What could be better than hearing the Boston Pops, conducted by John Williams, playing classic movie themes?
Williams was in fine form on Friday night at a packed Symphony Hall in Boston. The performance, and the first half, started with The Cowboys Overture and over the next hour Williams led us through three pieces from Lincoln and onto Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Random youtube clips of music in this post — not taken by me. This one – Marion’s Theme.
The highlight of the first half was the flight-themed movie-clip-coordinated Flight to Neverland from Hook. Williams directed the Pops with precision as we tried to name all the clips – our tally was: ET, Harry Potter, Toy Story, Star Trek, Up, Wall-E, Superman, Iron Man, Star Wars, Hook, and Dragonheart. There were, of course, many more. Looking over his shoulder, as we were able to from the second balcony, we were given a glimpse of how Williams operates: he has his own personal screen of the movie with an added sweeping vertical line to count down when the picture is about to change.
Flight to Neverland.
The second half was even more spectacular. The opening piece was entitled A Tribute to the Film Composer, another clip montage with brilliantly familiar themes. It was a little strange to hear the 20th Century Fox theme whilst not sitting in front of a TV. We heard snippits from Titanic, The Great Escape and The Godfather, among many others.
Williams then gave the audience a masterclass on how to score a movie scene. The clip was The Circus Train Chase from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He talked us through the clip without music, pointing out where he decided to change the feel of the music, where he inserted pauses and where he introduced the first hint of the Indiana Jones theme. He then conducted the Pops in the actual score, alongside the clip. Amazing.
The Circus Train Chase – you can see the sweeping line prompt Williams uses.
The Duel, from the Adventures of Tin-Tin, followed — a sword-fighting mélange of epic proportions. In my view this was by far the best coordinated music-clip piece of the evening. Naturally the piece ended, with second-perfect timing, on the clip from The Last Crusade where Indiana Jones dispatches the sword-wielding samurai.
When Williams introduced the final (minus two encores) pieces – from Star Wars – he noted that since a new addition to this movie set was being planned for 2015 he’d “better eat my wheaties”. The Star Wars themes Throne Room and Imperial March were magnificent.
Williams left the stage and was given a standing ovation, but of course he came back for an encore. The Pops played a crowd-favourite: the theme from ET.
Again Williams left the stage and was given another standing ovation. From our high vantage point we could see he had closed his music folder on this stand, but this still wasn’t the end.
Out he came again to what we can only assume is a Pops tradition: Stars and Stripes Forever.
Stars and Stripes Forever.
The audience enthusiastically clapped along and Williams barely did anything as conductor, keeping only a cursory rhythm with his baton. As the music continued he turned to the audience and suddenly we were being conducted. He motioned for the audience to cease as they came to the middle of the piece. As the end approached the clapping resumed, and the flag was (literally) unfurled. Williams turned to the audience again and with a flourish signaled the end of the piece and the end of the concert.