Boston Symphony Hall
May 20 – 24, 2008
The Boston Pops Orchestra Conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS
- Sound the Bells! (Williams)
Written to celebrate with the Japanese people the 1993 wedding of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako Owada
- Excerpts from Far and Away (Williams)
County Galway, June 1892 – The Fighting Donellys – Joseph and Shannon – Blowin’ Off Steam (The Fight) – Finale
- Sabrina (Williams)*
- Cathy’s Theme from Wuthering Heights (Newman-Morley)**
TAMARA SMIRONOVA, violin
A Tribute to David Lean
- Excerpts from Dr. Zhivago (Jarre – Karam)
- Three Pieces from Oliver Twist (Bax)
Fagin’s Romp – Sleepless Night – The Chase
- Excerpts from Lawrence of Arabia (Jarre – Karam)
The Magic of Harry Potter
- A Grand Suite from Harry Potter
(Music by John Williams with LYNN REDGRAVE, narrator)
Aunt Marge’s Waltz
The Knight Bus
Fawkes the Phoenix
The Chamber of Secrets
A Bridge to the Past
Harry’s Wondrous World
- The Adventures of Mutt from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- The Raiders March from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- Flying Theme from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
* Not performed on May 20
** Only performed on May 20
Anger rushed through me – I couldn’t believe this was happening. After a great dinner at a burrito restaurant down the street from Symphony Hall, and a great desert at a small sweet shop, my mood was now glum and a bit worried. Here I was in the Hall itself, lost in its maze of hallways, lights above me flickering, indicating John Williams would be conducting soon.
I told them to hold the tickets! I thought. I had ordered the tickets for the first concert of the Film Night series – I would have preferred the second performance, an easier night for me, but I had been told over the phone that no seats were available, but that there were seats for the first night. I had accepted those, and I had asked for the tickets to be held at the box office. But they had mailed them to me anyways, and not only that… they were for the wrong night! I had been told by an usher to go to the box office, which I was now lost looking for. I finally found it after crossing the building. The talk with the people there was brief, and I went from having seats on one of the upper floors… to having a table on the ground floor, right near the floor’s dead center. And I even had a waitress!
SO worth the trouble!
I got inside of the actually hall just minutes before the doors were closed. The giant room was beautiful, carvings lining the perimeter of the stage, “BEETHOVEN” written in large gold letters at the very top. The orchestra’s instruments were being tuned on the stage. An usher led me to my new seat, and I happily sat down. The giant room was crowded and loud, to be sure, and seeing some men dressed a bit more formally than I was, I wondered if I looked out of place. Suddenly, my table’s waitress came out of the doors leading to the kitchen, walked over to me, and introduced herself, bringing me an ordering card. With a smile, she then walked back through the doors.
Now is when I got really lucky.
My table was practically RIGHT NEXT to the sound table set up in the floor’s middle, so I got to hear the lighting commands, and neat little things like that. But even BETTER, the other person at my table was the backup conductor for Williams! She was very nice, and when I saw the lack of Star Wars in the night’s program, I asked if there was a chance it could be an encore. First she said maybe, then she said no. I was disappointed, sure, but that would hardly ruin the evening. And besides, I later found out that Film Night is an annual event, so perhaps Star Wars would be next year.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed. A door that blended in perfectly with the white wall behind the stage opened (it was the wall to the audience’s right). There was grand applause as John Williams walked through the entrance, down an aisle that ran through the orchestra, and onto the conductor’s podium. He was smiling, and then quickly turned his back to us. The music started immediately.
After forty-one minutes and forty-three seconds of mostly film music (including clips from some of the films being played on three huge pieces of fabric that were rolled down to create a widescreen projection screen), the intermission came.
The intermission lasted for about 15 minutes, during which I wrote a note to John which was actually passed backstage. In it, I thanked him for everything he’s done, and asked if there was any way possible for Star Wars to be part of the possible encore. As the lights began to flicker again, I took my seat. After a few moments, the orchestra was back on stage, John receiving a second welcoming applause as he came out. He took his position at his podium, turned around to face the orchestra, and… stood there.
