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David Coscina

John Williams luncheon/rehearsal update Detroit 2008

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The rehearsal and luncheon that the DSO held today in honor of John Williams was great! The rehersal began at 10:00am and Williams started with The Cowboys overture. Not much had to be fixed on that and the DSO played through the whole piece before Williams went back to specific areas that needed cleaning up. Next was Close Encounters and that too was played marvelously by the orchestra. The Harry Potter segment needed a little more work as the orchestra had some minor issues with Hedwig's Theme and Harry's Wondrous World. At one point, it sounded as thought he harp player had a part that was wrong in a section or note. She asked if she should be playing a Bb or B natural and then I could of sworn Williams said "gosh, I hope the part isn't wrong". I was up in the balcony so it was hard to hear.

Next up was the Monsters, Maidens and Heroes (or something to that effect) piece which sounded pretty good. And then the orchestra broke for lunch as did we. I was sort of surprised that Williams himself was not eating at the luncheon and only came out to address the patrons after desert. HOWEVER, I recorded some of his speech as my wife and I were sitting close to the stage. I didn't zoom in though and the audio needs some boosting which I will work on when I get home on Sunday then post on YouTube for you all to see (for those who are interested). Williams talked a little bit about finishing up Indiana Jones (he's still working on it from the sounds of it!). Then he was wisked off the stage so he could have a turkey sandwich. One or two fans got the chance to get an autograph and picture but he did not remain long enough for me to get over there. Perhaps tomorrow night.

So anyhow, that's the report. Did see a few younger patrons but wasn't sure who from this forum was there. See you guys tomorrow night!

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I wouldn't be surprised if Williams is still doing some touch-up work. Spielberg likes to include him in all phases of music and post-production, unlike Lucas.

Ted

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When I found out (on first arriving) that the luncheon would be INTERRUPTING the rehearsal, I spoke to the woman coordinating the event to express my disappointment. Of course, I told her, my first priority was attending the rehearsal. She told me she'd make an effort to see if I could be served at the conclusion of the luncheon rather than the commencement, and she turned out to be good to her word.

In any event, I did not leave with the majority of the patrons at the break. A number of folks stayed behind, in fact, and caught the second half of the rehearsal. It was here revealed that the three encores Williams was preparing were Sayuri's Theme from Memoirs, Olympic Spirit and the Raiders March. He only rehearsed the first two. He also did not rehearse the Star Wars Main Theme. ("Let's let it sound a little spontaneous," he joked -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- "That's a challenge for me these days.") He did rehearse the train chase from Last Crusade, but not to picture -- which I found nice, actually, just taking the music on its own merits.

Williams ultimately dismissed most of the orchestra, and most of the remaining patrons left the hall. I stuck around to hear him run the woodwind section through Nimbus 2000. After that, he took a breather, and I approached the stage for a handshake, an autograph (for Images, which elicited an "Oh my!"), and a few quick words. A few members from JWFan had stuck around as well, and Williams walked down to the edge of the stage to greet them, sign a few CDs, and even posed for a few photos.

Then it was off to the luncheon, where I was pleased to find that my meal had indeed been held. A few minutes later, Williams entered, was introduced, and delivered his address. I plan on writing more later, probably as part of a larger article for FSM (I've been promising them a second concert article for AGES), but I just want to note that Williams seemed very happy to be in Detroit. His praise for the orchestra during rehearsal was effusive, and he seemed overall more casual and at ease than I've seen him before.

(BTW, the box seats were open for the taking! I had a nice, close side-view of Williams as he conducted, and could hear every word he said to the orchestra.)

He's probably doing the concert arrangement? He usually does that after finishing a score.

In a nutshell, he said they just finished editing the recorded tracks to picture yesterday, and they're going to give it one more pass for minor tweaking and polishing before they send it out on Tuesday. AFAIK, this is a phase of production that Williams *usually* isn't that involved in -- but it's easy to see where that could be different on a Spielberg/Lucas project.

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Any "health alert" concerns?

