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John Williams / Oregon Symphony Benefit Concert April 28, 2014


Mari
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JW has added another stop on his orchestra benefit tour. He will be conducting the Oregon Symphony in Portland on April 28, 2014. Tickets go on sale to the general public March 14.

Five-time Academy Award and 21-time Grammy Award winner John Williams makes a special appearance to lead the Oregon Symphony in an exciting benefit concert of music from the movies. The program will feature selections from some of his most popular and iconic film scores, including Star Wars, Harry Potter, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and more.

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Too bad it's a Monday. Looks to be a very similar program to the one he conducted with the Eugene Symphony a couple of years ago. Good to have him back in Oregon, though.

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  • 1 month later...

I was lucky enough to attend this concert. The Oregon Symphony was wonderful, first time I've heard them, but just an oustanding symphony. Portland should be very proud. John Williams also commented that it was the first time he had ever performed in Portland.

Most notable comment he made, when introducing the music to E.T., he mentioned that he was asked a couple months ago to revisit the film and music for his approval. Add that bit of insight to any speculation on what John Williams-related release may be in the works. He mentioned watching the film and in particular the acting from the kids in the movie. So made me think it might be a new Blu Ray release rather than a new soundtrack release.

Here is the program and I will make comments on the evening for those interested.

WILLIAMS

The Cowboys Overture
This was a very long piece, much longer than any version I've heard before. A very wonderful opening played without introduction.

WILLIAMS

Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
One of my favorite Williams scores. This was a slightly abbreviated version from the longer piece that has appeared on some of the Boston Pops recordings. I have heard this music thousands of times, and this piece in particular, and it did not disappoint. Such a gorgeous piece of music, and the Oregon Symphony did a great job with it.

WILLIAMS

Three Pieces from Harry Potter
  • Hedwig’s Theme
  • Nimbus 2000
  • Harry’s Wondrous World

This is where Williams first addressed the audience. He introduced this music to thunderous applause. If there was one section of the night I would say the performance wasn't the best, it would be here. I love the music from Harry Potter, but the music here lost some of its power. I thought including Nimbus 2000 after Hedwig's Theme was an odd choice, since it is just a variation on Hedwig's theme done on the wind instruments. It was sort of repetitive to hear back to back. Also, maybe he played Nimbus 2000 in other concert performances, but made me wonder if he was recently listening to the Harry Potter score again and really liked this theme from the soundtrack, and wanted to play it again in his concert repertoire. What I also found amusing was that you could tell he wanted to play the three pieces back to back, after Hedwig's theme he was positioned to go right into Nimbus 2000, but the audience anticipated the end of the first piece and began applauding. His body language showed a bit of... annoyance might be the wrong word, but it definitely showed he was not planning on stopping, but he motioned to the orchestra to wait and turned to accept the applause. There was a tendency for the audience to begin applause before John Williams signalled that the piece was over. If it sounded like the music was coming to an end, the applause would start, even if John Wiliams was still gesturing to the orchestra, so a little annoying but I think it bothered me more than it did him. He anticipated this for the rest of the evening and adapted.

WILLIAMS

Adventures on Earth from E.T. The Extra-terrestrial

Williams addressed the audience again, and spoke as mentioned above about reviewing this film recently. He then made the comment about how if it weren't for the score to the movie there wouldn't be a movie. The audience laughed and John Williams said that it didn't come out quite how he intended, but played it up with another comment like "Now let's listen to the music without the distraction of the film." Which got another big laugh. This is another piece that I have heard so many times, but again, just like Close Encounters, just thrilled me to hear it again. Though he said he was playing the full version from the film, there was one edit shortening the time of the bike chase to the "saying goodbye" portion. But the performance was stellar nontheless.

Intermission

Uh oh... somebody is practicing the Indiana Jones theme... spoiler alert for an upcoming encore.

SCHWARTZ/DIETZ,
ARR. WILLIAMS

That’s Entertainment!
I thought this was an odd choice. Played with no introduction. But John Williams had the biggest grin on his face during this piece. Made me wonder if he just loved this kind of music and arrangement. If this is what he listened to at home. This was a much longer arrangement than what was played on the old Boston Pops album with a lot more instrument variation and playfulness. It ended up being a joyous piece.