The room suddenly grew very dark, with dark purple lights lining the room’s front. Bright white lights flashed above. The sound of thunder rumbled throughout the hall as the “lightning’ continued to flash. This all paused for a moment, and one of Uncle Vernon’s lines from The Sorcerer’s//Philosopher’s Stone was played: “There’s no such thing as magic!”. One last flash, one last clap of thunder, and The Magic of Harry Potter suite began. Being a fan of Harry Potter and its music, hearing it live was very special to me. Of course, Star Wars would have been even bigger for me, but Harry Potter was still VERY significant. Lynn Redgrave was the guest narrator of the suite who gave an introduction to each piece with a summary of the piece’s scene/character. Her narrations were not too detailed, but not too generalized. It all ended with her proudly holding up a broomstick, which drew a few laughs along with applause for the entire concert.
And so, the concert ended… or so it was thought by those who left. Williams went backstage, but the final applause lasted for quite a few minutes. It grew louder (with even a few shouts) as he came through the doorway that he had come through at the beginning, and he took his position again. As the noise died down, he reminded us about Indiana Jones’ at-the-time upcoming release, which gained new applause and more shouts. First, he commented on how great Harrison Ford looked at sixty-five years old (some chuckles here), followed by saying “here’s a little piece from the new score…”. Yet more applause. He then told us about a character in the film named Mutt, and that Mutt had his own adventures, such as “swashbuckling”, and so this piece was from a “swashbuckling sequence”. Therefore, the piece was called “The Adventures of Mutt”.
It was a nice piece, cheery and fun, maybe even a bit cartoon-like in places. It ended with more applause, which lasted for quite a few moments. I noticed that although John had gone backstage yet again, the orchestra had remained on stage. Williams came out again, and it was here that I prayed my short letter had worked. But when all was silent again, and the next piece began, I recognized it as the Indiana Jones theme (which gained some shouts and claps as it began). There were actually as many whistles and shouts as there were claps when it ended. Williams went backstage again.
This time, the noise of the crowd lasted even longer still – about three minutes or so. John again emerged as the orchestra stayed put. The shouts were deafening, the claps were thunderous, everything was louder. The crowd grew silent- the next encore was ready to begin. The piece wasE.T.’s theme, which gained tons of shouts as the main tune was first played. It ended with a great bang from the orchestra, and the last applause rocked the entire hall. Shouts and whistles also continued to come. John left, the orchestra stayed. I couldn’t believe it when he again came out to his podium. I can’t describe the roar from the crowd. It was as if there was a bit of hope that was uniting everyone in the room. John stood before us for a moment – was he considering another piece? Suddenly, he put his hands together, put them over his shoulder, and rested his head on them, indicating sleep. Some people chuckled, some people sighed, but everyone understood. And so, the hall emptied. I was quick to take my copy of the night’s program, and took another from a deserted table, and also left. If I could get two autographs, one for myself, and the other for an autograph-holic friend of mine who had asked me to get one for her… that would be incredible.
Now, when I had written my note to John, I had gone out to the main hallway outside of the hall itself, found a spare piece of paper and a pen, written it, and had gone up a short flight of stairs to a platform-like level. There were some items of Symphony Hall history behind glass on display, and in the wall was a door leading to backstage. I hadn’t been able to get the note through that way, so I had handed it to the first violinist of the orchestra, who had passed the note along to a man who took it backstage. But now, I stood by that backstage door with several other people. Select groups of people were allowed through the door, through inside connections, I assumed. After a few moments, a woman came through the doorway and told us that Williams was not coming out this way. It seemed like a ploy to get us to leave, until she told us he was leaving through the backstage door outside, by his car. I then noticed the staircase on my right that had a door leading outside at its bottom.
