Syracuse, November 13, 2004


‘SSO Pops packs a rhythmic punch’The music of John Williams is celebrated by clean, crisp technique from SSO.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

By Chuck Klaus

Those who hold an enthusiasm for cinema music had many reasons to rejoice during the latest Syracuse Symphony Pops Concert.

The film music creations of John Williams, a composer now occupying a status akin to that of a national treasure, is certainly the biggest reason for cheer, and a nearly full house assembled for something as seemingly esoteric as a motion picture score is a big plus as well.

One could also take delight in the fact that Syracuse Symphony Orchestra Music Director Daniel Hege was o­n hand to animate and pilot these well-known musical creations. Add to these positives that the Syracuse Symphony and Syracuse Symphony Pops Chorus brought fine technique and assertive commitment to this music, and you have a Pops concert that stood head and shoulders above most such efforts.

What did these performers bring to a music program drawn from such films as Superman,Close Encounters of the Third KindRaiders of the Lost Ark and the Star Wars cycle? Clean, crisp technique, bright sonority and a rhythmic punch, all maintained throughout a feature-length concert with scarcely a flaw.

Hearing this music as we usually do, rendered through recorded soundtracks, it is reassuring to know the SSO was up to the challenge, and the music of Williams “sounds” wonderfully in the concert hall without any electronic enhancement. This is due in no small part to the clarity and skill of the orchestrations of Herbert Spencer, who worked with Williams for nearly 25 years.

Highlights were many, but the greatest treats were those featuring the Syracuse Symphony Pops Chorus, nicely trained by Lou Lemos. Pitch was always superb, energy levels high, sonority always focused and appealing. They performed selections from Home Alone,Amistad and The Phantom Menace with authority and enthusiasm, and made you wish for more projects that might involve them.

Bill Baker, of Classic FM, supplied a polished narration, and if any flaws were to be found, it was in arrangements of selections from E.T. and Superman that were a bit too fragmentary to register the full appeal of the music Williams provided, as well as transposed to lower and less brilliant keys.

Otherwise, this concert represented a triumph for all involved, and hopefully a sign of things to come in what we can o­nly hope will be a full examination into the realm of music composed for the movies.