Washington DC, January 23-25

You’ll find more reports and reviews of the Washington performances at the Concert Reviews section.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC
Thursday, January 23, 2003

The National Symphony Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS

“A Portrait of John Williams”

Concert Review by ‘Mari’

I arrived at the Kennedy Center, still pinching myself that I was actually there. I wandered around for a while as more and more people kept arriving, keeping a lookout for Indysolo and Eplicon and finally caught up with them shortly before the concert, each of us clutching a CD (I brought The Five Sacred Trees) hoping to get an autograph! We were seated in separate sections, so we parted and I made my way to my seat, anticipation growing with every passing minute.

The lights dimmed and the concertmaster (Nurit Bar-Josef) walked out to warm applause and tuned up the orchestra and finally the moment arrived . . . John Williams walked out on stage to thunderous applause.

The first two selections were the concert pieces:

For Seiji!

A real tour-de-force for the orchestra! It was vibrantly alive and exciting from beginning to end.

The Five Sacred Trees: Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra (Sue Heineman, bassoon)

WOW! This is my favorite Williams Concerto and I had very high expectations. Hearing it performed live more than exceeded those expectations. The passion, excitement and quiet moments of sheer beauty radiated through every note. At the end it was greeted with an extended standing ovation and during the post-concert Q&A, JW said he had never heard it played better!


Greeted by another round of thunderous applause, JW returned to the stage to conduct the second half of the concert: “Flight to Neverland” from Hook, Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, “Shark Cage Fugue” from Jaws (which also included Out to Sea), Theme from Schindler’s List (Nurit Bar-Josef, violin), March from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and “Adventures on Earth” from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

My spine tingling moments were CE3K, Schindler’s List and E.T. The experience of hearing a live orchestra play some of my all-time favorite John Williams music, conducted by JW was overwhelming and I’m still having a hard time putting it into words!

JW received another standing ovation at the end and left the stage and returned to conduct the encores. He introduced the first encore as “Across The Stars.” It received prolonged applause and then he launched into the Star Wars main theme and received another standing ovation. He left the stage but we wouldn’t stop applauding so he came back out again and said, “This concert had an early start so people could get home for the news, but for anyone missing Tom Brokaw, maybe this will satisfy them” and launched into the “Mission Theme” for NBC News. People started laughing as they recognized the music and when it was over he received another thunderous standing ovation, but we couldn’t coax him back for another encore! :(

Eplicon has already written about the post-concert Q&A so I won’t go through it again, except to say what an unexpected treat and joy it was to hear JW talk about his music.

I just have to share a comment I overheard before the concert from the couple seated next to me. She was looking at the program and he said, “You won’t know the music, we haven’t seen any of the movies.” …


John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC
Friday, January 24, 2003

The National Symphony Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS and Leonard Slatkin

“Music and Film Made in Hollywood, U.S.A”

Concert Review by ‘Mari’

For anyone who loves classic film scores the Friday concert was a real treat! Leonard Slatkin conducted the first half of the concert with the first selection being excerpts from The Red Pony by Aaron Copland. (Due to time constraints they did not play “The Gift” or “Walk to the Bunkhouse”, but it included all the other pieces found on the Music for the Stage and Screen CD.) The second selection was the complete Symphonic Suite from On The Waterfront by Leonard Bernstein. The love theme from On The Waterfront was ravishingly beautiful and my favorite music from the first part of the concert.


During the intermission between the Slatkin and Williams selections the orchestra warmed up with random noise, but occasionally a recognizable bit of music. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard a few notes of “Hedwig’s Theme.” I thought . . . wait a minute, that’s not on the program . . . and wondered if it was going to be an encore.

Loud applause greeted JW as he entered to conduct the second half of the concert (wearing a black suit, blue shirt and red tie!). To have the opportunity to watch him conduct the music of other composers was just as fascinating to me as watching him conduct his own.

The first selection was the “Salute to the Film Composer” (first heard last year at the Academy Awards) and his conducting was so energetic that a sheet of music fell off the podium! For a second JW looked stunned and then continued conducting with one hand while reaching over to retrieve the music from the assistant concertmaster who had picked it up. Later in the program he referenced it by making a comment about music flying all over the stage. laugh.gif

The largest audience reaction during the medley was the juxtaposition of the Psycho shower music, Jaws theme and The Pink Panther theme, one right after the other. The three JW compositions included in the medley were: Star WarsJaws and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

The rest of the concert included “Conquest” from Captain from Castile (Newman), “Cathy’s Theme” fromWuthering Heights (Newman/Arr. Morley) with Nurit Bar-Josef, violin, Theme from The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein), “Scene d’Amour” from Vertigo (Herrmann), “The Inquirer” from Citizen Kane(Herrmann), Suite from A Place in the Sun (Waxman) with Al Regni, saxophone, and “Tara’s Theme” from Gone with the Wind (Steiner/Arr. Morley).

