‘John Williams’ Film Night’ at Tanglewood: Concert Reviews & ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Score Update (NEW REVIEW)

‘JOHN WILLIAMS’ FILM NIGHT’
August 24, 2019, Koussevitzky Music Shed, Lenox, MA
The Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by DAVID NEWMAN and JOHN WILLIAMS
JOHN WILLIAMS, Host

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker teaser poster

CONCERT PROGRAM

David Newman conducting

  • Hooray for Hollywood (Whiting/arr. Williams)
  • The Cowboys Overture
  • Two selections from Jane Eyre: Reunion—To Thornfield
  • Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Celebrating Alfred Newman
  • 20th Century Fox Fanfare (Newman)
  • Theme from “How the West Was Won” (Newman)
  • The Carousel Waltz (Rodgers, film orchestration supervised by Alfred Newman)

INTERMISSION

  • Theme from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
  • Opening sequence from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Excerpts from Jurassic Park
  • Excerpts from Saving Private Ryan
  • Dry Your Tears, Afrika, from Amistad
    (Tanglewood Festival Chorus, James Burton, conductor)

John Williams, conducting

  • Three Selections from Star Wars:
    The Adventures of Han from Solo: A Star Wars Story
    Luke and Leia from Return of the Jedi
    Star Wars Main Title

ENCORES

  • Yoda’s Theme from The Empire Strikes Back
  • The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back

REVIEWS

EXTERNAL REVIEWS

  • MassLiveWilliams revealed he had already recorded 100 minutes of music for the forthcoming “Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker,” but will return to California on Monday at the request of director J.J. Abrams to record an additional 40 minutes of music for the film. (Yes fellow film geeks, the next “Star Wars” movie will likely run at least 140 minutes, making it one of the longest entries in the franchise.) – Full review

Full quote as John Williams introduces the Star Wars Main Title:

“I think 40 years now that George Lucas, who was the creator of Star Wars, made the first film that we did. Whoever would imagine that 40 years later we’d be doing what we’re doing? When we made the first film none of us had any idea that there was going to be a second film, all sorts of mysteries have been unraveled in the course of these.

At the present time I’m working on the ninth version of it. Which, it’s promised by Disney to be the last one, and it certainly will be the last one that I will do. And I told JJ Abrams, who is the director, ‘JJ, I will just sign a little bow on the box of this.’ It’s a fabulous film. You remember The Force Awakens, he did such a great job introducing the new cast, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley. Which was so fresh, such wonderful comedy they did. And they’ve done it again in this one.

But JJ changes scenes a lot. And we’ve already recorded with the orchestra 100 minutes of music, which is a lot. And in the next month or so I have to do 40 more minutes, so I have to go back to California tomorrow to my other job.

But here is, not the 9th episode of Star Wars, although we’ll start it the same way, is the Main Title of the first film.”

JWFAN REVIEWS

*NEW* Review by Jason LeBlanc (original forum post)

Boy, what a fun night in western Massachusetts I had Saturday night!

I arrived, bought my lawn ticket for a mere $23, walked through the gate and immediately saw @crocodile and @Marian Schedenig waiting on the other side!  They introduced me to @Tanglehead who had posted those videos from Williams’ appearance conducting at Tanglewood last month, and then @Foxfan came over as well.  @Tanglehead was smart enough to grab a selfie of us (I always forget to do that) before he headed to his seats and the 4 of us grabbed a beer at the beer tent nearby.  We discussed travel, accents, Karol and Marian’s first trip to the US, and how it was clear why JW loved being out here so much before we quickly had to find out seats as the concert was starting.  I grabbed a spot on the lawn and sat down to enjoy the first half!

I didn’t know what a night “hosted” by Williams meant, but we found out right that it started with him coming out to start the show and talk for a bit.  I really enjoyed this because he ended up talking for a longer period of time than I’ve ever heard him do before!  I cannot remember now everything he talked about, but with the concert being streamed online and on the radio hopefully someone posts a transcript.  I remember him talking about how he had been coming to Tanglewood for almost 40 years, and that the venue had been there for 80, but he was “just a bit” older than that or something along those lines.  He also talked about the importance of performing film music in concerts and how this orchestra has always done so well with that, and ended by talking a bit about the legacy of the Newman family and how Alfred Newman had more Oscars than he did, and introduced David Newman.

David came out and started the first piece right away!

WHITING/arr. WILLIAMS Hooray for Hollywood

This was played to a video montage of classic Hollywood moments.  I’ve heard this arrangement live, set to either this same or a very similar montage more than once before, but it’s always a nice way to start any film-focused concert.  Very fun!

WILLIAMS “The Cowboys” Overture

Oooh boy I liked this quite a bit!  I never had the old 90s Varese CD and still have not seen the film, so my first exposure was hearing this Overture in Boston once before, which I really enjoyed at the time.  Since we got the terrific Matessino production of the complete score and I came to REALLY enjoy the entire score and it’s bevy of themes.  Hearing this Overture again knowing what all the themes are, and hearing all the unique aspects to it that aren’t in the original score anywhere, was a real treat.  This was shown to a montage of Western movies that I believe I had seen before.

