E.T., Hook, Indiana Jones, Attack of the Clones… and a meeting with the Maestro!
Boston Symphony Hall, May 28, 2002
The Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by JOHN WILLIAMS
‘John Williams’ 70th Birthday Celebration’
Review by Johnny Ecks
Well, I am now back from this trip. So sad that months and months of planning and anxiously waiting, and it was all over in a matter of 2 hours. So short for something so special.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good writer. I am very non-professional, I am not the perfect speller and I have a tendency to ramble and write run-ons. I would like to apologize for this in advance.
In case anyone cares, here are some of my thoughts about the show.
Just a little background. Earlier in the week, I had called the box office and asked to speak to the theater manager. Thinking that he would be the person who would be able to get me in to see Mr. Williams. I have waited and waited at back doors, and stage doors numerous times trying to get autographs and/or pictures and have either been bum rushed by fifty or so other people that I am lost in the crowd, or they have never come out. I didn’t want this to happen this time around. So, I figured I would try to get in from the inside, so to speak. After I got him on the phone, I started into my fan-ramble (Listened to him since I was 6, have all of his recordings avail on cd, he is my fav. composer, he got me to appreciate music and in doing so changed my life…yadda yadda yadda…usuall fan-fledged ramblings), and he interupted me and told me that if I was going to start to pitch a meeting that he was going to put me in contact with Mr. Williams’ assistant. Ok, I said. Thinking ‘this is it, it will finally happen’, I was put on hold. Then I got a voice mail. I pitched again, leaving phone numbers and email addresses and for them to PLEASE back to me.
The next day came and went, and I didn’t get a response. I called back the next day, and left the message again. No response.
Head held low, chin to my chest, I came to Boston. I was gonna get to see Williams in concert which is good enough, but I had no definate answer if I was gonna get to meet him. Oh well. Another loss, I thought.
First off, I LOVE the BSO Hall. Wonderfull seats, (Row 8 on the floor, with the tables, all the way on the right hand side), and EXCEPTIONAL acoustics (for which the hall is known for…) the only thing that I have a problem with, is that the waiters and waitresses are CONSTANTLY moving about, pouring and delivering drinks and the like even during the show, creating a slight distraction. There are even instances where they walked over a rather annoying, creaking floorboard several times. I mean, couldnt’ they mark that area and…..gasp….step OVER it.
Also, I guess it’s because of the ‘relaxed’ atmosphere of the Pops concerts that some people become SO relaxed that they don’t MIND talking amognst each other…………during the show. I almost slugged the table behind me. They were talking, snickering, and just creating a distraction during none other than the quieter moments of the “Mission Theme”.
Other than those two instances, the rest of the night went PERFECTLY. Here is a short, unless I start rambling which is quite possible, review of the night.
My parents and I got to the theater about 40 mins. before the show, and there was already a large crowd forming around the theater, naturally. I was surprised that there was quite a number of ‘older’ folks. I was expecting a larger crowd of younger people (much like myself), but I guess that the general poplulace of the season ticket holders to the BSO, are older couples. This didn’t bother me, just surprised me.
Untill this night, I had never been to the B.H. before but I have seen broadcasts on T.V. and what not. I must say, that this is an absolutey beautiful hall. From the old wood, and creaky, floor to the chairs, to the lighting, and the sculptures up in the walls. And the high ceilings…..woah…I was impressed. It was just as beautiful in real life as it was on TV. Well, we were led to our table where we were promptly introduced to our waiter who asked us if we wanted anything to drink or eat before the show. We declined. We were gonna save the wine until right before the show started. Well, after a gruelingly long wait the lights were finally dimmed, the Orchestra was ready, I was practically drooling, and finally….he came out.
He didn’t start talking or anything, he just went right into:
Olympic Fanfare and Theme
Lots of applause. More than I would’ve expected. Some whoops, and cheers as well. I was hoping he would start talking. He is a funny guy, and he usually offers some little talk in between pieces. He said nothing.