Both the “Conquest” and the Theme from The Magnificent Seven were fun and swashbuckling and two of my favorite selections; “The Inquirer” fast and frenetic; “Cathy’s Theme,” “Scene d’Amour” and “Tara’s Theme” soft and lyrical. The suite from A Place in the Sun was in turn tender then violent and the saxophonist was exceptional!

I have to admit a particular fondness for “Cathy’s Theme.” (After all, Kathy is my real name smile.gif ), Aside from that, Nurit Bar-Josef played it as beautifully as she had the theme from Schindler’s List the night before.


After the concert ended JW came on stage to introduce the first encore and said, “Here’s a collection of themes from the Harry Potter movies that I like to call ‘Harry’s Wonderous World’.” Gasps of delight were heard throughout the audience and then the orchestra played the music beautifully and received thunderous applause! JW left the stage and came back with Leonard Slatkin who led the orchestra in a very high energy “Imperial March.” Toward the end, he pulled out the red light saber and pointed it at JW (lots of audience laughter) and then continued conducting with it!

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC
Saturday, January 25, 2003

The National Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, Host – JOHN WILLIAMS, Conducting – Stanley Donen, Special Guest

“In Synch: How Do They Do It?”

Concert Review by ‘Mari’

In some ways this was the most interesting concert, with the mixture of film and music. It was also the only one I didn’t know what to expect beforehand. My seat was also the best this night, in the first tier, first row, dead center, with the screen directly in front of me.

The concert opened with the dual piano piece composed by John Williams, which I have mentioned already, but will repeat here. :)

The new piano piece was a silent film-esque score, but I could hear the Williams touch in it! The clips were great and ranged from The Perils of PaulineThe Sheik, a Charlie Chaplin bit (which received some applause) to The Keystone Cops. It looked like both John Williams and Leonard Slatkin were having just as much fun as the audience!

The second medley arranged by John Williams was called “Monsters, Beauties and Heroes” and included:King Kong, music by Max Steiner, Jaws, music by John Williams, Casablanca, musical score by Max Steiner, An Affair to Remember, music by Harry Warren, The Adventures of Robin Hood, music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Superman, music by John Williams. Various clips were shown as the orchestra played, including several characters from Williams scored movies including: Darth Vader, Jaws, E.T. and Indiana Jones. The last clip was especially wonderful as it was Christopher Reeve as Superman while the music from Superman was playing. smile.gif

Most of the remaining first half was various musicals directed by Stanley Donen who provided commentary along the way. I love musicals and grew up watching Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly so this was a real treat for me!

“You’re All The World To Me” from Royal Wedding (Lerner/Lane, arr. Sendrey) — Fred Astaire dancing up and down the walls and on the ceiling. Afterward, Mr. Donen explained how it was done using a computer-generated model. The “room” was basically a box which rotated and the poor cameraman was strapped in and rotated along with the room while Fred Astaire stayed upright dancing.

“Barn Raising Dance” from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Deutsch) — rugged woodsmen dancing ;)

“I Like Myself” from It’s Always Fair Weather (Comden/Green/Previn, arr. Karam) — Gene Kelly on roller skates

“The Worry Song” from Anchors Aweigh (Fain/Freed) — Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the mouse

“Singin’ In The Rain” from Singin’ In The Rain (Brown/Freed) — Gene Kelly dancing and singing in the rain ;)

The first half ended with “That’s Entertainment!” (Dietz/Schwartz, arr. Hayman)


The second half opened up with the “Hooray For Hollywood” (Mercer/Whiting/arr. Williams) medley.

Next came the Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade selection which Eplicon has already written about so perfectly. It was a moment to treasure listening to John Williams describe how decisions are made about which scenes need music and then to see the clip with music, having a new appreciation of the work that goes into making the magic we see and hear on the screen.

“Baton Bunny” was next and very funny! Bugs Bunny as the mad conductor. ;) The music was fast and frenetic with many changes of pace and sudden stops and if the orchestra was out of synch at all, I didn’t see it. Both John Williams and Leonard Slatkin joked that Bugs Bunny was probably a better conductor than either of them.

The finale and ultimate event for me of the entire three concerts was the final selection. About the last fifteen minutes of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was shown on the screen, starting with Elliott running out to the van and continuing all the way to the end of the movie. To see my favorite movie on screen with the live orchestra playing beneath and John Williams conducting was an unforgettable and almost indescribable moment.