At this point David Newman took the microphone and mentioned how that was from The Cowboys and that it was notable for being “the only film where John Wayne is shot by a good guy” which seemed like a bit of an odd (and spoiler-y) tidbit to mention.  He then indicated next would be two pieces from Jane Eyre, which he said like The Cowboys from from John’s “early” period, before Jaws, and that they would be followed by a selection from Raiders of the Lost Ark from 1980.

WILLIAMS Two selections from “Jane Eyre”: Reunion—To Thornfield

I hate to say it but over the years I’ve just never been able to get into this score and this performance did nothing to change my opinion.  Maybe some day!

WILLIAMS Marion’s Theme from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

This was the wonderful arrangement from 2008, set to the same montage of Hollywood’s classic heroines that I’ve seen in concert many times.  No matter how many times I hear it, I still love this arrangement of the theme!

David then took the microphone again to talk a bit about his father and his family’s relationship with John Williams.

Celebrating Alfred Newman

NEWMAN 20th Century Fox Fanfare

NEWMAN Theme from “How the West Was Won”

RODGERS The Carousel Waltz (film orchestration supervised by Alfred Newman)

The 20th Century Fox Fanfare was a blast to hear live!  When I saw Star Wars live to projection they played it there too, but I can’t remember if that had the CinemaScope extension or not, which this one did.  Very cool!  I am not familiar with much of Alfred Newman’s work, but I really enjoyed the How The West Was Won piece!

At this point the intermission arrived and I went to find Karol and Marian, but someone ended up not being able to find them.  As the second half of the show began, I was able to snag a seat in the shed so was able to enjoy the second half from a proper chair!

The second half started with David Newman returning to the stage without saying anything, and launching right into the next piece!

WILLIAMS Theme from “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”

I dunno about this piece, I like it but I don’t love it.  Perhaps if I were to visit the park I’d get into it more.  I will say I enjoyed this performance quite a bit, it is a fun lively piece!

Opening sequence from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”

This was really cool and I was surprised Newman didn’t set it up before hand, though there was a funny moment when he was ready to begin but looked up and saw that the screen hadn’t finished rolling down yet so he had to wait :) So this piece skips past the main titles set to that wind sound, and begins right with the flute solo that properly opens the score as we see the forest.  It was the entire 6 minute opening of the movie, so both 1M1 The Forest and 1M2 Keys Arrives, with the revised ending, with all the sound effects and dialogue (what little there is during the opening) in the mix.  I have seen the entire ET Live To Projection concert before so this wasn’t my first time seeing this, but it is pretty wonderful every time nonetheless.  Wonderful music and the audience seemed to really enjoy it.  I had kinda forgotten how cheesy some of the effects are in this part of the film though :)

David Newman then spoke a bit about how you can understand so much better the role film music plays when you watch footage from a film with it removed, and then brought out the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and set up the next 3 pieces they would perform with the orchestra.  He ended by saying that there would maybe be a “surprise” after those, which we all knew what it meant!

Excerpts from “Jurassic Park”

This was wonderful!!  Since the full Jurassic Park: Live to Projection concert hasn’t come to New England yet, I haven’t seen it, so it was quite a pleasure to hear 3M2 The Dinosaurs performed like to film!  Those those more familiar with OST titles, this is the middle of “Journey To The Island”, so after all the helicopter and early jeep riding business, and without the ending approach to the main visitor’s center.  It begins with Ellie examining the planet and Grant turning her head, goes through the entire dinosaur reveal scene, ending shortly after the “Welcome to Jurassic Park” line.  It was wonderful to hear this live, especially because the chorus sounded different than the film/album version we’re all used to, which made it feel more real and reactionary than a more familiar performance would have.  As the cue climaxes, it immediately segued to the end of the end credits set to a montage of various scenes from the whole film, and no more sound effects or dialogue, until the end which was the classic “When dinosaurs ruled the earth” shot that had the T-Rex’s roar mixed it.  It was all very effective and got a big applause from the audience.  I loved it!

Excerpts from “Saving Private Ryan”

This was my favorite piece of the night!  Again the main titles were skipped, with the footage starting right on the American flag shot, and 1M1 Revisiting Normandywas played!  This was so cool, especially since the whole scene has no dialogue so apart from the sound of the camera shutter, it was mostly just music we were hearing.  After the film transitions to Normandy and the Omaha Beach is shown, as the music ended it segued into Hymm to the Fallen, with the video now showing a montage of footage from the whole film, pretty much in order from what I could remember, ending with the final scene and the final shot of the American flag like it started with.  I found the entire performance very moving, from beginning to end, especially with the footage set to it.  I loved this and hope it becomes a standard piece at concerts from now on.

