It’s been a while since I posted, or for that matter have been to, the forums. Real life has been somewhat hectic recently and I must confess I’m not even regularly reading news. Anyway, last night was the first of two performances of The Music of John Williams at the Sydney Opera House and I thought I should post a little something about it. Conducted by Guy Noble and hosted by Shaun Micallef (an Australian comic and television show host), the night was to be a showcase of Williams’ best work with a little fun thrown in.
The show began a little after 8:00 pm with Micalleff bounding onto the stage in the whitest and brightest suit I’ve ever seen, followed by Noble in the typical conductors black. Micalleff made a few quips about what a comic genius like himself might be doing hosting a night with the Sydney Symphony, and proceeded to insult the audiences knowledge of the orchestra by suggesting we were all wondering if the harp to his right was a Stradivarius, then answered the thought himself, saying “no, it’s just a very good imitation”. At this point I’ll say I’m typically not a fan of Micallef’s humour, but he really added a lot of enjoyment to the night for me; his jokes were all very much kept to the subject of the night and he insulted himself as much as he did the audience.
The first piece played was William’s Olympic fanfare. Micallef set the scene with a comment about the Australian gold medal winners at the 1984 Olympics, and suggested that Williams went home from those Olympics with something far more valuable - $30 million in royalties.
The second piece was William’s theme to Lost in Space. Micallef questioned the elder Robinson’s parenting skills, what with their having their young son Will supervised by Dr Smith – who’d been intent on ending the Robinson’s lives not too long ago, and permitting their daughters to fraternise with the dashing and intemperate Major West.
Next was the theme to Jaws, after which Micallef asked the audience to admit they’d all had their feet up on their chairs for fear a shark may bite them off, and mentioned the Oscar Williams won for the piece.
Then it was the E.T. concert suite, which I’m sad to say I don’t care for. It seems to me to be a butchering of the piece “Escape / Chase / Saying Goodbye” (track 17 in the 2006 soundtrack and track 20 in the 2002 soundtrack). I much prefer the track “Flying” from the original release which is also often played at concerts. However, the piece was played very well by the orchestra and was an absolutely pleasure to listen to nonetheless. Micallef made mention of Williams’ second Oscar win here, and remarked that in contrary to popular belief, E.T. was not a puppet but was in fact played by Elton John without make-up.
Close encounters followed, which saw Micallef reference the famous five tone motif before proceeding to have various instruments of the orchestra play the melody.
Schindler’s list came next, with the violin solo played by first violin and assistant concert master Kirsten Williams who did a fantastic job. Micallef told a fictitious story in which Williams had read Thomas Keneally’s Schindlers Ark, and had asked Spielberg to make a film of it so that Williams might compose the soundtrack. Spielberg decided to rename the movie Schindler’s List as he’d made another movie about an ark not so long ago. In fact, the scuttlebutt is that when Williams first saw the movie, he told Spielberg that he didn’t consider himself a good enough musician to score it, to which Spielberg replied “I know, but all the better ones are dead”.
The orchestra then played the Raiders March, which was followed by a remark from Micallef that his favourite part of the movie had been when you hear Sean Connery’s speech impediment twice in once sentence, when he says the line “I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne”.
The theme from Jurassic Park came next. Micallef introduced the piece by asking the audience to imagine themselves in prehistoric times. Imagine that you were bitten by a mosquito, and then that that same mosquito had been inadvertently encased in tree sap. Then imagine that millennia later, scientists unearthed that same mosquito and reanimated your species in the modern day and made a movie about. The soundtrack, he said, would likely sound a little something like this.
Superman came next, and Micallef remarked that he thought it a strange coincidence that the lyrics from the original series could be matched with the melody of theme that Williams composed. I’d never noticed it before, but he is indeed correct. Look up in the sky…
Next was the theme from 1941, followed by Hedwig’s theme. Micallef asked the audience while they listened to ponder how Lord Voldemort might cope should it one day be necessary that he wear glasses.
We then heard Sayuri’s theme from Memoirs of a Geisha. Kirsten Williams was once again superb in her solo, while Micallef attempted to complete a story involving a time-traveling Shinkansen, but failed miserably.
Finally, we came to a quintet of Star Wars pieces. Macalef introduced them by reading an excerpt from the biography of Alec Guinness in which he makes a young boy cry by asking him not to see Star Wars ever again. The orchestra first played the opening from Star Wars, A New Hope. This was followed by the Imperial March, after which the audience was read another excerpt from Guinness’ biography. Micallef proceeded to call Alec Guinness a “poisonous old man”, much to the approval of the audience, and tossed the book on the floor. Micallef went on to introduce the next piece, Jar Jar’s love theme, much to the audience’s DISapproval, before correcting himself, and the orchestra proceeded to play Leia’s Love Theme from The Empire Strikes Back. This was followed by a spectacular imitation of the Mos Eisley cantina band which was truly a treat and received much positive feedback from the audience. Micallef took the opportunity to test the knowledge of the audience and quizzed them on progressively more obscure details about the cantina and the band. He asked the name of the planet on which Mos Eisley was located, the name of the band and the specie of the Kloo Horn player (Bith). He went on to ask the home planet of the Bith, and assuming no one would know began giving the answer immediately after asking. A single audience member beat him to the punch, shouting “Clak'dor Seven” from the back stalls, to which Micallef replied incredulously “It is indeed, Clak'dor Seven, give that man a life!”. The final piece of the show was the Throne Room and Finale from A new Hope.
After the finale had been played, Noble made a show of preparing to leave. Micallef caught him and asked the audience “Encore?”, to which the crowd issues a collective shout of approval. Noble again took the conductors platform and the orchestra began playing the Superman theme. Micallef stood beside the podium, and at the appropriate moment began to sing the lyrics to the superman series in time with the music. It was good fun, and he had the audience participate also. Part way through the piece he took the podium himself and brought the piece to a close with some of the most emphatic baton use I’ve ever witnessed.
All-in-all it was a great time and a wonderful night of music and laughter. I’d be there next time should Micallef, Noble and Williams come together again.
Thanks for reading!
garymMember Since 15 Mar 2011
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