John Williams – arguably the most prolific and distinguished film composer of all time, returned to the Hollywood Bowl stage for their popular, yearly celebration of his work. Turning 90 this year, the Bowl also made this a birthday party in his honor.
As has been the custom, half of the evening is conducted by a good friend of John Williams, composer David Newman (“Heathers”). After an opening that played tribute to various Film Composers, Newman spent the next hour conducting classic scores; some played to images on the screen. From Korngold’s “March from the Adventures of Robin Hood” to Waxman’s “A Place in the Sun” and “Sunset Boulevard,” the Bowl audience was also treated to a classic Looney Tunes cartoon “Baton Bunny” with the original score by Von Suppe. The final two pieces were Williams’ own: “With Malice Toward None” from Lincoln with a gorgeous trumpet solo by Tom Hooten, and the “Flying Theme from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”
After an intermission, the second half consisted of all John Williams conducted by John Williams! It was like being at a rock concert when he arrived on stage. The 17,000-seat crowd was on their feet, brandishing their lightsabers and applauding the man who gave many of us our childhood memories and film industry aspirations.
He opened with “Olympic Fanfare & Theme” before moving into pieces from the Harry Potter franchise. After a bit of “Fiddler on the Roof,” he resumed with the gorgeous “Theme from Schindler’s List” with the tremendously talented Bing Wang on violin. He finished with selections from the Star Wars franchise, including his never-before-performed at the Bowl “Scherzo for X-Wings” from The Force Awakens, followed by his brand new theme for Obi-Wan (a character who never had a theme until the Disney+ show needed one), and finally ending with my personal favorite, “Throne Room & Finale” from A New Hope.
But that wasn’t all. As usual, Williams is prompted to return to the stage for encores, and this time he gave the Bowl something extra special: a preview of a track from the upcoming Indiana Jones sequel. Called “Helena’s Theme,” this sweet and melodic tune was written for the character who will be played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. It was the first time a public audience had ever heard it.
He ended, as he usually does, with the “Raiders March” from Raider of the Lost Ark, followed by “The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back, which had the audience waving their lightsabers in unison.
All in all, it was yet another fantastic and iconic night of music at the legendary venue. Williams was, as per usual, his joyful, vibrant self, giving and thankful to have so many fans who appreciate and adore his work.
Ninety years looks good on him.