Excerpts from “Fidder on the Roof”
My mother turned to me and, I thought, was going to say “I didn’t know he did this”. Instead she turned to me and said “Oh, this is great”. My mother was even having a good time already! I don’t own this cd, but now I will. This was great music! And the lead violinists’ solo performance was CAPTIVATING. She was incredible. Tamara Smirnova was her name. I will have to remember this, look her up in my BSO recordings.
Again, not talking, just right back to the music.
Adventures On Earth (E.T……like I need to tell you that)
Ahhh……. I almost cried. This is my favorite score, this was my first movie that I can remember seeing in the theater. This film means so much to me. It got me involved in theater, film, and made me start to appreciate film music. All at the tender age of 6! THis was by far the best performance I’ve ever heard of this.
LOTS of applause and cheering this time.
Then, and intermission.
Another glass of wine, and we were ready to begin again. Next up was:
Flight To Neverland
This is a lot of fun. A great concert piece. The audience loved it.
The Reivers (Narrated by Senator Alan Simpson).
Williams said that this man was one of the nicest people he ever met. He certainly seemed it. He was a great speaker.
I had never heard any of the narration to this before, nor have I seen the movie. But I definatly own the music. I will now have to see the movie. This performance was great.
And yet another intermission. And glass of wine!
The Mission Theme
This one started just like it did when I saw him in Pittsburgh last year. With laughter from the audience. I think that once the “non-educated, non-Williams” fans realize that this was the (laugh) NBC News theme, that they must giggle. I can’t complain. I did as well, because of them. I was giddy with delight. Until the table behind me opened their mouths. They were lucky I didn’t shove my Champagne bottle………..nevermind.
Theme From Schindler’s List
Just as good as what you would think. Another great performance by Tamara, first Violinist.
Theme from Jaws
This was the best performance of this as well. The bass’ and Tuba’s sounded MAGNIFICENT in this. Nice and deep in just the right places. Wow, sounds like a porn film.
Then with giddy anticipation he went into:
The Imperial March
I almost leaped out of my seat and cheered. This is my favorite “concertized” piece of his. I truly love it. It makes the “JW Conducts JW: Star Wars Trilogy” disc of mine by Sony worth it to me.
LOTS of applause, cheers, and the like. I almost shouted “We love you”. BUT, I am not THAT kind of fan.
Ya know, the crazy lurking in the shadows kind. I didn’t want to be thought that I was.
Next up was:
Across The Stars
PERFECTION. Beautiful. Amazing. Brilliant. Words cannot convey how wonderfull this piece is, and was performed.
Star Wars: Main Theme
Okay, I almost lurched out of my seat. This was the final piece, and that opening blast of notes just about had me roaring with delight.
The perfect closing, to the perfect night.
Or was it.
It continued. Read on…………
After a standing ovation, he came back out with a surprise. KEITH LOCKHART, who if you don’t know, conducts the Pops now. Keith replaced Williams, who replaced Arthur Fiedler.
Keith, after stopping the audience who wouldn’t stop applauding (myself included), told the audience that John was celebrating a rather big event. “I won’t tell you HOW big of an event, but it’s big”. Williams laughed, as so did everyone else. Everyone knows that it was his birthday. Well, back in Feb., but still. Birthdays for celebrities continue longer than the average populace.
“We have a special chorus for you”, Keith said. There was some loud yells, and laughter, and I looked behind me……and what do I see? None other than Grand Moff Tarkin, Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett, and about 8 stormtroopers walk in. It was INCREDIBLE. On stage Darth Vader, with Darth Maul carrying a birthday cake came out onto stage and flanked Lockhart, and Williams.
Then we all sang Happy Birthday. It was a very special time. I must say, we sounded great! How can 1,000 people sing badly? Heh.
Ok, so I exaggerate. I don’t know how many people exactly.
Well, a lot more applause, and they left. Then WIlliams said that he would conclude the night with two special pieces, the first being the “nice” theme from:
The Accidental Tourist
Yes, I must agree with him. Very nice. Perfectly played.
Then more applause, and the finale….
Raiders of the Lost Ark
This brought the audience into applause overload. We couldn’t hold it in. We were bursting from the seams. We started clapping 10 secs. into the piece.