None that I could discern. He seemed hale as ever. He held his back a few times (wouldn't any of us!) and did his typical "lean against the podium rail with one hand" move that he's been doing since the 70s. After the concert, he laughingly commented that if the fans wanted a photo they would have to climb up, since he certainly wasn't climbing down. And he made a joke at the luncheon about Spielberg having him under contract until 2020, and him protesting that he wouldn't be here in 2020. (To which *I'd* say, tell Christopher Lee an artist can't do great work into his late 80s!) But the dominant tone was one of energy and enthusiasm. Williams described the morning as "joyous" at one point, and that's the impression he conveyed.

(He DID wipe his nose at one point during ET... Perhaps he was simply overcome with emotion. :lol: )

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He's probably doing the concert arrangement? He usually does that after finishing a score.

In a nutshell, he said they just finished editing the recorded tracks to picture yesterday, and they're going to give it one more pass for minor tweaking and polishing before they send it out on Tuesday. AFAIK, this is a phase of production that Williams *usually* isn't that involved in -- but it's easy to see where that could be different on a Spielberg/Lucas project.

Thanks for the reply, it's good to hear he's working so closely in this project.

Congrats for meeting the maestro!!! :lol:

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It's nice to see that Williams is overseeing the final phase of the score editing personally.Maybe he regrets not doing so in the Prequels .I hope he can keep Ben Burtt at bay this time .

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Nice report Fiery Angel and sundry!

Did you shake the Cat's hand?

I think John got a chance. I was whisked away to the luncheon before I had a chance to ask about staying for the remainder of the rehearsal. I'll try to see if I can get an autograph tonight after the performance. I know where the dressing room is since I was able to talk to John Adams for a spell after the concert he gave back in 2000.

p.s. the video that I shot WILL be uploaded onto YouTube when I get home on Sunday. It's not great quality as I took it from a Canon digital camera which has movies as an after-thought and I was holding it at my chest to make it look like I was merely holding it not recording when the maestro was talking. But it's nice to have something from the day. Does anyone know if iMovie can zoom in on shots? It might just be the display size but even though I was seated close to the stage, the maestro still looks far away on the recording.

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Hey everyone!!

What a great time we had at the rehearsal. It was definitely a day that I will never forget because it was my first time seeing/hearing Williams live.

I enjoyed meeting John, Ray, and his brother at the event, and I think I saw Fiery Angel, but before I thought about going up to him, the doors to the luncheon opened and I ran in!! Anyway, Fiery Angel, I think I know what you look like, so if I see you at tonight's concert, I'll make a point to introduce myself and talk to you. :)

WOW....there's just so much to say about yesterday's event!!! Hearing Williams talk to the orchestra and go over the "weak" parts was very cool.

Yes, I did get a chance to shake his hand, talk with him briefly, have him sign my JP CD, and pose for a photo with him. It was truely a great experience and I consider myself very lucky to meet him the first time that I've seen him in person.

JW has one of the best personalities and he seems just like an ordinary person who anyone could just go up to and talk to and Williams wouldn't mind one bit. I would say that JW spent a significant amount of time just meeting the 4-8 people for autographs and photos, even though he only really spent a few minutes with each person. He didn't have to do anything, but he did because he is EXTREMELY professional and is just one of the nicest people I've ever met.

I woke up this morning and I thought to myself.......what the hell did I just do yesterday.....I met THE BEST film composer ever in person and I heard/saw him live!!!!! I surely didn't deserve this and this whole experience has been very humbling.

I took photos and audio of his speech, meetings, and rehearsal performance so give me a few days to prep the stuff for you guys.

I have so much more to say about this event, so I'll be writing a bunch more on this thread in the future.

I can't wait for tonight's performance!!! Everyone out there.......enjoy yourself and take care. ;)

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After that, he took a breather, and I approached the stage for a handshake, an autograph (for Images, which elicited an "Oh my!"), and a few quick words.

:) If I ever meet Williams I'm going to ask him to sign my Goblet of Fire CD.

