On Saturday, July 18th, 2009, I attended another Film Night at Tanglewood, hosted by legendary composer John Williams. I have to say that this topped last year’s viewing, even considering Steven Spielberg was the special guest last year.
I arrived at the venue around 5:30PM (EST), which gave me a few hours to roam around and check out the entire facility. When I walked into “The Shed”, and asked where I would be seated, the usher kindly said, “Well, sir, you have great seats.” He was right! I was able to score a seat in Section 2, which happens to be about five feet away from the stage. As a matter of fact, my seat was right in front of the award-winning Israeli cellist, Mickey Katz.
Around 7:30, I decided to take a look at the performers’ parking lot, hoping to run into Mr. Williams and perhaps some of the musicians from the Boston Pops. Luckily, I spotted Mr. Williams as his car arrived. He gave some friendly waves to his devoted fans, and was guided into the main building. While waiting for him to arrive, I was able to briefly shake hands with a few of the musicians – unfortunately, they didn’t have time for a picture.
At last, 8:30 came around. Without any need for an introduction, John Williams took center-stage and started the festivities immediately. The first selection played was a wonderful montage of some of the greatest and most memorable themes of all time. Snippets of the themes from “E.T”, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, “Jaws”, “Rocky”, “Star Wars”, “Psycho”, and many more were included in this arrangement.
Following the introduction, the program included these pieces:
Suite from Far and Away (John Williams)
- County Galway, June 1892
- The Fighting Donnellys
- Joseph and Shannon
- Blowin’ Off Steam
Theme from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Andre Previn, arranged by John Williams)
Devil’s Dance from The Witches of Eastwick (John Williams)
Suite from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (John Williams)
- Three Million Light Years from Home
- Stargazers Harp solo: Ann Hobson Pilot
- Adventures on Earth
This line-up of music was truly amazing. For me, the music from E.T. was a very special treat, as it’s my favorite Williams soundtrack. The performance of “Adventures on Earth” was magical and very beautiful. It’s my favorite track of the album, and hearing it live was a dream-come-true. I can’t express enough how much I loved hearing that played.
Following the intermission, Mr. Williams returned to the stage, and welcomed Mr. Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) to join him. Langella was the narrator and commentator for the rest of the performances, and he really provided some top-notch entertainment. He made us laugh many times, and seemed like an all-round wonderful man. On the way out from the stage, he even took a moment to sign an autograph for a devoted fan who was at the bottom of the stage.
From the intermission to the end, the orchestra performed:
Suite from The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Erich Wolfgang Korngold)
Jolson, Cagney and Berkeley: The (Warner Bros.) Musicals (Warren/Dubin) Suite from Casablanca (Max Steiner)
A Tribute to Bette Davis: Theme from Now Voyager (Max Steiner, arranged by John Williams) Violin solo: Tamara Smirnova
A Tribute to James Dean: Music from East of Eden (Leonard Rosenman)
Harry’s Wondrous World from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (John Williams)
Superman March (John Williams)
Theme from Dracula (John Williams)
The Raiders March (John Williams)
Of these performances, I especially loved the arrangement from Now Voyager. The solo work from violinist Tamara Smirnova was exquisite. Accompanying the music, Tanglewood also provided some visual montages on their projection screens. The clips were fantastic and were a glowing tribute to the celebrated Warner Bros. performers of the evening, including: James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, James Dean, Christopher Reeves, and many more.
The encore presentations were fantastic, also. We were given movie clips from Dracula, as the orchestra played the theme. Before the clips rolled, Langella made a funny comment about how much hair he had in this film. It was interesting to see his reaction to clips from a film that he starred in so many years ago. “The Raiders March” was a great ending to the concert, also. The bombastic brass and stylish strings still sounded as wonderful as ever.
After the concert I handed the stage administrator my concert program who, around ten minutes later, handed it back to me, now with the inscription “Brandon, Best Wishes. John Williams”. I was absolutely over-joyed. I can only compare this very lucky occurrence to the finale of Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal, when Victor Navorski receives a prized autograph from Benny Goldman. The only thing that was missing was John Williams’ lovely musical finale from the film – but, I can settle for the autograph, instead!
© 2009 Brandon Brown, exclusively for WWW.PLAYMOUNTAIN.NET