We were in absolute OVERKILL mode afterwards. Standing ovations, someone blew him a kiss and he blew it back, cheers, yells, everything. It was great. He walked out………………. we continued……………the he…………grabbed his baton and everyone SCREAMED. YAY. One more!!!!
Concluding the night, the way the Pops always did. With:
The Stars and Stripes Forever
The audience clapped along with the beat, until he quieted us. Then, at the right moment, he turned and conducted US. Telling us to clap along. We did, and then he cut us off again. The clarinet soloists popped up and played their piece, they sat down, we applauded, they stood back up to thank us while playing, and sat back down again. Then during the conclusion of the piece the back row of brass stood up and a giant American flag dropped from the ceiling. We all SCREAMED with delight, and clapped harder than we ever did. This was very touching, considering everything that has gone on lately.
More standing ovations, and LOTS more applause.
And then like that………. he was gone.
We all gathered out coats…….and oh yeah, I forgot to tell you……..
This afternoon, I got a call from his assistant. She apologized for not getting back to us sooner, but she placed my parents and I on the backstage guest list. I’m telling ya, I could’ve proposed to her right then and there. So, we were now off to see him.
We went to the stage door, where a crowd of eager fans (I’ve been THERE before, I felt their pain) were gathering, and we knocked on the door, asked our names, I told them, and they let us in. I could FEEL the angered eyes piercing our backs.
We then went up a rickety, tight flight of stairs where we were told to wait. He was enjoying his birthday cake, and getting pictures taken with the Stormtroopers, Lockhart, and the Senetor who read from The Rievers.
Then after about 20 mins. of waiting, we were told we could go on.
There he was.
My musical GOD.
Standing there, looking at ME! In his patented Black Trousers and black turtleneck!!!!
I was so nervous. I probably looked like an idiot.
I shook his hand, and gave him my pitch of how big of a fan I am. He patiently listened, and once I got to the part where E.T. is my fav. movie and fav. musical score he smiled and started to tell me about the concert in L.A. where he performed it live. I said I really wanted to be there, and he told me that it was such a nice evening. He then looked at my parents and said “Are they with you?”. I was so involved in standing there, looking at my idol that I completely forgot to introduce my parents. I did, they shook his hand. My mother said “He is such a fan, that if he hears something of yours come on the radio or cd, he can guess it after only a couple of notes”. Ahhh…mothers. She is so right. I can. He laughed. I laughed. I was nervous. My hands were shaking, and sweating. I asked him if he would mind if I got a picture or two and an autograph. He very sweetly said “I would be delighted to John”. OH he remembered my name! Not that it’s a hard name, but he must hear this EVERY DAY. The countless fans swooning over him!
I pulled out my 20th Anniversary E.T. liner notes, and showed him to give meaning to our conversation about E.T. to sorta show…..see, it IS my fav. of all time! He smirked, and I opened it up, fumbled for my pen. He had his own. He signed the inside picture. He just signed his name. It was great. Then he asked if I wanted a picture. Oh Yes, I said. I gave my mother the camera, and showed her how to use it. I prayed that the batteries wouldn’t go dead, and that she could figure out how to use the camera (it’s a digital one). Willams stood next to me and put my arm around my shoulders. I put my arm around his waist. It was WONDERFUL. My mother snapped a picture that shows me in my happiest state EVER. We shook hands again, I said that I was very thrilled to be there and to thank him, and he was VERY kind and said “Thank You, it is my pleasure”. And then we were leaving. We were told to go down another set of stairs, and so we did. We were led to the inside of the hall where we first gave our names to go see him. There standing was about fifty fans. All wanting autographs. They were all staring at my parents and me. I thought i was gonna be bum rushed.
If any of you were there, and saw me come out. I’m sorry!!!!! I felt bad. I have been there before.
This concluded my perfect stay in Boston. I am leaving tomorrow, but I will NEVER forget this night. I don’t know if I will ever wash my right hand again! Heheh……
I hope you all enjoyed the first review I’ve ever written. I’m sorry if it is difficult to read, for I am not a scholar. Just a regular fan, posting a regular review.
Take care everyone. And keep listening to the Maestro’s masterpieces.
— Johnny Ecks