John Williams, Live

If I am a musician at all, it is thanks to John Williams.

John Williams, the five-time Oscar winning composer, who created the soundtracks of so many childhoods with the scores to Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones…ok, I think you get the idea.  I listened to his music on repeat in high school.  He made me love marches, appreciate the French horn, and put me to sleep many nights with his “Hymn to the Fallen.”

Yeah, this guy.  John Williams conducting at Hollywood Bowl By Alec McNayr (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I have had the extreme privilege of seeing John Williams himself conduct the world-class Cleveland Orchestra three times in my life.  Most recently, I saw him conduct the orchestra at their beautiful Severance Hall in the cultural heart of Cleveland.  I bought these tickets eight months in advance and had to purchase a subscription to other orchestra concerts to even get a chance to do so.

It was so worth it.

The evening started with “Sound the Bells! (a classic fanfare) and progressed through a series of hits until finishing with the highlight of excerpts from Star Wars.


There were a couple of fun surprises for me.  I was familiar with all the pieces except the Suite from The BFG, which turned out to be a charming, fantastic piece featuring a lot of flutes and the use of a tuba mute, which I don’t think I’d ever seen used before.

Tuba Straight Mute
Yeah, this thing.

Another pleasant surprise was the theme from the ’90s remake of Sabrina, which I honestly forgot he scored.  I promptly went home and watched the movie again on Amazon Prime.  I love that movie, and my husband had somehow never seen it,

I was also pleased to hear some excerpts from Jaws.  I think this is one of his scores that tends to get overlooked; everyone is so familiar with the ominous two-note shark motif that the rest of the score gets forgotten.  Check out “Out to Sea,” which is a jaunty little nautical tune.

Of course, the highlight of the night was the Star Wars music.  It was great to hear some of the new stuff, and for one of the encores they played “Han Solo and the Princess.”

The night really lived up to my expectations.  Williams is such a genial guy, and he spoke about nearly every piece.  I think he enjoyed conducting as much as the audience enjoyed listening; he said that performing with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall was a “bucket list” type thing for him.  It was just perfect that he was able to be here for the orchestra’s 100th season.

What’s your favorite piece or score by John Williams?  Can you even pick a favorite?

6 thoughts on “John Williams, Live

  1. blogturtle April 28, 2018 / 8:16 am

    I saw John Williams at Tanglewood. He is amazing. ET, Raiders and of course Star Wars are my faves. Cool post Mei Mei!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei April 28, 2018 / 9:03 am

      That’s so awesome! And your choices are very good, of course. 🙂 Last summer, the orchestra played the score to ET live with the movie–that was super fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. NovEllaandBanannabelle April 29, 2018 / 12:08 pm

    Wow, that sounds great!! I didn’t know Williams would talk about the pieces.
    Star Wars is probably my favorite, unless it’s Harry Potter 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei April 29, 2018 / 12:15 pm

      I didn’t expect that either. But he spent many years conducting a pops orchestra, which is a bit less formal. It’s also relatively rare to see a composer to conduct his own work, so it’s nice that he can add to the performance personally. SW and HP are both great choices! I’ve had the chance to play some of both myself in school.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An Irrelevant Girl May 27, 2018 / 8:59 am

    Whaaat I am jealous!! But I’m happy for you that you’ve been able to see him live 3 times – It would be my dream to see him live one day 🙂
    I absolutely love the Star Wars soundtrack – especially Imperial March 🙂 Love that awesome rhythm Da da da-ga-da da da-ga-da da-ga-da da (Sorry I don’t know how else to write it haha) I’m sooo lucky that I got to play a Star Wars suite with my county orchestra which included this piece!
    I also love the Harry Potter soundtrack although when I looked at the violin orchestral part for Hedwig’s Theme I was like ohhh shizzlesticks haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mei-Mei May 30, 2018 / 10:26 pm

      I hope you are able to see him live someday! The Imperial March is absolutely an iconic piece of music with so many great elements.
      We played some of Hedwig’s Theme in high school, and even the watered-down version was crazy in the flute part–constant runs and trills!

      Liked by 1 person

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