The Maestro received the newly created National Artistic Achievement Award.
John Williams on the July 4 concerts (from the Washington Post):
“July Fourth renews the ongoing experiment that this country is. We’re still trying to define ourselves in terms of the world. I’ve always thought of our country as a metaphor for diverse groups managing themselves, and with all that’s happened these last few years, the experiment is all the more important. These concerts are important all across the country. Of course there are fireworks and hot dogs, but it’s the music which goes to the core and spirit of the country. And that’s a thrill for me.”
July 4 Williams Tribute report, by Steven Awalt (Spielbergfilms.com):
John Williams himself was on hand at the Capitol as Erich Kunzel conducted the National Symphony Orchestra through a wonderful medley of some of Williams most cherished compositions, accompanied by footage from the films. Of course works from Spielberg films dominated the set, with Jaws(featuring a clever mesh of the “Main Title” with the “Out to Sea” cue), Raiders of the Lost Ark andE.T. The Extra-Terrestrial kicking off the show. Following the three Spielberg classics were pieces from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Superman and Star Wars. To have been there live in D.C. would have really been something.
Following the performance, host Barry Bostwick presented Williams as the very first recipient of the National Artistic Achievement Award (which looks like a giant glass punch bowl!?). Williams was a perfect choice, as he truly is a national treasure, and hearing his works in the context of a celebration of our country brought this to light even more so.
Williams accepted the award on behalf of all the directors and musicians he has worked with, giving special thanks to his long-time collaborator Steven Spielberg. After the presentation of the award, Kunzel passed the baton on to Williams and requested that he lead the National Symphony Orchestra through a performance of his Olympic Fanfare and Theme from the ’84 Olympics.
Even fellow performer Dolly Parton’s breast jokes that followed could not top the greatness of Williams’ music performed in such an honorable way.
A report by CharlesK (JWFan.net Member):
The orquestra seem not to have enough time to rehearse, they missed notes everywhere, the first part of the Homage, conducted by Kunzel was filled with rythms and syncronization errors. But still, while they played the famous themes of several movies, I couldn’t help to notice how emotional this music is. Audience applauded their favorite themes (all of them), and the performance was ended with a standing ovation.
John Williams listened very proud and humble at the same time. He looked old, but when he was called to the stage he ran and jumped like a boy. He received a glass bowl as an award (which I guess he’ll use to put fruit in it, hehe, joke!) and he made a fluent speech and after some rehearsed lines with Kunzel, he climbed to the podium to conduct (yes!) the 1984 Olympic theme, my favorite of the bunch. It was very emotional moment. I’m very proud of having followed this man’s life and work.