On the final weekend of August, the Hollywood Bowl presented Maestro of the Movies: The Music of John Williams. Hosted by John Williams and conducted by David Newman, this was a movie music lover’s dream concert. It included music written and arranged by the great John Williams himself. It also included music written and arranged by Alfred Newman, who happens to be the father of conductor David Newman. The combination was an evening that was full of magic, heart, and incredible music!
The night began with John Williams coming to the stage to conduct the National Anthem before starting the night off. He shared about music briefly and his connection to the Hollywood Bowl over the course of four decades. He also gave an incredibly gracious introduction to the night’s conductor, David Newman.
The concert was full of iconic musical moments from across John Williams career. It started off with a version of Hooray for Hollywood that was arranged by John Williams. It then moved into music from The Cowboys, which starred John Wayne. Williams composed the score for this before he composed music for Star Wars and the other blockbusters that made him a soundtrack superstar. Newman also led the LA Philharmonic in performing two selections from Jane Eyre, a TV soundtrack from early in John Williams’ career. The next piece by Williams was Han Solo and the Princess from The Empire Strikes Back. This piece was accompanied by clips from all 8 current Star Wars movies from the Skywalker Saga. It contained a surprising amount of video with Rey in it. Some of this was with Leia and also some with Han. The rest of the characters shown during this piece were all from the Skywalker family. Throughout this song, lightsabers could be seen glowing in the night. So much so that David Newman even commented on how impressive it was.
The concert then pivoted to some other soundtrack music with music not written by John Williams. Instead, it was music connected with Alfred Newman. This included the 20th Century Fox Fanfare, How the West Was Won theme, and The Carousel Waltz from Carousel. All of this was either written or arranged by the father of David Newman who was conducting the LA Philharmonic. Newman shared a story of his father from when John Williams first played piano for the Fox Orchestra under the direction of Alfred Newman. Williams was feeling quite intimidated to be playing for Newman. During a break, Alfred Newman came over to him to make sure he was doing ok. David Newman shared how even at a young age, Williams was destined for greatness and had been sought out by the Fox music team under the direction of Alfred Newman.
The second half of the program began with David Newman conducting the new theme for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, written by John Williams for the new lands at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The moment the music began, lightsabers were ignited throughout the Hollywood Bowl. Next the opening sequence from E.T. was performed alongside the movie’s opener. This is always impressive to watch and this time was no exception.
The dinosaur reveal moment on screen from Jurassic Park followed by a montage from the movie as the main theme was performed came next. This was followed by the opening of Saving Private Ryan, that also included a film montage. Next came Dry Your Tears, Afrika from Amistad. The Cal State University Singers joined for the choral parts of these three pieces.
Following these pieces, John Williams returned to center stage and took over the podium. He began by conducting The Adventure of Han, the theme he composed for Han Solo for Solo: A Star Wars Story. The beautiful theme Luke and Leia from The Empire Strikes Back followed. After finishing this song, John Williams shared about how 40 years before he had done the score for Star Wars and they had never imagined it would go anywhere past the first film. Now, as they wrap up the 9th film, he said it will be a film that “the ending will put you all away” after complimenting what J.J. Abrams is doing with the film.
As the concert wrapped, the crowd cheered for the iconic composer. This led to an encore. As he returned to the podium and the music began, it was quickly apparent that the encore was not The Imperial March. Instead, it was Yoda’s Theme. The theme was performed absolutely beautifully and watching Williams conduct it, the love he has for this piece was readily evident. Following the song as the crowd went wild, Williams mouthed something to the LA Philharmonic with a big grin before leading them in a rousing performance of The Imperial March. The crowd went wild. As the music ended the audience remained on its feet and continued cheering. Eventually, Williams started another encore piece. This time he conducted the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme. The music was beautiful and the crowd went wild again as it concluded. He ended up returning multiple times to bow again and acknowledge all those who were a part of the performance.
Seeing John Williams conduct the iconic music he has written over the years is really an incredible experience. He truly is the master of movie films and a legend in his own right. It is absolutely amazing watching him conduct the LA Philharmonic and see the subtle movements and not so subtle movements he uses to get different things out of them. It is an experience that I can’t recommend enough at it really is spellbinding. Throughout the nights the beauty of the music led to tear-inducing moments, chilling moments of excitement, and a shared experience for those in attendance that transcended so many differences that most likely existed among those attending. Maestro of the Movies: The Music of John Williams brought people together with their love of the music John Williams and the man himself. While it does cost a bit to go to this concert, it is worth it because the gift John Williams gives at it is something that lives on well past an evening at the Hollywood Bowl.
Maestro of the Movies: The Music of John Williams Program Order
- Whiting, arr. John Williams: “Hooray For Hollywood” from Hollywood Hotel
- John Williams: Overture to The Cowboys
- John Williams: Two Selections from Jane Eyre
- John Williams: “Han Solo and the Princess” from The Empire Strikes Back (with film)
- Alfred Newman: 20th Century Fox Fanfare
- Alfred Newman: Theme from How the West Was Won (with film)
- Richard Rodgers: “The Carousel Waltz” from Carousel Film Score Suite
- John Williams: Theme from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
- John Williams: Opening Sequence from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (with film)
- John Williams: Excerpts from Jurassic Park (with film)
- John Williams: Excerpts from Saving Private Ryan (with film)
- John Williams: “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Amistad
- John Williams: “The Adventures of Han” from Solo: A Star Wars Story
- John Williams: “Luke and Leia” from Return of the Jedi
- John Williams: Star Wars Main Title
- John Williams: “Yoda’s Theme” from The Empire Strikes Back
- John Williams: “Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back
- 2nd Encore
- John Williams: “Raiders of the Lost Ark” from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark