Sunday, September 4, 2005

At least he didn't yell "Freebird!"

Was at the Hollywood Bowl tonight.  John Williams was conducting his (and some other composers') movie scores. 

I've been seeing Williams at the Bowl on and off for ... sheesh, must be going on 20 years now.  His concerts are always a little ... odd.

I mean, on the one hand, he's a real live legitimate conductor and composer.  He dresses up all formal-like, and observes the standard traditions of conducting.  (As opposed to, say, Bobby McFerrin, who conducted barefoot, and suggested the rest of the orchestra "get comfortable" too.)  John Williams is all white jacket and bow tie.

But, on the other hand, he frequently plays to an audience of folks not really accustomed to attending concerts by the LA Philharmonic.  They don't know you're not supposed to applaud between orchestral movements, for instance.  And there's always more than a few people there who, er, wave lightsabers.

I am generally pretty amused by the way Williams represents the intersection between hifalutin orchestral music and pop culture.  Like the fact that he plays three or four encores -- going off stage between each one and basking in the audience applause as he re-enters, even shaking his hands over his head in triumph.  And I don't even know why I found it funny when he introduced one of his encores as "From Empire Strikes Back -- Yoda's Theme.  Yoda" -- I guess you just don't expect the word "Yoda" to come out of the mouth of some 73-year-old bald dude in formal attire.

The man, however, must have the patience of a saint.  Picture if you will... he's just finished a pretty kick-ass rendition of "Cry Your Tears, Afrika" from Amistad.  Applause, applause, applause (bask, bask, bask), then silence.  In preparation for the next song, the First Violin stands up, and steps a little more center stage.  Williams raises his baton as he prepares to conduct the next song...

At this point, any idiot who has either (a) ponied up a buck for a program, (b) checked the program listing online before going, or (c) can put 2 and 2 together and figure out which John Williams movie theme has a violin solo, knows he's about to start the theme from Schindler's List.

... and as he lowers the baton to softly start the orchestra, some beer-soaked dude in the cheap seats yells, at the top of his lungs, "STAR WARS!!"

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