This past weekend, legendary film composer John Williams performed his annual concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California. As most Williams concerts go, this one was pretty standard. He performed suites and themes from some of his better known films, but not the ones you might have thought.
Beginning with (appropriately enough) the "Bugler's Dream / Olympic Fanfare", the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra blasted out the notes with plenty of energy and vigor. Then Williams went on to play a suite from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
. It seemed to be played a tad faster at times than I recall it being in the film (and the concert suites on the countless albums), but nonetheless it was great to watch Williams conduct once again. (The last time I saw him conduct was back in 1993 at the annually renowned Boston Pops Goes The Fourth concert.
After playing some cues from Empire of the Sun, Angela's Ashes, Far and Away, and Hook, Williams simply walked off the stage. I suppose that was his way of informing us that it was now time for the intermission. I found it unusual that he hadn't played any of his larger, more memorable movie themes at that point, but figured he was saving them all for the finale.
Upon his return, however, he decided to play three movements from his Millenium composition - the film that Spielberg compiled that aired on CBS this past New Years. I didn't see the film - and I'm willing to bet many people didn't either. But the music was interesting and while it didn't have the energy of the Williams fanfares that most people probably wanted to hear, it was still quality music. I found, however, that the second movement he played sounded a bit too similar to the main theme from The Patriot for my liking. In fact, after he played a bit of music from Jaws, he did indeed play The Patriot and I would imagine that the similarities between that theme and the Millenium piece didn't go unnoticed by the crowd.
Finally, he played music from Star Wars. Well, kind of. He played "Anakin's Theme" from Star Wars: Episode One, and it was all lush and moving - very good stuff. Then he played the suite from E.T., and the audience loved it. This was what they wanted! But then, the concert was over.
What?? That's it? No, not really - time for the encores! When Williams walked back out on stage, someone in the front shouted, "Superman!". Williams smiled, and proceeded to play Schindler's List. For the second encore, the same individual shouted, "Play Superman!". Williams smiled again, and made a comment about how since we all will miss the news, this next piece would be more appropriate. He then played the "Mission Theme", also known as the NBC Nightly News theme. When he came back out for his third encore, our friend in the front shouted, "For the love of God - play Superman!!", and the entire Hollywood Bowl audience laughed. As did Williams - for he was not to play Superman that night. Rather, he played the Raiders March from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it was good. And the audience was happy. Except for that one soul who wanted to hear Superman.
I had never been to the Hollywood Bowl before. This was my first experience, and while my seats were in a good location, I was surprised that the music seemed a bit quiet. My friend informed me that they too noticed the softness of the volume, and that previous concerts were much louder and clearer. Could it have been a speaker issue with the sound system? Possibly. Another friend of mine attended the Saturday evening performance (I went on a Friday) and he told me that Williams did the same thing as Friday - with one notable exception. He did a fourth encore - the Star Wars Main Titles.
Now I've been to John Williams concerts before. I'll go to them again. But to play a much-beloved piece of music at one performance and not at the other is, by all accounts, unfair. I would have loved to hear Williams conduct that particular piece of music, and I feel a bit let down. Probably not knowing that he played Star Wars that second night would have been a better thing for me. But it was still a fun concert - the way the members of the orchestra played off each other with Williams' score was great fun, and I can only suggest that if you have the opportunity to catch any type of film music concert in your area, you make every effort to do so.
Thanks to David and Rochelle at the Hollywood Bowl Press Office for their assistance in making this article a reality, and to Monique at Chasen & Co. for her continuing efforts and support of SoundtrackNet