There was a mini-competition between everyone there to get down the stairs and through the door first. I was third, behind two kids who I let get by. Using the logic that the outside backstage door would be in the same side of the building as the inside one, I walked along the crowded sidewalk filled with people leaving, went around the building’s corner, and there I saw a door with stairs leading down from it. The door was in the building’s side, and through it was an area of Symphony Hall that seemed to lead to off-limits areas. To the door’s right, on a metal plaque, were the words “STAGE DOOR”. Clear enough.
There were about a dozen people waiting with me around the door in the chilly Boston night air. A nice-looking black car was parked along the sidewalk’s edge – I guessed that it was Williams’. Meanwhile, members of the orchestra were leaving the building, exiting through the doorway either one or a few at a time. Nobody seemed to notice them, only waiting for Williams (I gave the orchestra members smiles of appreciation, as did a few other people). Suddenly, a woman came out and told us that Williams would not be signing autographs or having pictures taken with anyone. But nobody left as she went back inside.
We all waited for 15-30 minutes. I noticed one young boy had his “Star Wars Trilogy for Piano” book, and I wondered why Williams had not included Star Wars. This thought soon left as I tried to ignore the chilly breezes that came and went. Minute after minute passed, but not one person left. And finally, Williams (and his driver, who went straight to the car) came through the doorway. He was met with applause from all of us, with a couple “Yay!”’s.
“I know it’s cold, so I have a hat.” He said as he walked down the stairs from the door. He was holding a pen. First, he turned to the little boy with the piano book.
“You’re the reason I play piano!” The boy said. He seemed nervous, but not incredibly shy.
“Really?” John sounded touched, his soft, kind, sincere voice making everyone smile. He signed the boy’s book, and the grin on the child’s face made me wonder if his parents ever got him to go to bed that night. He then went to each fan at a time, spending the time to talk to each one.
“Would you mind a picture?” One asked.
“No, I wouldn’t mind at all!” John replied. I wished the woman who had said John wouldn’t sign anything or take pictures with anyone could have seen this, even if she had just said it to discourage us so that Williams wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
Several pictures were with various people taken by various people, and John continued to go around the circle of fans. He finally approached me.
“Hey!” I said in a friendly, yet nervous way. He instinctively raised his pen as I instinctively held the two programs up for him to sign (they were both open to page 16, the page with his mini-biography). “One is for me, and the other is for a friend of mine who’s an autograph nut.” I explained.
“There’s one…” John said as he handed me the first signed program. As this was happening, I wondered (and I still do) if I was too abrupt, or if my “Hey!” had been too sudden.
“I remember years ago, when I got The Phantom Menace soundtrack, I had Duel of the Fates on repeat over and over and over again…” John laughed here. “… and I still love it, so thanks, thank you for everything.” I had not just said this to save myself from the possibly messed up “hey” and autograph requests… I meant every word of it, and I could tell that John knew it as he gave me a big smile that told me that my words meant a lot to him. He then went on to the last person.
We had all already spent about five or ten minutes with John, and although he didn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry, we felt like we were taking too much of his time. Apparently we felt this quite strongly when we saved John a few seconds by taking a photo of John and myself, with two other guys who were friends who I didn’t know (and still don’t), instead of separate photos with each of us individually. But the picture was taken twice for us by another fan, once with the friends’ camera, and once with mine, so I still don’t understand the logic… but that’s what happens when one is caught up in a moment.
Making sure that each fan had had his or her turn, John then wished us well, said goodbye, and climbed into the back seat of his car. Someone else (I wondered if he was security) was sitting next to him. John closed the car door with a kind smile as we all said our goodbyes in a jumbled mess of words. The car sat still for a moment as we all waved for a bit. Most of us then began to slowly disperse. The car slowly pulled away. I waved to John one last time, he waved back, and the car drove off.