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If I ever meet Williams I'm going to ask him to sign my Goblet of Fire CD.

I wouldn't recommend that, Henry Buck.

What do you think Williams would do if someone actually came up to him with that? Thats like shoving a Bible in an atheist's face.

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I got home from the concert last night around midnight, and it was great! I’ll go through the rehearsal and luncheon from yesterday first, hopefully without reiterating too much of what's already been discussed.

I attended the rehearsal/luncheon with my brother Michael (aka "Sturgis_Podmore" on the board), and we sat in the box seats which are just below the balcony level and wrap all the way around to the sides of the hall. Specifically, we sat in the fourth box on the left, and were pretty close to the stage. There was an older gentleman a couple boxes away from us with his back turned, who actually looked a lot like Williams from the back, but with darker hair. We were almost sure it wasn’t him, since he was just sitting there doing a crossword as the orchestra warmed up, but the idea of it was pretty funny since he looked so similar. He eventually got up and walked past us, confirming that he was not, in fact, John Williams.

The rehearsal began promptly at 10:00 AM, with a brief introduction to the audience (which was probably no more than a hundred people). Then Williams came out to much applause from the orchestra and audience, and began the rehearsal with The Cowboys Overture. I was blown away from the start – the orchestra sounded wonderful, and it was as if I was listening to the recording (except much more breathtaking, of course, being live). They also rehearsed Excerpts from Close Encounters, "Hedwig’s Theme," "Harry’s Wondrous World," and the "Monsters, Beauties, and Heroes" medley. Williams didn’t stop the orchestra much, and worked on very few things with them. He remarked frequently about how great they were playing. Here are some pics of the rehearsal:

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The orchestra warming up

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Williams arriving at the stage

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Introducing Williams to the orchestra

At around 11:00, the orchestra took a break, and people started exiting the hall to go to the luncheon. We wanted to be sure and see as much of Williams as possible, and were told by an usher that we could come back to the rehearsal after eating, and then return to the luncheon for Williams’ appearance following the practice. We went to the luncheon with Vince (“vmw331”), who we’d met before the rehearsal. The food was good, but we were anxious to get back and see Williams continue the rehearsal, so we left after a bit and went back into the hall. This time, we decided to sit up close on the main level, since no one seemed to be governing who sat where. We settled into the fifth row or so, with a great view of Williams as he conducted “The Olympic Spirit” and “Adventures on Earth.”

As the rehearsal came to a close, Williams spent a short time with just the woodwinds on “Nimbus 2000.” During this time, we noticed that John Takis (who we’d also briefly met beforehand) was waiting near the stage with some items to be autographed. Following his lead, we made our way to the edge of the stage, not sure how things would work out (but hopeful!). I had the Star Wars CD cover and Michael had Prisoner of Azkaban, in case we’d be able to get autographs. As Williams sat gathering some papers in the front row of the orchestra after he finished with the woodwinds, a few orchestra members came to him for autographs, and John Takis climbed up onto the stage to prepare to catch Williams as he left. We edged closer to the stage, and were joined by some official lady who passively tried to get us to leave. We just ignored her though, and soon Williams had made his way to right in front of us on the stage.

After talking some more with a couple people from the orchestra and signing an autograph for John Takis, he approached the few of us who had gathered at the edge of the stage, very nicely said hello, and asked if we had anything for him to sign. A tad awestruck, we handed him our album covers, and I stammered something about how we were thrilled that he had come to Michigan. As he finished up, I threw caution to the wind and asked if it would be possible to get a quick picture with him. He looked around and said something like “Oh, well how can you get up here?” since he was on the stage and we were still below him. Undaunted, we climbed up onto the stage with a single step (fueled by our racing adrenaline at the thrill of it all, no doubt) as Williams humorously remarked, “If I tried to get down there, I’d never get back up again!” We posed for a few pictures, and thanked him profusely. He was so gracious to grant us his time like that – truly a classy guy! It was a huge thrill for me as you can imagine, and I feel really fortunate to have had such an opportunity.

