Boston, June 1, 2002

(Originally appeared on Film Music Review -reprinted with permission)

John Williams Scores Again with the Boston Pops!

by Roger Hall

Once again John Williams has returned to Boston to conduct a series of concerts with the Boston Pops Orchestra. I wasn’t able to attend but did listen in on radio on Saturday evening, 1 June 2002. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear it all. I’ll report on the music I heard.

This was an enjoyable concert of Williams film music, including both the very familiar themes such as “The Flying Theme from E.T. and the lesser performed ones, like the magical “Flight to Neverland” from Hook. Soloists for the concert were guitarist, Christopher Parkening; Belgian diva, Lara Fabian and L.A. singing sensation, Josh Groban. Fabian sang the movie song made famous by Barbra Streisand, “Evergreen” and Groban sang “Gira con me” and Don McLean’s haunting introspective song, “Vincent,” beautifully accompanied by guitarist Parkening. Groban has a sincerity in his vocal delivery that is very appealing. Then it was time for the two singers to join together. This is how Richard Dyer described it in his Boston Globe review:

“[Lara Fabian] joined Groban for a soaring duet Williams composed for A.I. but which was not used on the soundtrack, although it appears on the album. Their voices work better together than their personalities – he’s honest, she’s slick.”

Williams was quite impressed with their performance of of his song, “For Always” (lyrics by Cynthia Weil), based on the love theme from A.I. (this year’s Sammy Award winner). He said “this is the first public performance of this song with the original singers.” What a beautiful song this is ! The music is dazzling in its simple beauty and honest emotion. At the end Williams exclaimed in amazement – “what a fantastic treat!” And that is was, not just for the singing, but also for another unforgettable Williams signature song. He is still not given enough credit for his great songwriting ability.

A sizable portion of the concert was devoted to a suite from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It was quite a generous sampling of the score and sounded marvelous as played by the highly accomplished Boston Pops musicians.

For the closer it wasn’t the Main Title from Star Wars this time but instead “The Flying Theme” from E.T. This was an obvious crowd-pleaser. Perhaps it was included because of the 20th anniversary of the film and the newly expanded soundtrack. But that wasn’t the end of the concert. It has been a tradition to end most Boston Pops concerts with the familiar encore – John Philip Sousa’s rousing march: “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

For those who missed it, there is good news. This concert was videotaped and is scheduled to be shown on PBS on July 28, 2002. Watch for it. I believe it ‘ll be well worth watching.

–Roger Hall

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