That night was unforgettable, an evening that will stay with me forever. During the time I was waiting for John, I learned from jwfan’s forum’s very own scottsinct, who was there as well, that this was an annual event. I then wanted to kick myself for not having heard of it in previous years. However, thank you, scottsinct, for assuring me that Williams was indeed coming out when I was getting doubtful. You sure know your stuff!
I look forward to going to next year’s concert, and who knows? Star Wars may even be included next time. But I guess that that is up to the Force. Until then, I can easily close my eyes and hear the music that thrilled me echo through the hall, or I can see the smile John gave me after he signed the programs. All of these moments are, for me, eternal.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and may the Force be with you!
THURSDAY, MAY 22
Review & Meeting John Williams, by ‘odnurega1’
On May 22, 2008, I had the opportunity to attend “Film Night” with the Boston Pops, conducted by film score composer John Williams. This was my second time viewing a program like this. I travelled to Boston a year earlier, in 2007, to visit and see the Pops perform. My initial reaction to the evening was one of joy. Nothing will ever capture the feeling that I felt when I first stepped into Symphony Hall a year ago, but I came very close to the same feelings. I enjoyed the program, although I felt it to be a bit weaker than the previous show I’d seen. The addition of Lynn Redgrave and a 35-minute Harry Potter Grande Suite was not as enjoyable as I thought it was going to be. I love some of the pieces that are included in the Suite (“Fawkes the Phoenix”, “Harry’s Wondrous World”, “Aunt Marge’s Waltz”), but in my opinion, some of the other pieces did not need to be made into concert arrangements (“The Knight Bus”, “Quidditch”). After the performance, I was able to meet with John Williams (again), and was fortunate enough to have him sign my Monsignor CD and snap a few photos with me. Overall, it was a great evening.
SYMPHONY HALL PRIVATE TOUR
Even before the concert began, I was lucky enough to be able to go on a free, private tour of Symphony Hall with the head of Marketing and Customer Service at Symphony Hall, Randie Harmon. The tour came about in an odd way. A few days before I flew to Boston, I sent Symphony Hall an email asking a) if there would be an open rehearsal for the program, b) if the Symphony Hall tours were still taking place, and c) if so, if I could take one of these tours. A few days later, I received an email saying that, unfortunately, there were no more tours taking place, and that the tours would resume in the fall. However, the woman who emailed me offered to take my mom and me on a private tour of Symphony Hall at 4:30 on Wednesday night, just a few hours before the actual concert that I would be seeing. I jumped at the opportunity, and immediately emailed her and told her that I would attend.
We arrived at Symphony Hall at 4:25 PM (always early!) and were met by an extremely rude security guard. He looked like he thought that my mother and I had no business walking into the stage door of Symphony Hall. After a few awkward minutes waiting for Mrs. Harmon, the tour began. Let me say before I begin…wow! I have seen areas of Symphony Hall not open to the public, and not seen on any tour offered by the establishment.
Our first stop was the long hallway in which all of the offices are for visitors, and yes, John Williams. Unfortunately, he was not present, nor was Lynn Redgrave, but I did get to peek through the windows of John’s office and Mrs. Redgrave’s dressing room. Very nice. After that, my mother and I were brought to the door that opens up to the actual stage in Symphony Hall (the one JW enters through at the beginning of the concert and after the intermission concludes). It was a surreal experience to be standing on the stage in Boston Symphony Hall. The notes for the orchestra members said “Boston Pops”, and the entire stage was set up for that evening’s performance. I wasn’t brave enough to ask if I could stand on the conductor’s stand, but let me tell you, I almost asked. At this point, I regret that I did not ask.
After leaving the actual stage, we went to the first floor of where the audience sits, the orchestra level. It was just me, my mom, and Mrs. Harmon in the entire hall. Another surreal, unbelievable moment. I managed to snap a picture of the stage, which I’ll try to figure out how to post here. Mrs. Harmon gave us a rundown of the history of the Hall, its creator, etc.
