John Williams Takes the Symphony to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

One of the greatest movie composers of all time comes to town to conduct songs from Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and more on April 28.

By Peter Holmstrom April 22, 2014

The Spielberg/Williams Collaboration

Image: Sony

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes...E.T. phone home…You’re a wizard, Harry…

We all know the lines. They have become part of our cultural DNA, sparking memories of days spent losing ourselves in the wonders of cinema, where classical heroes save the day, accompanied by grandiose musical scores that stirs the soul into action.

Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Jaws, ET, Harry Potter, Jaws, Jurassic Park—what do they all have in common other than the fact you can hum them on demand? They, like a good chunk of the most iconic musical moments of the last 40 years, were all composed by the same person: legendary musical composer John Williams.

And now Williams will visit the Oregon Symphony to conduct a special one-night event of his music. To make it more enticing, the evening’s proceeds go to fund the symphony’s education and community outreach programs.

John Williams: Maestro of the Movies
With the Oregon Symphony
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
April 28

In anticipation, we’ve selected five highlights of the Maestro’s decade spanning, 21-Grammy-winning, five-Academy Award-winning (not to mention the AFI Lifetime Achievement award) career. You know them all.

Star Wars
We’ll start out with a bang. Nothing quite says heroism and adventure like the main theme of Star Wars. George Lucas wanted the score to have a grand symphony feel similar to classic movies from the 30’s and 40’s, yet the sparse, minimalist approach of soundtracks of the 70’s made things difficult. John Williams became the obvious pick upon Lucas hearing the soundtrack to his friend Steven Spielberg’s new film Jaws. The Star Wars soundtrack is credited as leading the revival of grand symphonic scores, and went on to win Williams the most awards of his career for a single film. Nearly 40 years later, Williams will again compose the music for a new generation of Star Wars films.

Superman: The Movie

A year after traveling to a galaxy far, far away, Williams was in the skies again, composing the soundtrack to Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman. The main theme would go on to define the character for over a decade, being heard in three sequels and even a TV show. It really did make you believe that a man could fly.

Indiana Jones

Somebody get me a Fedora! Nothing makes one want to go hunt for the Ark of the Covenant like the Raider’s March. First composed as two separate scores, and then combined together at the suggestion of Steven Spielberg, this theme song for Indy’s four movies earned Williams a trio of Academy Award Nominations and a following of archeology majors at the same time.

Schindler’s List

In more of the serious mood? Williams’ composed the soundtrack for the Best Picture Winner Schindler’s List. This haunting theme beautifully succeeds in emphasizing the horrors of genocide and the determination of hope—and won Williams’ his fifth Academy Award.

Home Alone

Writer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus went to the master to help amp the spirit for quite possibly the greatest Christmas movie of all time (yeah, that’s right). The soundtrack blends perfectly with traditional Christmas flare, coming across as both hopeful, yet subtly spooky. The score went on to be nominated for an Academy Award.

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