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Hollywood Bowl Celebrates 90 Years of John Williams’ Scores

Lovers of John Williams’ music, especially his film scores, have their lightsabers ready to sing happy birthday to him when Hollywood Bowl celebrates his beloved work with a concert, “Maestro of the Movies” on September 2, 3, and 4.

It is an annual must-watch event in the famed outdoor concert hall honoring the legendary composer whose iconic scores include those Forster Wars or Indiana Jones, Superman, Home Alone, Jurassic Park , Harry Potter, Schindler’s List, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun, Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, Saving Private Ryan, A.I, The Book Thief or The Accidental Tourist, et, among many others.


Williams’ fans have been thanking him by trooping to the amphitheater with lightsabers with which to follow the chords of the maestro and asking for encores until Williams, as endearing as he is polite, finally leaves the stage, raising both hands to his face to humorously indicate that he has to sleep.

But this 2022 edition of the “Maestro of the Movies” concert is special. Since Williams turned 90 last February 8, there have been birthday concert celebrations throughout the country.

On August 20, the celebration took place in Tanglewood, Massachusetts before an audience of 18,000 people in an amphitheater in which all seats were filled and no fragments of films were projected. It was just his music.

Williams was accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and by friends and colleagues such as James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, Steven Spielberg, Gustavo Dudamel, Branford Marsalis, and Itzhak Perlman in a tribute that for a change, he heard from his seat, and not from a conductor’s podium.

They only let him go on stage at the end of the gala when he took up the baton to conduct the chords of Indiana Jones. Something similar happened at the gala concert that was held at the Kennedy Center last June in honor of his 90 years, which Williams dedicated almost all of those years to music, given how young he was when he began.


However, at the Hollywood Bowl, it will be different. Williams will be onstage with his baton in these three nights of music. He will be accompanied by another friend and colleague, fellow composer David Newman. As in past years, Newman will conduct the first part of the concert. But it will be Williams who will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in the second part of a concert that no one wants to miss.

Newman said during an interview with the HFPA, “The good thing about concerts like the one that the Los Angeles Philharmonic schedules annually at the Hollywood Bowl, with movie screenings where the music score is performed live, is that they are the best way to introduce a wider audience, such as movie and music buffs.”

Newman, who has known the master for years, shared, “John Williams marks a before and after in film music.”

The Hollywood Bowl concert will give another meaning to that “after” judging by the recent statements of this composer, a 25-time Golden Globe nominee who won best original score awards for Jaws (1976), Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1978), E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1983) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2003), that this may be his farewell.

As he commented in a recent interview with the Associated Press, Williams is considering saying goodbye. He said, “I am working on Indiana Jones 5 with Harrison Ford, who is younger than me, and who has announced that it is his last film. So, I thought if he can do it, so can I.”

The maestro’s goodbye, if confirmed, will be a great loss as there are many professionals today who remember Williams’ music as that turning point in their professional lives.

“Any film by John Williams, with music so great and so important that it moved me a lot,” Argentine composer Federico Jusid recalled in an interview with the HFPA about the works that prompted him to pursue the musical career he now enjoys, with titles like The Secret of His Eyes or Santa Evita.

“I do what I do because of John Williams. I remember still coming out of seeing E.T. The Extraterrestrial,” said the composer Natalie Holt who is now in charge of putting music to the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, centered on a character from the Star Wars universe, at the recent San Diego Comic-Con.

“Of course, John Williams is my idol. And for most composers. I have never stopped admiring music scores like E.T. and Jurassic Park. Not just the music but how he makes the audience feel,” said Amie Doherty, head of music for She-Hulk and Attorney at Law, to HFPA.

The Spanish music editor Anele Onyekwere, a fundamental part of the sound production of Marvel Studios and currently a candidate for two Emmy awards for his work on Moon Knight and Loki, plans to calm his nerves by listening to Williams at the Bowl.

“I wouldn’t miss the concert for the world. It is very exciting to see the maestro directing his own music with that special energy that he transmits,” said Onyekwere, enraptured by the use of the orchestra and its musical themes and motifs “something unique, rich and complex, but at the same time direct and totally identifiable.

“And, of course, I look forward to the moment of the ‘Imperial March,’ with the Bowl full of lightsabers ‘conducting’ the orchestra. Unique and spectacular,” he summed up, almost looking forward to that moment more than his own Emmy ceremony.

The Spanish musician David Rejano has a different perspective on the concert. Sitting in the amphitheater as the principal trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he can enjoy the lightsaber landscape in all its glory. “I don’t know if you see us, but as soon as that moment comes, we start recording with the mobile. There are memories that you need to keep,” added the musician who has been playing the ‘Imperial March’ with Williams for six years.

Superman was the first soundtrack he heard from the maestro. Hook, E.T, and Jurassic Park are his favorites. But there is no other explanation for Williams’ talent other than Williams himself, just as Mozart is Mozart or The Rolling Stones are The Rolling Stones.

“That’s Williams’ secret, that he is the god of music, he is nice and on top of that, he is excellent,” he summed up.

Rejano remembered that when they said goodbye after the concert last year, the composer said, “I hope I can see you again.”

But Williams’s goodbye sounds anything but final, as evidenced by the album “A Gathering of Friends” that he just released with his friend of four decades, cellist Yo-Yo Ma. There is also the double album that came out this year that features him conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in “Berlin Concert.”


If Williams is a lover of music in the cinema, he is even more so of playing in public, something that gives him that live response that he does not get when he composes alone, on his piano, in the studio located next to his friend’s office and colleague, Steven Spielberg.

Concerts are another facet in the career of this composer who began as a pianist in the world of jazz (where he was known as Johnny Williams) and whose compositions have accompanied athletes at the Olympic Games (in 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2002), presidents like Barak Obama at his inauguration at the White House and thousands of spectators who have seen him conduct orchestras like the Boston Pops or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a wonderful place for that possible goodbye before making the gesture to go to sleep.

Full of humility, the composer of composers said in his last meeting with the HFPA that time has passed very quickly. “And I couldn’t tell what I’ve done,” he summed up.

Spielberg, in his words when the American Film Institute paid tribute to the master of film music: “Without Williams, bicycles do not fly, nor do brooms fly in Quidditch games, nor do men with capes red fly. The Force would not exist nor would dinosaurs walk the Earth. John makes us believe in every movie we’ve ever made.”


Translated by Mario Amaya