." Spielberg replied, "John, I know, but they're all dead!" After this bit of levity, he introduced the final 3 pieces - from Star Wars, of course. (Now I really wish they'd had time for the original program's Star Wars Suite consisting of Main Title, Princess Leia's Theme, Imperial March, Yoda's Theme, Throne Room, and End Title. As it was, we only got the Imperial March, Leia's Theme, and the Main Title. Still, it was a >2 hour concert, I guess they couldn't do all of it.) Now, I've heard the star wars themes hundreds of times, but let me tell you: a tinny reproduction over computer speakers or even your stereo does not compare to having a full orchestra in the same room.

After much applause, we got our first encore. Columbus audiences will usually give a standing ovation by way of saying "we want more!". He introduced another one I hadn't heard before, Sayuri's Theme from Memoirs of a Geisha. Right after, he mentioned the music he'd done for the Olympic Games and we got to hear one of those, accompanied by images from the 1996 games in Korea. (If I remember correctly..) After a lot more bows and clapping, there was one final encore as a crowd-pleaser: The Raider's March from Raiders of the Lost Ark. On the whole, a great concert. I'll have to be on the lookout for any more events like these.

Here's the Dispatch Review of it.
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