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Signing autographs

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The brother, Williams, and me

Following all that excitement, we went back to the luncheon, where Williams arrived shortly and was introduced by Anne Parsons, President and Executive Director of the DSO, and also apparently a great friend of Williams. She gave him a glowing introduction, and when he took to the mic he affectionately named her as one of his “three favorite women in the world,” aside from his wife Samantha. He talked a bit about how they were currently finishing the music editing for Indy 4 and how great the DSO was, and then proceeded to tell two of the most oft-heard anecdotes about his collaboration with Steven Spielberg: the editing of the last reel of E.T. to fit his music, and the “You’re gonna need a better composer than me for this film” / “I know, but they’re all dead” exchange regarding Schindler’s List. Of course the crowd just ate this up, having never heard it before, and it was fun to hear such an enthusiastic response to such a familiar story. I have some low-quality video of this from my digital camera, which I’ve uploaded, though the audio isn’t very clear. Anyway, he then thanked us all for coming and left the podium, politely stopping to sign another couple autographs on the way out.

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Introducing Williams

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The start of Williams' talk (it cuts off right at the beginning of the E.T. story)

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The Schindler's List story

It was a pretty amazing experience all around, and it was nice meeting the other few JWFanners who were there! I’ll post a bit about the concert itself later.

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If I ever meet Williams I'm going to ask him to sign my Goblet of Fire CD.

I wouldn't recommend that, Henry Buck.

What do you think Williams would do if someone actually came up to him with that?

He would sign it without even noticing I'm sure.

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Sweet report, Ray!! :lol:

Again, I enjoyed meeting you, your brother, and John Takis at the event.

I will post my recap of the event soon.

BTW, that was an excellent experience at last night's concert, wouldn't you say? :baaa:

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Thanks for posting your pictures, Ray Barnsbury - how lucky you are to have met JW!

I believe that the DSO played the same program as last year's program in Columbus (which I didn't attend, but which is posted on this site).

In the "Monsters, Beauties & Heroes" medley, I think I heard "An Affair To Remember", "Jaws", "Superman" and one other theme ("Robin Hood"??). Does anyone know what themes are in this piece or whether it's available on any of the compilation albums?

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Thanks for the comments, guys!

Sweet report, Ray!! :)

Again, I enjoyed meeting you, your brother, and John Takis at the event.

It was nice meeting you too, Vince! Looking forward to your recap.

I thought I'd post a little about the concert itself, which I really enjoyed. I thought the orchestra performed extremely well, with only a few very minor flubs. The Orchestra Hall is also gorgeous, with intricate artwork and ornamentations covering the walls and ceiling.

Here's the evening's program:

JW-1.jpg

It was a nice selection of pieces, and identical to programs he's performed several times before at other venues; it seems to be a kind of packaged deal. I'd think that Williams would want to switch things up a bit more than he tends to, for his own enjoyment, but there are no complaints on my end. Seeing and hearing such classics performed live under the direction of the Maestro himself is just incredible.

Williams took the stage to the usual thunderous applause, and with a brief show of thanks to the audience, turned to the orchestra and dove right into The Cowboys Overture. As I posted earlier, the piece was performed maginificently, and it sounded virtually identical to the concert recording we're all used to. Though I've always liked the piece, hearing it like this gave me a new appreciation for its sense of fun and wonder. The horn section in particular was terrific with all the renditions of that rapid opening fanfare and the soaring melody in the middle of the piece (gotta love that monstrous trill at the end too!).

Close Encounters was great too - the finale never fails to blow me away, and it was played well. Williams then gave a short introduction to the Harry Potter suite (and he didn't even refer to Hedwig as a "he" this time!). It was interesting to watch the celeste player in "Hedwig's Theme," and he tackled those wicked runs with spot-on accuracy. "Nimbus 2000" was the woodwind-only arrangement, which is nice, although I prefer the full-blown incarnation from "Hedwig's Theme." "Harry's Wondrous World" was performed well also.

