.Santa Cruz Symphony rocks John Williams

Top of the Pops

Film-goers of all ages can easily hum the opening bars of half a dozen movie scores written by legendary composer John Williams, a man whose flair for the cinematic has created memorable soundtracks for more than five decades. A few film titles will jumpstart your recall. For example—Star Wars. You can already hear it. Indiana Jones, you’re singing along. Harry Potter, Jurassic Park and the immortal duh duh, duh duh, duh duh of Jaws.

Many in Hollywood are convinced that Steven Spielberg couldn’t have made a movie without a score by the tireless Williams, whose music formed the background for Summer Olympics, NBC News, and any number of top TV shows. It’s no exaggeration to say that billions, with a B, of folks from all over the world have heard and loved his music.

John Williams—with 24 Grammys, seven BAFTAs, five Oscars and four Golden Globes under his belt—knows how to arouse film-lovers’ emotions. His melodies are unforgettable, unleashing crescendos that sweep up to thrilling high points. Everything he writes exactly matches the emotional drama unfolding on the screen. The musical colors and textures of his compositions reinforce the beauty, danger, excitement and resolution of the imagery that accompanies his music.

At its best, his scores seem to make romance with the very structure of the film’s narrative, as if they had been created together in one seamless act of inspiration. Williams’ romantic symphonic scores remind many listeners and critics of the work of Richard Strauss, Antonin Dvorak, even Richard Wagner. Like Wagner, Williams is a master at creating musical motifs—themes—for the main dramatic characters in the films: for example, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, the shark called Jaws, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The Santa Cruz Symphony concludes its 2023-24 season on a high note with this gala tribute to the spectacular orchestral scores John Williams has created for such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., The Poseidon Adventure, The Eiger Sanction, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln—and the list goes on.

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Williams, who has been nominated 54 times for an Academy Award, is not only a passionate neo-romantic composer, but an equally passionate supporter of music education and has worked tirelessly to raise funds for educational causes. So the upcoming Pops Concert on June 8 is a celebration honoring Williams’ role in musical history, as well as supporting musicians and inspiring many generations of movie viewers.

This should prove to be a memorable climax to Santa Cruz Symphony’s 2023-24 season. The range of concert material has been ambitious. Opening in September with Richard Strauss, the Symphony’s October program included highlights from Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi and Bizet. In January Mahler and Ravel were joined by contemporary Korean work. The March Festivals concerts featured the work of Schumann and Stravinsky. And who could forget the monumental Mass in B Minor by Bach, joined by the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus?

The John Williams Spectacular happens June 8 at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Cruz. But there’s more than just sweeping orchestral music. The season finale kicks off at 5pm with a street party in front of the Civic, with colorful music, dancing, food trucks, and costumes. Lots of fun of all kinds. The Pops Concert follows at 7:30pm, featuring music from many of Williams’ top cinema themes, including selections from E.T., Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park.

Santa Cruz Symphony plays the music of John Williams at the Symphony Pops Concert on June 8 at the Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. From $40. santacruztickets.com

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