Chicago, August 20 & 21, 2008

Chicago Symphony Center, Chicago, IL
August 20 & 21, 2008
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS
Yo-Yo Ma, Cello

‘Memoirs of a Geisha’

UPDATED with new pictures, courtesy of Ayaz Asif

(These concerts were recorded live for a future release by Sony/BMG Masterworks)


  • Arnaud/Williams – Bugler’s Dream – Olympic Fanfare and Theme
  • Williams – Song for World Peace
  • Williams – The Olympic Spirit
  • Williams – Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Williams – Flight to Neverland from Hook
  • Williams – Three Pieces from Indiana Jones
    – The Adventures of Mutt
    – Irina’s Theme
    – The Raiders March


  • Williams – Sound The Bells!
  • Williams – Memoirs of a Geisha, Suite for Cello and Orchestra
    – Sayuri’s Theme
    – Going to School
    – The Chairman’s Waltz
    – Brush on Silk
    – Chiyo’s Prayer
    – Becoming a Geisha
  • Williams – Elegy for Cello and Orchestra
  • Williams – Flying Theme from E.T. The Extraterrestrial


  • Williams – The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back
  • Williams – Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Williams – March from Superman
  • Williams – Hands to Cheek to say ‘Goodnight’

Concert Review by DU Lou

The Chicago Symphony gave another amazing two evenings with maestro John Williams. Some of the few highlights of the program are as follows:

The Song for World Peace was a new arrangement. The piece had an expanded beginning with various soloists and the brass section. Additionally the finale as heard on the Call of the Champions CD was actually played twice, even more triumphantly the second time. I had absolute chills running down my spine.

Besides of course John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma had energy, charisma, and a definite presence that filled Symphony Center. He connected with Williams and the musicians around him as well as the audience.

“Sayuri’s Theme” was the same arrangement that was performed by the Chicago Symphony back in November and subsequently broadcast over the Internet for everyone to hear.

The arrangement for “Going to School” was in the same spirit as the piano and cello piece heard on iTunes, except in this case arranged for full orchestra. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“The Chairman’s Waltz” took my breath away. The duet between Yo-Yo Ma and Robert Chen (concertmaster) was utterly beautiful.

“Becoming a Geisha” started out similarly to what is heard on the original soundtrack but the similarity ends there. It was definitely the appropriate finale to The Suite for Memoirs of a Geisha.

Ma and Williams surprised the audience with an encore, Elegy for Cello and Orchestra. It was very warm and heartfelt, a delight to hear live despite the circumstances surrounding the composition.

The only two negatives that stood out from these concerts (and really any concert for that matter) were:
1. 98% of the patrons applauded between the suites.
2. The coughing, sniffles, chair creeks, and whispers, from the surrounding patrons that can be a real distraction from the performance.

Other than those two minor annoyances, I had two unforgettable evenings with Maestro John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Concert Review by ‘Fiery Angel’

I attended the first concert with Doug Adams who said that “Irina’s Theme” was fleshed out more than what was represented on CD. I have not heard that score enough to know the difference but it was beautifully played by the CSO. Also, “Marion’s Theme” in the encore is a new version composed by Williams for Indy 4. It was quite amazing where he takes the theme.

I thought the concert was amazing also. Geisha was hypnotic but I do agree that some of the noisier patrons disrupted the quiet candenza’s that Ma played during various parts. Why don’t people bring some water in if they have a dry mouth? Oh well. that’s a rhetorical question.

We had box seats so our view of Williams was really excellent for the concert. In fact, I could discriminate between the conductor’s scores he was reading off of! I wasn’t aware prior to this concert that he used the Signature Series full scores for some of his conducting. I could clearly see theSuperman Signature score that he used during the final encore.

Between this concert and the Detroit one in April, I feel damn lucky to have been able to see the maestro three times in a single year (I also attended the rehearsal in Detroit).

One thing to note- Doug mentioned that there were quite a few subs playing for the CSO because of the time of year this concert was held at. Their normal A-listers (mostly from the string section) were off. I still think the CSO sounded amazing though so it’s kind of scary to think that this was their 2nd line as the saying goes!