Closing the first half of the concert was "Adventures on Earth," probably my favorite Williams piece, and certainly one of the best and most classic pieces of film music ever. The abbreviated concert arrangment doesn't quite have the flow of the film version, but it's wonderful to hear nonetheless. I was delighted to see the French horn players put their horns up for the final fanfare, and again, they played marvelously.

"Monsters, Beauties, and Heroes" opened the second half of the concert. It's a medley of several famous film themes, including music from Jaws, Casablanca, Robin Hood, and Superman. I especially liked hearing Superman, as Williams doesn't seem to perform it much. The piece was accompanied by an unnecessary and pretty poorly-edited montage, but it was fun to listen to at least.

The screen stayed down for the opening of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Williams did the explanation of all the various hit-points that he's done several times before at past concerts. We watched the scene first without music, as Williams pointed out on-screen actions that would require some kind of musical hit or flourish, and then again as the orchestra played along. It was a terrific demonstration, even knowing already how the process works, and it was nice to hear a work that wasn't a straighforward concert arrangement. As a side note, Williams showed his age by referring to the lion in the circus car as a tiger, as he was looking right at it...twice. :lol:

The Theme from Schindler's List came next and was fine, but not outstanding for me. The solo violinist didn't stand and wasn't credited in the program, and though she payed competently, she didn't seem like anything too amazing. After all the excitement of the surrounding pieces, this was a bit of a slow spot.

Finally, Williams wrapped things up with the Suite from Star Wars, which was comprised of "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)," "Princess Leia's Theme" (the horn solo here was just beautiful), and of course, "Main Title." This was all a great crowd-pleaser, and the applause continued as Williams left the stage a few times before coming out to perform the encores. First was "Sayuri's Theme," which I've always thought was an odd choice for an encore. Then came "The Olympic Spirit" with another video montage, and finally, "The Raiders March." Again, everything was played solidly. Williams left us with his trademark pointing at both the orchestra and the audience as if to say "It's you, this is all about you!" and his famous "I'm tired and need to go to bed" gesture, through the applause. All in all, it was a really enjoyable time, and I think it's pretty amazing for someone of Williams' stature to have donated his services to the orchestra. I'm sure thankful he took the time to come to Michigan, and hope it's not the last time he does so!

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As the rehearsal came to a close, Williams spent a short time with just the woodwinds on “Nimbus 2000.” During this time, we noticed that John Takis (who we’d also briefly met beforehand) was waiting near the stage with some items to be autographed. Following his lead, we made our way to the edge of the stage, not sure how things would work out (but hopeful!). I had the Star Wars CD cover and Michael had Prisoner of Azkaban, in case we’d be able to get autographs. As Williams sat gathering some papers in the front row of the orchestra after he finished with the woodwinds, a few orchestra members came to him for autographs, and John Takis climbed up onto the stage to prepare to catch Williams as he left. We edged closer to the stage, and were joined by some official lady who passively tried to get us to leave. We just ignored her though, and soon Williams had made his way to right in front of us on the stage.

After talking some more with a couple people from the orchestra and signing an autograph for John Takis, he approached the few of us who had gathered at the edge of the stage, very nicely said hello, and asked if we had anything for him to sign. A tad awestruck, we handed him our album covers, and I stammered something about how we were thrilled that he had come to Michigan. As he finished up, I threw caution to the wind and asked if it would be possible to get a quick picture with him. He looked around and said something like “Oh, well how can you get up here?” since he was on the stage and we were still below him. Undaunted, we climbed up onto the stage with a single step (fueled by our racing adrenaline at the thrill of it all, no doubt) as Williams humorously remarked, “If I tried to get down there, I’d never get back up again!” We posed for a few pictures, and thanked him profusely. He was so gracious to grant us his time like that – truly a classy guy! It was a huge thrill for me as you can imagine, and I feel really fortunate to have had such an opportunity.

[...]

I don't like bumping 3.5 year old threads for this, but can you post scans or photos of your signed CDs? You never did that.

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