Pittsburgh, June 7, 2003 + Meeting with John Williams

Pittsburgh Symphony Heinz Hall
Saturday, June 7, 2003
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS

Concert Review by Bradley Adams

Well, I had a good time o­n Saturday night as I believe most of the audience did. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in concert and I thought they sounded great (of course I would have thought that anyway… hometown bias).

Anyway, the concert started a little after 8 and the first piece played was the Liberty Fanfare. I don’t know, maybe live IS actually better than Memorex, but I thought this performance of the fanfare sounded better than any I’ve heard o­n CD.

Next came a suite of music from JFK. The suite consisted of the beautifully patriotic Theme from JFK, the Motorcade which was fantastically dark and disturbing and such a contrast from the theme, and ended with the soulful Arlington.

After the suite, Maestro Williams addressed the audience for the first time to introduce the theme from Seven Years in Tibet and the cello soloist Ms. Anne Martindale Williams, principal cellist for the PSO. Ms. Williams performed her solo quite nicely and with much emotion. Something I found very interesting was how the sound of deep ancient oriental horns was created when the French horn section removed the bells from their instruments.

Next came a suite of music from Harry Potter. It began with Hedwig’s Theme with featuring Patricia Jennings o­n the celesta. This was followed by Fawkes the Phoenix. Next came a piece of music for the Nimbus 2000 performed entirely by the woodwind section of the orchestra. For this little piece, Mr. Williams left the podium after starting the woodwinds o­n their way and left them to their own devices. It was a fun little section of music and they seemed to have a good time playing it. After they finished, Mr. Williams o­nce again to reign of the entire orchestra and finished to first half of the performance with Harry’s Wondrous Worldbeautifully done and sounding better live than in any movie theatre.

The second half of the performance began with an arrangement ofHooray for Hollywood. Very light, lively and fun. This was followed by a suite of music accompanied by projected still photos that Mr. Williams called Monsters, Beauties, and Heroes. Basically, it was a brief montage of stills of past and present films and stars set to music. For the monsters section, the music of 1933’s King Kong and the theme from Jaws was used. The beauties were represented by music from Casablanca and An Affair to Remember. And finishing off the montage, the Heroes, represented by Erich Korngold’s The Adventures of Robin Hood and an arrangement of the theme from Superman.

Next came selections from Catch Me If You Can featuring guest Mark Ortwein o­n the Alto Saxophone, and PSO members John Siroka o­n vibraphone and Jeffrey Turner o­n bass. First, was the Main Theme where it was fun watching Mr. Williams conducting the finger snapping of the orchestra and Mr. Siroka was superb o­n the vibraphone. The second selection was Recollections where Mr. Ortwein really shined o­n the alto Sax. And the final selection was The “Float”.

The orchestra then performed Across the Stars from Star Wars Episode II. A piece that Mr. Williams quipped was a unique experience because he got to write a love theme for a George Lucas film. This was just a treat for me because I love the sweeping melody of the strings in this piece and hearing it live was even more thrilling.

From here, for the final piece of the program, the orchestra moved o­n, and without introduction, into the Throne Room and Finale from Star Wars. The trumpets sounding the first few notes from the Throne Room elicitted cheers and applause from the audience. This version of the Throne Room and finale gave us an extended version of the Throne Room music before heading into the Finale music. It was an arrangement I had not heard before. And the conclusion o­n the finale was the o­ne that was first heard o­n The Empire Strikes Back. At the end, Mr. Williams and the orchestra received a standing ovation.

This brought o­n the first of three encores. Mr. Williams announced, “Here’s Indiana Jones”, which was answered with raucous cheers from the audience. And the orchestra began The Raiders March and did not disappoint. As you would expect the brass section was outstanding during the piece. At the conclusion of Raiders, another standing ovation and another encore. This time it was Flying Over the Moon from E.T.. This time, it was the string section taking center stage in the performance o­n the flying melody. At the conclusion, again another standing ovation, and Mr. Williams returned for o­ne final encore to compensate the audience just in case we missed the evening news with The Mission from NBC News. And following this final performance was yet another standing ovation and Mr. Williams left the stage with the PSO’s concertmaster Andres Cardenes and the rest of the orchestra.

Like I said, I had a great time out. It was a fun and enjoyable evening (not to mention it was the first Saturday in a while where it didn’t rain!!! :)




Meeting John Williams, by ‘Fiery Angel’

I saw Williams o­n the evening of June 7th and was lucky enough to get tickets to meet with him after the concert. This was my first time seeing John Williams conduct (live) and obviously the first time I met him. He’s such a nice fellow but that isn’t at all that surprising. I had brought along my CD of The Accidental Tourist for him to sign which took him aback for a moment. He commented o­n how it was such a small film and he was surprised that anyone remembered it. I mentioned that it was o­ne of my favorites of his and added that it was a beautifully shot film.

I had a friend take a photo of myself and Mr. Williams but, a day after, we discovered that he had neglected to load the camera with film…oyyyy, the disappointment. What was really unfortunate is that I’m from Toronto, Canada, a city that everyone is avoiding like the plague (or SARS) so I don’t think I’ll have the same opportunity to get a picture together with him again, at least up here (kinda wonder why he hasn’t ever played Toronto- Goldsmith did in 1990). But, o­n the bright side, I did get a chance to speak with him albeit briefly, and had the opportunity to tell him how much his music has influenced my own music odyssey.

UPDATE (More info o­n the meeting with John Williams):


The reception had about 70 people in o­ne of the reception rooms in the basement. Williams arrived after 10 minutes and had changed out of his tux into a regular suit and tie. He greeted the fans and was very generous with his time allowing fans to take pictures, talk to him, and so forth. A fellow in front of me had a rare cd copy of 1941 to which Williams gasped and I think said “oh no”, as if he himself thought little of that particular film. He didn’t look tired to me and was much more humorous in person than I would have expected. He commented o­n how many children were present (he actually looked around and said “wow, look at all these kids” in a sort of amazement).After he signed autographs, the director of the Pittsburgh Symphony said a few words about Williams and then let John address the crowd. He got in a joke about how he really travelled to the city to enjoy their golf courses to which he added that music is just a side-line job for him. That got quite a good reaction from the crowd. He also thanked the Pittsburgh Symphony association for having him and the players for being the great musicians they are. Lastly, he thanked the attendees for supporting the orchestra and added that it was o­ne of the finest American institutions out there.

Leave a Reply