Dry Your Tears, Afrika, from “Amistad”

This was very fun too!  I am not as familiar with this as I am many other Williams pieces, but I believe it is the revised version like as heard on Spielberg/Williams III.  Good stuff!

Newman then left the stage and Williams came out to a massive round of applause, and he immediately began conducting the next piece without any commentary

The Adventures of Han from “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Oh boy this was great!  I pretty much liked this piece as soon as I heard it, which was conducted by Williams in Boston in 2018, and have listened to the album recording many times.  I found this performance to be noticeably slower than that take, which was a bit unfortunate, but it was still lively and the false endings still made me smile.  I think Williams enjoys this piece quite a bit.

Luke and Leia from “Return of the Jedi”

This is the new shorter version and while I only see complaints online about it, I personally don’t mind the short version at all.  I think this was very nice!

Williams then took to the mic and told his usual story of not knowing when they made the first one that there would be any more, and revealed he had written 100 minutes of music for Episode 9 and had to return to LA the next day to begin recording 40 minutes more, which he called “his other job” which got a nice laugh.

Star Wars Main Title

I have to say even though I’ve heard this performned live by Williams countless times, it never really gets old to hear in concert!  I thought this was a very energetic and lively performance that I enjoyed quite a bit.  After it ended he left the stage to massive applause that never died down until he returned to perform an encore.  He briefly introduced it by thanking the audience, the orchestra, and David Newman, and then telling a little anecdote about “Yoda’s little theme” by saying George let him know Yoda was 900 years old but had only been teaching Jedi for 800 years, so it took him 100 years to hone his art.  The things Williams remembers vs not remembers makes me chuckle sometimes!

Yoda’s Theme

The Imperial March

Not too much to say about these as I’ve also heard them performed countless times by Williams, but both were performned very well and the audience was having a great time.  I was hoping for one final encore but after another massive round of applause the house lights finally came on after leaving the stage.  Such a wonderful night in Tanglewood.

After the concert, @Marian Schedenig@crocodile@Foxfan and I chatted about a variety of topics while the traffic let out, which was also wonderful.  I believe a great night was had by all!

Report by ‘rpvee’ (original forum post)

Another incredible, emotional, heartwarming, and chilling evening seeing living legend John Williams. He even looked and smiled at me a lot from the podium! There was one particular moment when he saw me after I was one of the first to stand for an ovation, and he did this kind of “huzzah!” moment with both arms raised and a big smile right at me. Chills to have so much interaction with the maestro himself from the podium!

During the Star Wars portion of the evening, he shared that he had written 100 minutes of music for “The Rise of Skywalker” so far, but that it was a bit difficult since Abrams changes scenes a lot. He then said he’ll be returning to LA tomorrow (Sunday, August 25) to write the remaining 40 minutes of music required!

He also called TROS “wonderful”, commented on the “comedy” between Rey and Kylo in TFA that continues in the new film, and that Ridley and Driver are wonderful as well. I thought “comedy” was a very strange word choice – make of it what you will.

Such an incredible night. Fingers crossed for Boston next Spring!

Report by ‘crocodile’ (original forum post)

It was really lovely. Seeing Williams speak and conduct his music was a wonderful thing. Made me feel quite emotional. He appeared at the very start of the evening to introduce the concert. It was quite obvious he’s going to conduct the SW section (plus Yoda’s Theme and The Imperial March encores) when David Newman mention there might be a “surprise” at the end.

Other thoughts:

Absolutely loved The Cowboys and Jane Eyre segments.

Galaxy’s Edge was good to hear but the piece itself doesn’t convince me one bit.

It was nice to see three segments conducted to film. The E.T. was the opening sequence as indicated on the programme. SPR was the opening cue followed by the shortened Hymn to the Fallen and JP had the dinosaur reveal scene with chorus followed by the fanfare.

Amistad was played faster than usual. I really enjoyed it.

The Williams conducted segment: The Adventures of Han was played bit slower than the soundtrack recording. It’s a really fun piece. Luke and Leia was the shortened version. After that, he spoke about having completed 100 minutes of the new score and having to go back to his “other job” the next day and write another 40 minutes due to film changes. And that it is a lot of music. He said he was assured by Disney this is the “last film” and then added it will be the last one he does. Whether he was being serious is anybody’s guess. Then he conducted the Main Title and the two encores. Again, it was a thrilling and emotional thing to witness.

I really enjoyed Tanglewood. I’m also glad me and Marian arrived early to wander about a bit. You can understand why he keeps coming back to this place – it’s very relaxing. Quite a lot of people arrived later on so it lost its peaceful vibe to the big summer concert excitement.

I’m glad we decided to go, especially after what happened last year in London. While only small segment was conducted by Williams himself it was still more than worth all the money. You can tell he’s quite old now especially when he walks but, oddly, that goes away as he starts to conduct. It’s like doing that gives him new energy. It made me think of that Yoda duel scene in AOTC actually. 😄

Karol

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