What would the last 40 years of pop culture be without John Williams? It’s hard to imagine Lalo Schifrin scoring Star Wars or Alfred Newman composing the soundtrack for E.T. The Extraterrestrial.” Don’t get me wrong. Both are wonderful artists. But Williams gave life to each and every film he has worked on, elevating film from a primarily visual medium to a complete experience of sight and sound that meshed with such perfection we barely noticed how completely we were taken in by the magic.
Yesterday, at Tanglewood, a star-studded event was held to honor John Williams on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
Tanglewood, one of the country’s premiere summer music festivals and summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, celebrated John Williams’s 80th birthday on Saturday, August 18, a highlight of the festival’s 75th anniversary season which continues through Labor Day weekend (details at www.tanglewood.org). Pictured above from left to right are Jessye Norman, John Williams, Steven Spielberg, Yo-Yo Ma, Keith Lockhart, and James Taylor.
Steven Spielberg and James Taylor made surprise stage appearances, with President Barack Obama, The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, George Lucas, Brian Williams, Seiji Ozawa, and Gustavo Dudamel featured in special video birthday messages to Mr. Williams. The musical program featured the Boston Pops Orchestra, conductors Keith Lockhart, Leonard Slatkin, and Shi-Yeon Sung, and guest artists Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill, Gabriela Montero, Jessye Norman, and Gil Shaham, as well as members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The program opened with John Williams’s Olympic Fanfare with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, followed by beloved themes from E.T., Harry Potter, Star Wars, Schindler’s Listand Memoirs of a Geisha.
No word on whether they recorded the event for future broadcast, but I would imagine that we’ll see it on either PBS, or one of the arts channels in the near future.
A five minute film of the evening’s festivities can be downloaded here.