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John Williams' April 1980 debut Boston Pops performance (2020 HD broadcast)


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On 7/22/2020 at 8:41 PM, Holko said:


Holko, thanks a million for this. I've been laughing myself silly over this for the past ten minutes... :D

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19 hours ago, zoltan_902 said:

The only obstacles I can imagine are either 'rights' issues, or perhaps even more worryingly, that some episodes might not exist anymore (in the oil crisis era tapes were routinely wiped and reused).  


My money is on the rights issues. Even more when guests are involved and have exclusive recording contracts.

A few years back, when the BSO took the tremendous and wonderful endeavor of releasing digitally 75 live performances in celebration of Tanglewood's 75th anniversary, the two Leonard Bernstein releases were specially authorized by Deutsche Grammophone and available for a limited period.

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5 hours ago, Nick Parker said:

@Jay I knew the moment that I saw your profile GIF that it was missing something.... No longer.






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On 7/22/2020 at 1:09 AM, Jay said:

OK so here are some more of my thoughts on this broadcast.


The opening credits sequence is hilarious.  It begins with an extreme closeup of John Williams conducting directly into the camera over an animated ocean sunset, and a medley of Jaws, CE3K, the dawning of the age of Aquarius song, and some other stuff plays.  This is just gold!





There's an announcer who introduces each piece throughout (not anything said at the actual concert, an announcer just for the broadcast I mean), and he introduces the first piece while we see John Williams take the stage, and we're right into the first piece!


But first, I must describe the outfits and look of everyone playing the music.  Don't think "80s", this is late 70s aesthetic here, which makes since since we're only 4 months into the decade.  Everyone is wearing these blue suits (I think every concert I've been to myself people have only worn white or black), there are afros and sideburns and perms quaffed hair galore.  The occasional shots of the audience are full of different outfits too, all very different than any concert I've attended!





Another funny part was everytime they cut to a closeup of the tuba player, they never got his face!  We kept laughing at that - why wouldn't they have just chosen a different shot to air?




John Williams is wearing blue as well, and he looks great;  I've only been seeing him in concert since the mid 2000s when he was in his mid 70s, so to see him a spry 48 year old is quite radically different, he's just so much more expressive and full of motion than I've ever seen him.  He bops along to the beat and really reaches out for what he wants someone to do.  As much as I enjoyed seeing all the closeups of the musicians (since you can never see this much detail in person), just seeing him for an hour would have been pretty great too.


Anyways, onto the music




The Cowboys - Overture


This isn't the short film overture of course, but the lengthy (9 1/2 minutes in this performance) suite like you can hear on "By Request".  This is a great way to start any concert, and is super fun here.


The Reivers - An Old Man Reminisces



This is a wonderful 20 minute long series of various selections from the score (and additional music JW wrote later I believe, constantly playing under and/or in between pieces of narration by Burgess Meredith.  I don't normally like dialogue or narration over my music, but this whole piece really works.  Fun stuff!


A Little Night Music - Selections (Night Waltz / Send in the Clowns)


Not my typical cup of tea, music wise, but at a total of about 9 minutes this didn't really outstay his welcome.


The Empire Strikes Back - Yoda's Theme


This was fascinating.  This concert took place weeks before the film had opened.  I don't know exactly when the LP came out, but I assume there's a good chance most people in the audience had never heard this before.  I stopped and thought to myself what it must have been like to have see Star Wars in theaters and loved it, been thrilled when you heard a sequel was coming, then gone out to see a pops concert and heard this.  You wouldn't even know who Yoda was, your mind would race at the possibilites of what the jolly music in the middle section is all about, or what the warm main part represents.  


The Empire Strikes Back - The Imperial March


This was even cooler!  This has got to be the piece of music I've heard live the most times in my life, it's seemingly performed at almost every film music concert I go to.  As such, it often isn't play that spectacularly, as by the time I was going to see the pops in the 2000s, everyone playing it had probably already been playing it regularly for years themselves, and JW can easily conduct it now in his sleep.  But to watch him conduct this premiere performance, for an audience that had never heard it, was fascinating.  I don't think I've heard a performance quite like this one, unpolished, unsure of itself, a bit hesitant... it was great!  After hearing countless flawless performances, this was really cool to hear so many little differences.


After this, JW left the stage... and C3P0 came out.  What was cool is that we actually get to see JW behind the stage a bit, since that's where C3P0 is before he comes out.  I have no idea who was in the suit, someone who knows how to conduct, I imagine, or who provided the voice, but it was a very close approximation of Anthony Daniels'.  I just realized, this is actually the only speaking in between pieces in the whole broadcast - you never get to hear JW talk at all!


Anyways, C3P0 thanks the audience and apologizes because R2D2 was supposed to be there but had dissappeared, so he will carry on without him ("and it will probably be much better that way")... but then R2 rolls in from the side stage, to another round of applause.  They have a little back and forth exchange, the C3PO goes right into conducting the main theme


Star Wars - Main Theme



This was great, because it was actually a different arrangement of the main theme I'd never heard before!!  OK, that is partly because 3 times during the main title, the orchestra stopped playing and R2 provided solo beeping and booping to cover the part they would normally play, which was honestly pretty cute and not annoying (though I can't say I wouldn't have been annoyed if I had never heard Star Wars music live before).  But then at the end, instead of going into the end of the crawl music and seguing to the end credits, JW actually wrote a brief little new ending that ends the piece right after the main segment of Luke's theme ends.  Pretty cool!


C3P0 and R2 then leave the stage and JW comes back out


Star And Stripes Forever

This is a huge crowd favorite every time it's done in Boston, and this was no exception.  Like the Imperial March, it's something all these performers can do in their sleep and is probably pretty easy to conduct - in fact JW honestly looked over it when they showed him a few times, which kind of made me wonder why they'd elect to use those shots at all!  This is always nice to see with the various orchestral sections getting their mini solos, and the American flag and balloons coming down towards the end.




What a fun hour of television!  I wish PBS would just air pops concerts every Friday night all year long!



Oh, and I have many more great animated GIFs of JW conducting to post tomorrow....


Geez, how did I miss this entire thread until today?!  Jay, just read through your recap, and I distinctly remember watching this on our local metro Atlanta PBS station when it aired.  I would have just been finishing up my 9th grade year of high school and was super pumped to see Empire, and remember hearing Yoda's Theme and The Imperial March for the very first time on this show.  Had no idea what would happen musically in the sequel, so for some reason I thought Yoda's Theme was going to be the new Main Title music - do not ask me why.  :)  To answer one of your thoughts on Threepio and the Main Title performance, I believe that indeed was Anthony Daniels in the suit for that concert.  He mentioned several places in different interviews I've read that he had a blast conducting it, so unless I am totally confusing it with something else, that should be him.

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3 hours ago, bruce marshall said:

I have a vague memory of the POPS being unhappy with the hiring and JW programming HIS music.

Myth or truth?


Myth. There's the true story about the rehearsal of "America, The Dream Goes On" a couple of years into his tenture, where Williams stormed off because of the unruly orchestra members (apparently a consequence of the more informal/lacking discipline of the Arthur Fiedler era), but I've never heard anything about the Pops being unhappy with his hiring and/or programming of his music. Quite the contrary.


By the way, great to finally see this, his first "Evening at Pops". Love the REIVERS suite (I've only ever heard it before, never SEEN it performed live), in particular. Just points out, once again, that a boxed set of all these programs, especially the Williams-conducted ones, needs to be released!

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