Eplicon has already described the lightsaber duel encore to the “Imperial March” and the Star Wars finale, so I won’t go through them again, except to say I laughed so hard it hurt and it was another moment never to be forgotten. :)

We tried to get autographs after each show and finally after the last concert we were there in the right place, next to the stage! Unfortunately for us, that was the night John Williams decided not to sign any. :(

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC
Saturday, January 25, 2003

The National Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin, Host – JOHN WILLIAMS, Conducting – Stanley Donen, Special Guest

“In Synch: How Do They Do It?”

Concert Review by Jack H. Lee

The highlights for me was the Saturday night concert, where Williams explained the technical aspects of spotting and synching music to film, and then showing it with the orchestra. The only gripe was that all the film footage were just tape transfers (i.e., pan and scan!). I relished to hearing a live performance of theSuperman theme, albeit it in trucated form. It was just the opening part of the theme, quickly seguing into the “Can You Read My Mind?” portion, and then ending with the last part of the piece. I did also enjoy the aforementioned Indiana Jones and E.T. segments immensely.

There was also one funny moment where most people probably missed, since Williams wasn’t on microphone to be audible enough (although I heard it, since I was very close to the stage). During one of the Fred Astaire film clips, when the numbers were counting down, the video suddenly stopped and the screen went blank for several seconds. Williams and the orchestra were still ready to go, but after a few more moments of silence, in which the audience sort of laughed at the technical gaffe, Williams turned to Stanley Donen and good naturedly muttered, “That happens in Hollywood all the time.” The problem was quickly fixed, and Williams then was able to resume the piece.

I did like Nurit Bar-Josef’s playing of “Theme from Schindler’s List,” too, from the Thursday night concert. It was a very passionate performance, and at times, she seemed caught up with the emotions of the music. After the show, Williams added that this and Sue Heineman’s performance of “Five Sacred Trees” were among the best playing he’s heard of his works.

Ms. Bar-Josef also seemed to be in awe for playing for Williams, as later, when the NSO began playing the opening bars to Star Wars for one of the encores, she was a bit giddy and had a big beaming smile on her face, not unlike a kid getting to play with his or her idol for the very first time.

At Saturday’s concert, Slatkin also talked about the efficiency about writing music. He said that Beethoven wrote the four most famous notes in history (referring to “The Fifth Symphony,” of course). Williams topped that with the two-note motif from Jaws. But then added that most people could name Star Wars in one note, since the opening note is instantly recognizable. (Part of the discussion had to do with classical music and film scores, and how kids couldn’t relate to traditional symphonic music the way they would a well-known film score, like Harry Potter or Superman, which would always get their attention.)

One of the coolest things about these concerts is hearing the orchestra warm up, with each musician going through their individual parts of all these different pieces, all out-of-synch. You can easliy recognize, oh, that’s the strings from E.T., there’s the wind section from Raiders, that’s the percussion from Star Wars. It’s all a cacophony of noise, but it’s very easy to pick the individual pieces out if you’re familiar with the themes. Most times, you’re not hearing the actual melody, but rather, the accompanying music. It’s kinda like playing “name that tune.”

Of course, the real gem is just hearing the orchestra play live. With a good acoustical setting and good sound mix (Williams brought in some of his technical guys from Boston to do the sound for the DC concerts), you can hear a lot more detail than on the albums. You hear the music exactly as Williams envisioned it, and just how much work he pours into his orchestrations.

Last Saturday night’s show (“How Do They Do That?”) really shows how difficult and complex it is to synch an orchestra to even a brief piece of film. Williams chose a four minute segment from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and explained how he and Spielberg would spot the film. The video covered young Indy’s discovery of the stolen cross to the point where he makes his escape from the train. The scene played without the music, and Williams narrated point-by-point each high and low point of the sequences, and where music would be utilized and how it would be played. He said there were like about forty significant places where music would be doing something, which the tempo and style changing every which way. One area, for instance, when Indy picks up the whip to scare off the lion, Williams said he would introduce a teaser of the Raiders march to signify Indy’s ascension into adulthood. There were other bits he discussed involving Indy’s confrontation with the bad guys and then his escape. (Randy Newman referred to this as one of the greatest cues in history.)

Williams then conducted the orchestra to the same scenes, but this time the audience got to see those timing marks (the vertical line that scrolls across the screen with the round blips following it) to get an understanding of what he sees during the recording sessions. With the kind of complex music that Williams does, it is quite a difficult task to have dead-on timing. The NSO did a very good job, perhaps being off by a split second (they all wore those clicking devices in their ears) here and there, but for the most part did a very good job. Williams stressed that in Hollywood, you need to be a very high caliber player to keep up with the sort of techinical playing needed. He also had mentioned that if the music was going too fast, then the movie would seem slow, and vice-versa.

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