by Dan Goldwasser
An annual event, the "Great American Concert" at the Hollywood Bowl was held the other week, this year it was a musical celebration of 75 years of Walt Disney. Resident Bowl conductor John Mauceri was on hand conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic through a journey of rediscovery of how much music Disney has injected into our lives.
John Mauceri conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic
The concert began with a musical suite that included "Zippadee-doo-dah", Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, "The Micky Mouse Club" and of course, "It's a Small World". Following that, Mauceri gave us his annual "Mauceri Family State of the Union", which involved, appropriately enough, memories of Disneyland. As always, Mauceri was engaging and entertaining - the audience loves him! The orchestra then played "Bumble Boogie" live to the animated Silly Symphony short film, and then played some music from Snow White, with performers on stage, including Stuart Ambrose, from the Disneyland production of Snow White, An Enchanting New Musical.
Classical music dominated the Sleeping Beauty suite, as expected, but then "Sleeping Beauty" herself, voice actress Mary Costa, came out on stage to perform a reading of the tale of Bambi, set to music. For the last piece before intermission, the orchestral played "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" from Fantasia live to the film.
After the intermission, the orchestra went right into James Horner's main theme from The Rocketeer, and then brought out a very special guest - Dick Van Dyke! Looking quite well for his age, he performed songs from Mary Poppins with singer Lisa Vroman in the Julie Andrews title role.
Dick Van Dyke and Lisa Vroman sing "Step in Time"
After that, eight-time Oscar winning composer/songwriter Alan Menken came out to sing and perform a medley of his tunes from The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Hercules. He's not the best singer out there, but it was still a treat to hear these songs performed on solo piano by the man who penned them! He then introduced singer Jodi Benson ("Ariel" from The Little Mermaid) who sang "Part of Your World". She was then joined on stage by Paige O'Hara ("Belle" from Beauty and the Beast) who sang the title song, "Beauty and the Beast". Afterwards, Judy Kuhn ("Pocahontas" from Pocahontas) came out and sang "Colors of the Wind". Not to leave it at that, Menken then joined the ladies in singing "A Whole New World" from Aladdin. It was quite a treat to behold!
Fireworks celebrate The Lion King
Ending the concert was a suite of music and songs from The Lion King, including a big fireworks display. As an encore, everyone came out on stage to sing "When You Wish Upon A Star". It was quite an evening, and a great celebration of the musical contribution that Disney has given to the world. It was, quite truly, the "Great American Concert".
Everybody sings "When You Wish Upon A Star"
This past weekend was the annual John Williams concert at the Hollywood Bowl. With the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics ending, it was appropriate that the theme of the night was "Olympic Fever". Having composed four themes for the Olympics, Williams conducted three of them at the concert, as well as other Olympic works, and of course, some of his film music.
Olympic Athletes take the stage
Beginning with an extended suite from The Cowboys, Williams quickly moved on to the main feature, the Olympics. Brought out on stage were nearly two dozen Southern California Olympic Athletes, including two who had just returned from Athens. Leading the group was 1976 Gold winner Bruce Jenner. Jenner talked about the involvement of music in the Olympic Games, from the official anthem, to "Bugler's Dream" and of course, John Williams' Olympic Fanfare written for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games. Williams then conducted "Bugler's Dream / Olympic Fanfare and Theme", as a former gold winner brought out the Olympic flame (on an actual 1996 Olympic torch), and lit up the Hollywood Bowl's own giant torch.
John Williams conducts as they Olympic Flame burns
"Javelin" by Michael Torke, which was written for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, was then performed - a rousing fully orchestrated piece, it served as a nice prelude for what was to follow. "The Olympic Spirit", which Williams wrote for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, was performed while a truly uplifting and emotionally moving video was shown on screen, showcasing various athletic events from the Summer Games.
The Cal State Fullerton University Singers joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein's rousing "Olympic Hymn", which was written for the 1981 IOC conference in West Germany. They then moved on to "Call of the Champions", which Williams wrote for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. The video shown on screen highlighted the various events in the Winter Games, and made for quite an experience. As a personal note, I would have loved to see a live performance of the works that Basil Poledouris or Michael Kamen had written for the Olympics as well, but perhaps in four years they'll do that!
After the intermission, the concert shifted gears and moved on to Williams' film scores. "The Planet Krypton / The Superman March" from Superman welcomed us back, much to the delight and excitement of the crowd. After a two-year break from scoring films, Williams had two scores released in 2004 - The Terminal and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Luckily, Williams picked the later to perform at the concert. Four pieces of music from the film were performed: "Wizards, Wands and Witches", which was a suite of music from the film taken from several tracks on the soundtrack. "Double Trouble" was sung by the choir, and the somber and emotionally moving "A Bride to the Past" was performed quite superbly. The finale, "Harry's Wondrous World" was a nice wrap-up to the segment, and did a good job in reminding people that Williams has not lost his musical magic at all.
The Cal State Fullerton University Singers join the orchestra
Taking advantage of the choir, "Dry Your Tears, Afrika" from Amistad was performed, and as he always does annually, Williams picked a personal favorite work by another composer to share with the audience. This one was "Cathy's Theme" from Alfred Newman's 1939 score to Wuthering Heights. The violin solo by Bing Wang was amazing - she was completely engrossed in the music, and it was filled with emotion.
To end the concert, Williams pulled out an old standard: "The Raiders March" from Raiders of the Lost Ark. As the orchestra expertly played this concert arrangement, I found myself wondering how many times Williams has conducted this piece in the past 23 years! As always, there was an encore - but in this case, we were blessed with four encores! The first was from E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. The second one was "Yoda's Theme" from The Empire Strikes Back, which allowed the fans in the back to bring out their lightsabers. Not to be outdone, "The Imperial March" and then the main theme from Star Wars was performed. Everyone was thrilled - but I can't help but wonder why, if he had a full choir there, he didn't choose to perform "The Duel of the Fates" - which would have been the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.
John Williams conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Still, Williams has shown yet again that he is able to please an audience, and the improved acoustics at the Hollywood Bowl made this year's concert even more enjoyable. Next year, we can hope that he will play music from Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, now that the circle will be truly complete.
Special thanks to Rachelle Roe, Elizabeth Hinkly, and Matt Velasco at the Hollywood Bowl Press Office.