Detroit, April 11, 2008

Special Event
‘An Evening with John Williams’
Friday, April 11, 2008
John Williamsconductor

CONCERT PROGRAM (view picture)

  • The Cowboys Overture
  • Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Suite fromm Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Hedwig’s Theme, Nimbus 2000, Harry’s Wondrous World)
  • ‘Adventures on Earth’ from E.T.


  • Monsters, Beauties and Heroes (arr. Williams)
  • ‘Opening Chase’ from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Theme from Schindler’s List
  • Suite from Star Wars (The Imperial March, Princess Leia’s Theme, Main Title)

Concert review by Ray Barnsbury

I thought I’d post a little about the concert itself, which I really enjoyed. I thought the orchestra performed extremely well, with only a few very minor flubs. The Orchestra Hall is also gorgeous, with intricate artwork and ornamentations covering the walls and ceiling.

It was a nice selection of pieces, and identical to programs he’s performed several times before at other venues; it seems to be a kind of packaged deal. I’d think that Williams would want to switch things up a bit more than he tends to, for his own enjoyment, but there are no complaints on my end. Seeing and hearing such classics performed live under the direction of the Maestro himself is just incredible.

Williams took the stage to the usual thunderous applause, and with a brief show of thanks to the audience, turned to the orchestra and dove right into The Cowboys Overture. As I posted earlier, the piece was performed maginificently, and it sounded virtually identical to the concert recording we’re all used to. Though I’ve always liked the piece, hearing it like this gave me a new appreciation for its sense of fun and wonder. The horn section in particular was terrific with all the renditions of that rapid opening fanfare and the soaring melody in the middle of the piece (gotta love that monstrous trill at the end too!).

Close Encounters was great too – the finale never fails to blow me away, and it was played well. Williams then gave a short introduction to the Harry Potter suite (and he didn’t even refer to Hedwig as a “he” this time!). It was interesting to watch the celeste player in “Hedwig’s Theme,” and he tackled those wicked runs with spot-on accuracy. “Nimbus 2000” was the woodwind-only arrangement, which is nice, although I prefer the full-blown incarnation from “Hedwig’s Theme.” “Harry’s Wondrous World” was performed well also.

Closing the first half of the concert was “Adventures on Earth,” probably my favorite Williams piece, and certainly one of the best and most classic pieces of film music ever. The abbreviated concert arrangment doesn’t quite have the flow of the film version, but it’s wonderful to hear nonetheless. I was delighted to see the French horn players put their horns up for the final fanfare, and again, they played marvelously.

“Monsters, Beauties, and Heroes” opened the second half of the concert. It’s a medley of several famous film themes, including music from JawsCasablancaRobin Hood, and Superman. I especially liked hearing Superman, as Williams doesn’t seem to perform it much. The piece was accompanied by an unnecessary and pretty poorly-edited montage, but it was fun to listen to at least.

The screen stayed down for the opening of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Williams did the explanation of all the various hit-points that he’s done several times before at past concerts. We watched the scene first without music, as Williams pointed out on-screen actions that would require some kind of musical hit or flourish, and then again as the orchestra played along. It was a terrific demonstration, even knowing already how the process works, and it was nice to hear a work that wasn’t a straighforward concert arrangement. As a side note, Williams showed his age by referring to the lion in the circus car as a tiger, as he was looking right at it…twice. laugh.gif

The Theme from Schindler’s List came next and was fine, but not outstanding for me. The solo violinist didn’t stand and wasn’t credited in the program, and though she payed competently, she didn’t seem like anything too amazing. After all the excitement of the surrounding pieces, this was a bit of a slow spot.

Finally, Williams wrapped things up with the Suite from Star Wars, which was comprised of “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme),” “Princess Leia’s Theme” (the horn solo here was just beautiful), and of course, “Main Title.” This was all a great crowd-pleaser, and the applause continued as Williams left the stage a few times before coming out to perform the encores. First was “Sayuri’s Theme,” which I’ve always thought was an odd choice for an encore. Then came “The Olympic Spirit” with another video montage, and finally, “The Raiders March.” Again, everything was played solidly. Williams left us with his trademark pointing at both the orchestra and the audience as if to say “It’s you, this is all about you!” and his famous “I’m tired and need to go to bed” gesture, through the applause. All in all, it was a really enjoyable time, and I think it’s pretty amazing for someone of Williams’ stature to have donated his services to the orchestra. I’m sure thankful he took the time to come to Michigan, and hope it’s not the last time he does so!