WILLIAMS

The Book Thief
I loved this score even if it sounds a little disjointed at times. And I loved hearing it performed love. Just beautiful.

GARDEL,
ARR. WILLIAMS

Tango from Scent of a Woman

Bing Wang, violin

There was a little break as the stage was rearranged for Bing Wang to take the stage. There was no introduction. The performance wasn't quite up to par with Itzhak Perlman's from the Cinema Serenade album, but very fun to listen to. Audience laughed during a couple portions, most notably at the violin "plunk".

BOCK, ADPT. WILLIAMS

Excerpts from Fiddler on the Roof
Bing Wang, violin

A very long and wonderful arrangement of the Fiddler on the Roof score. Bing Wang didn't have much to do during the first part, but the latter half was arranged to highlight the violin in several sections. It was the longest arrangement of the score I have heard, and it was probably the best performance of the evening. Bing Wang really shined during this. There was a tremendous standing ovation after this piece. A massive standing ovation, which led to the night's first encore.

Encore:

WILLIAMS

Schindler's List

Bing Wang, violin

We were treated to Bing Wang staying on stage for the Schindler's List theme, which she made her own. Very moving. In fact afterwards, the audience took a while to build up their applause. The beauty of this piece really affected the energy in the audience, and you could feel them trying to regain themselves from the somber mood. This was also one of the rare points where Williams addressed the audience talking about his long work history with Spielberg, and told an anecdote about watching the first cut of Schindler's List with Spielberg and mentioning to him that he needed a better composer than him for this outstanding movie, and Spielberg responded "Yeah I do, but they're all dead." This got a big laugh.

WILLIAMS

Three pieces from Star Wars
  • Imperial March
  • Yoda's Theme
  • Main Title

Williams introduction to the Star Wars pieces also drew great applause much like Harry Potter. John Williams mentioned now working with JJ Abrams who he said was very young and he would try his best to keep up with him but said he would most likely NOT be doing another six Star Wars films.
I have heard these pieces played live several times before, and the Oregon Symphony really hit the ball out of the park. They did an incredible performance of all three of these pieces. And even noticed some audience members who were rather stoic throughout the evening, smiling and nodding their heads during these pieces, most notably during the Main Title. Another highlight.

The standing ovation after these pieces was amazing! This led to first of THREE encore pieces. The first time I have seen three encores at a Williams concert.

Encore #1:

Williams

Lincoln

Williams introduced this piece highlighting the outstanding performance by Daniel Day Lewis. He also mentioned that most people in the audience probably have not seen the film but urged people to do so. He introduced the piece as the music he wrote to accompany Daniel Day Lewis' reading of the 13th ammendment. It was an odd choice for the encore, but I knew there must be a second more rousing one, especially since somebody was practicing the Indiana Jones theme earlier. And sure enough after more thunderous applause we received...

Encore #2:

Williams

Raiders of the Lost Ark End Titles

This was played with no introduction, and the audience applauded like they were at a rock concert when they recognized the very familiar theme. I have never heard this at a concert before, but John Williams seemed rather amused by it. It was the full on end credits piece with Marion's theme, and was a wonderful encore. The audience bursted into a HUGE standing ovation. We thought it was over. but...

Encore #3:

Wiliams

The Mission Theme from NBC Nightly News

When he signaled he would do one more, some audience members actually burst out into shrieks of delight. This last encore got an introduction from Wiliams. He talked about NBC commissioning him for the piece, and when he turned it in, he asked if they would ever play the whole thing. They told him it was a little long, but maybe on a slow news day they would. He made a joke about with Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams reading the news, there never was a slow news day, so we were to be treated to the full piece. (I actually know they did play the entire version on the news when it was introduced, with film of John Williams conducting but...) The audience laughed when they recognized the tune. And laughed more during the first portion of the piece. It was the first time during the evening that the nerd fan that I am wanted to turn to the audience and say "Shoosh!" The audience simmered down during the stirring string portion of this piece and it was an even better encore, very satisfying conclusion. A very long standing ovation. John Williams came back out on stage two more times and finally made his now signature "I'm sleepy" gesture and left the stage.