After that, we saw various other areas ;those not open to the public under normal circumstances were the Pop’s dressing room and green room, the kitchen in Symphony Hall, the area directly under the stage, the area behind and under the stage, various storage areas (including the storage areas for all the instruments), and more. The entire tour lasted 45 minutes, and Mrs. Harmon kept telling us “This isn’t normally on the tour”. She also told us something else that I found interesting. The BSO pays for most staff members and most orchestra members to make the move to Tanglewood for the amount of time that the concerts will be played there, including house and car rental.
After the tour was over, we returned to the hotel to reflect on all that we had just seen, and prepare for the concert that was to take place in a few hours. I have never felt so lucky in my life. I just happened to stumble upon a woman who was kind enough to give myself and my mom a private tour of Symphony Hall for free. It was so nice, so interesting, and an experience I’ll never forget.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CONCERT AND ITS PROGRAM
Now, onto the concert. As I said, I saw Wednesday night’s concert, so I imagine John Williams had time to tweak a few things that may have been amiss from the performances on Monday night. First, the [almost] bad: As I said earlier. I wasn’t too impressed with the program. Overall, it just didn’t seem cohesive. You went from very serious, dramatic music (Far and Away, Sabrina, “The Films of David Lean”) in the first half to fantabulous (haha) music in the second half, and it just didn’t jive with me. I had really thought that I was going to enjoy the Harry Potter Suite more than I did, but by the time we got to the 5th piece or so, I was ready tiring of the music. And I don’t really like to admit that, considering I am a huge fan of John Williams and his work. Lynn Redgrave wasn’t that bad, but the writing of the Grand Suite Narrative (Redgrave’s script) was very vague, and for the most part, did not match up with what Williams played. The clips shown did not match the music, or Redgrave’s blurb, and this was slightly annoying. The Good: Far and Away and Sabrina. These two pieces (Far and Away was actually one large piece made from various excerpts of the score) made the evening for me. I loved, LOVED them. In fact, if the “Harry Potter Grande Suite” had been played in the beginning of the program, and the more dramatic half played toward the end, I would probably be writing something different right now. The change from “Wuthering Heights” to Sabrina was welcome, and Williams seemed particularly excited about it. He stated that Sabrina is a very rare concert piece for him, and that we were in for a treat. Overall, I enjoyed the concert, but I did not like the program on the whole, for reasons stated above.
Having seen John Williams conduct for two years in a row now, I am glad to say that he looks in general good health and spirit. He seemed to be quite out of breath after conducting the Far and Away piece, while explaining “Sabrina”, but I do not mention this like it is a bad thing. I would be doing the same thing. I just remember it, that’s all. Don’t jump on me for saying it (lol). He was very excited about theIndiana Jones piece (“The Adventures of Mutt”), but he cut his encores short by eliminating “The Raider’s March”. At one point while Lynn Redgrave was reading her script he blew his nose, so I think he was feeling a bit under the weather. Not sure though, because he looked fine when I spoke to him an hour later.
MEETING JOHN WILLIAMS (AGAIN!)
After the concert, I headed over to the inside stage door. I saw people walking in, so I tried doing the same (as if I was part of the group), but the teenage usher stuck his hand in my face and stopped me. So much for the private tour of Johnny’s office. I waited for about 40 minutes with 7 or 8 other people (including one very annoying man who talked non-stop and acted like a know-it-all about JW), and then finally, John Williams emerged. He looked well, and he had that sparkle in his eye that makes him look 40 years younger than he actually is. He walked to a little girl that was present first, and this was amusing, because as soon as he walked out, she became very shy. She began looking down, and when he noticed this, he bent down as if to look up at her face. Very funny and enduring.
