Everyday all across the world there are nerds humming and whistling their favorite movie themes or show theme songs. Chances are, that tune was composed by the great John Williams. Here in sunny California, at the Hollywood Bowl, there is a yearly concert put together by the Maestro of the Movies himself to celebrate not only his own works, but the art of live orchestra in movies.
The best part of this concert is how easily accessible it is to all fans. Tickets start at 15 dollars for the nosebleed seats and anyone that has been to the Hollywood Bowl knows those seats aren’t bad. I have sat in those 15 dollar seats for the past 7 years and the experience is still amazing! The picture below shows the view from the last row.
John Williams creates themes for each performance, making each concert a different experience. In previous years he has centered these concerts on The Art of Choreography, and he conducted songs about dance with “Singing in the Rain” and “An American in Paris” followed by swordplay songs like “The Mark of Zorro” and “Duel of Fates.” A few years ago the entire night was dedicated to the works of Julie Andrews.
This year, the theme was Triumph after Tragedy. The concert started with what can only be described as a conductor’s apprentice. David Newman conducted a few pieces that were picked out by the theme such as “Cathy’s Theme” from Wuthering Heights and Judy Garland’s cover of “Born in A Trunk”. Then John Williams came out with his First Chair to a roaring applause. He talked about why he decided on the theme Triumph after Tragedy and why the musical pieces he chose are important to cinema and to himself.
In silence, he turned around and began his first song “The Adventures of Mutt” from Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull. This lead into “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Three Harry Potter scores and then, before the intermission, we get a celebrity guest. Kobe Bryant.
Yes, Legendary NBA star Kobe Bryant came out and John Williams began to describe how he had never seen a game of basketball in his life, but that the poem Kobe wrote for his retirement press conference made an impression on him. The story goes that Kobe and John had met a few years before he decided to retire. After that press conference, “Dear Basketball” was in everyone’s mind. Kobe and John Williams collaborated on the animated project made in honor of Bryant’s career (with score by Williams). I’m not a basketball fan, but it was an inspiring piece/moment with Kobe reading his poem to the audience while the music played.
Then came the intermission, and with the intermission came the wine. This is Hollywood after all.
The 5-minute warning flashed and everyone returned to their seats while Mr. Williams began to talk about Daisy Ridley and her character in Star Wars. He explained that the only reason he agreed to come back and score the Star Wars films was that he didn’t want anyone else to do music for the character of Rey. The night ended with “Scherzo for X-Wings,” “Rey’s Theme,” and the Star Wars Main Title. At this point everyone who brought a lightsaber to the concert turned it on and waved it in the air to the tempo of the music.
At the conclusion of the song, the lights dimmed and The Conductor exited the stage, but since the first chair was still seated, John Williams returns and performed the theme from 1995’s “Sabrina,” “The Imperial March,” and the theme from 1978’s Superman.
The man is A LEGEND. I recommend everyone who reads this to try and come out to California for the experience of seeing the creator of all our favorite songs live. His concert is at the end of August or the beginning of September and with The Last Jedi hitting theaters this winter, anything could happen for next year’s event.