All in all, a tremendous concert!

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Thanks for sharing! Sounds like it was a great concert. The closest I've been to a John Williams concert was Star Wars in Concert many years ago. Unfortunately, he hasn't visited my area.

In regards to his comment about not doing another six Star Wars episodes, it has been confirmed that he's scoring Episodes 9 and 10, right? I guess that means he isn't involved in the standalone films, which doesn't surprise me.

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Basically Williams is the composer of those films until he isn't, if you catch my meaning. Or he doesn't feel like it anymore.

This sounded like a great concert, and looks like you had a good vantage point of his facial expressions! Now I'm getting excited for Boston in June!

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In regards to his comment about not doing another six Star Wars episodes, it has been confirmed that he's scoring Episodes 9 and 10, right? I guess that means he isn't involved in the standalone films, which doesn't surprise me.

Just a hunch, but maybe he was referring to the fact that the first 6 Star Wars films were made over a period of almost 30 years, and he doesn't expect to be around 30 years from now. Again, just a hunch since I wasn't there.

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When you write that it's the longer version of The Cowboys, is it a new arrangement? Or is it that you've never heard the concert version before?

Is close encounters different because it doesn't include the extra music for the spaceship walk?

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If I had known my post would be featured as a story on the main site as a review of the concert, I would have at least proofread it once before submitting it. (sorry for all the typos. insert embarrassed smiley here)

As far as the Cowboys arrangement, it sounded new. The one I am most familiar with is from the Boston Pops albums and clocks around 9 minutes. This was over 12, with an extension using all the major themes from the film, with long portions devoted to the music from "the Ranch" and "A Sad Day" that weren't in the original arrangement.

The Close Encounters arrangement is the same from the Boston Pops that he has played several times before. The noticeable difference is he trimmed it down by removing some of the discordant section (most noticeably the portion where the instruments sort of slowly wind down like they are deflating). It entered into the prettier Close Encounters themes a lot faster than in the more familiar arrangement I've heard a hundred times before.

So my recollection of these arrangements are from his previous concert album releases from the late 80s and 90s, so he could very well have been playing these arrangements in other concert performances more recently, that I have just not heard before. I have not attended all that many John Williams concert. (Though I would be thrilled to attend every single one if I could afford to do so.)

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As far as the Cowboys arrangement, it sounded new. The one I am most familiar with is from the Boston Pops albums and clocks around 9 minutes. This was over 12, with an extension using all the major themes from the film, with long portions devoted to the music from "the Ranch" and "A Sad Day" that weren't in the original arrangement.

Sorry, but I was at the Portland concert as well and I think you're mistaken. The arrangement of the Cowboys Overture performed was the exact same that JW has been performing in concert for years, and the same one on the By Request album.

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Thanks for the writeup, ConcertAttendee! Question: was the Book Thief concert arrangement anything new? I think this is the first time it's been played in concert (not counting that pre-Oscar thing).

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If I had known my post would be featured as a story on the main site as a review of the concert, I would have at least proofread it once before submitting it. (sorry for all the typos. insert embarrassed smiley here)

The very few typos I found have been fixed in the main page article. Plus, the forum posts get more reads than you probably imagine. Proofread your post next time! ;)

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A wonderful report ConcertAttendee! Thank you very much for sharing this! :)

It is nice to see that Williams keeps the programme fresh by reconceptualizing his concert suites. But I guess it is his chance to improve upon his work in a rare way as normally his work is married ot the celluloid forever. At least in concert environment he can adjust material over the years if he feels like it.

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This was also one of the rare points where Williams addressed the audience talking about his long work history with Spielberg, and told an anecdote about watching the first cut of Schindler's List with Spielberg and mentioning to him that he needed a better composer than him for this outstanding movie, and Spielberg responded "Yeah I do, but they're all dead." This got a big laugh.

:banana:

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