After he signed her program and spoke a few words with her, he turned to face me. I didn’t realize I would be, but I was about 7-12 inches from his face. Now that I think about it, he must have been crouching slightly, because I am shorter than him, but we were eye-to-eye. This year I was not so shell-shocked, and was able to form words and speak to him. I stuck out my hand and introduced myself (something I was mad about not doing last year), and told him I loved the concert. He thanked me, and I asked him to sign my Monsignor CD cover. He looked at it, and his eyes widened slightly, and he said “Oh, look at this”. I said something along the lines of “I know, this is one of your more lesser-known scores and I love it. I bet you don’t see it signed often”. He replied “No, I don’t, and I am glad you like it.” After he signed it, I asked if I could take a picture with him. He said “yes”, and as we began to get ready to take a picture (turn toward my mom with the camera), my mom snapped the picture, way too early. I think we were still facing each other at this point. He and I both laughed, my mom called herself a bad photographer, and then we took another, corrected picture. And that was it. I thanked him again, he walked on, and I headed out.
And now I am home. It was a fun experience, one that I will not forget. I did enjoy the program, but wish that the second half had been devoted to something other than HP. Meeting JW was a blast, and once again I say that he is the kindest person that I’ve ever met. When he walked out to greet us, he had his sharpie ready, and spent a few moments with each of us. Not all public figures do this, and the fact that JW does shows that he cares for his fans, and understands that he actually has fans. I’ll be there next year when John Williams conducts the Pops. I am very much looking forward to it.
SATURDAY, MAY 24
Concert Review by Jason LeBlanc
The first half of the program I couldn’t really get into, because I wasn’t familiar with any of those scores. When I go to see JW in concert, I want to see JW music, I don’t know anything about Zhivago, Oliver Twist, Lawrence of Arabia, etc. I kinda feel like I should see the movies now, though. Of course, he did play Sabrina and Far and Away in the first half, but I haven’t seen those movies or heard those scores either! *hangs head in shame*
Then there was an intermission before the second half started. Which was great! It was all Harry Pottermusic from the first 3 films. Sometimes a screen came down and images from the first four (yea, four) films were played during a piece… but not every piece. Also Lynn Redgrave “narrated” in between every piece but it was really silly little pointless things that were all over the place, from talking about things in the books to talking about how much the films grossed (?). In the end it wouldn’t have made a difference if she was there or not IMHO.
This was the first time I had heard the concert versions of Nimbus 2000, Diagon Alley, The Knight Bus, so that was really cool. Also, hearing Fawkes The Phoenix again was great… I had forgotten just how AMAZING that theme is. Gotta bust out my COS CD again now…
Anyway, then he came out for an encore. He started talking about Indy 4 and how it was now playing and that he thought we would all like it… and then somebody in the audience near us yelled “It was horrible!”. What a jackass! Luckily JW couldn’t have heard him from up front. Then he said (paraphrasing) “There is a character in the new movie named Mutt, well, his name… I’ll let you see the movie to discover the secret of his real name. But he has a sequence where he’s sort of sword fighting and swinging around on vines, and here is the music from it, Adventures of Mutt. You can find it in reel 6 I believe”
And then they played Adventures of Mutt. I was never too into AOM just based off the CD, but ever since seeing it live I have been loving it and listen to it often. Great piece!
This was followed by the Raiders March and Flying from E.T. I don’t think I will ever get sick of E.T.music…
Report and picture by Natalia Agüero
The concert in Boston the 24th of May was wonderful, not as good as the one in Pittsburgh in 2001, but I enjoyed it a lot. John Williams played Sabrina, it was very touching, cause he made a tribute to Sidney Pollack, who unfortunately a few days later, died. I feel very sorry about it.
He played Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia (I love this theme), Harry potter, and the best part was when he played Indy 4, The Adventures of Mutt.
We just came from Los Angeles, where me and my boyfriend watched the premiere of Indy 4, in ArcLights Cinemas.
At the end of the concert, we could see just a little moment how John Williams took the car, and vanished in the night.
Wonderful seeing him again, after all these years.
There’s only one thing I regret, which is that people in the middle of the concert were eating and drinking, here in Europe that would never happen. It’s impossible to me, listen to a marvelous concert, music, and hear glasses noise, and people eating. I think this shoud be forbidden. It’s just an opinion.