Maryland Symphony Orchestra: 'A Night at the Movies with the Music of John Williams'

April 03, 2013|By KATE COLEMAN |
  • The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will perform "A Night at the Movies with the Music of John Williams Saturday night.
Photo by Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

So picture this: You go to the movies and there is no soundtrack accompanying the film. No music to set the scenes, to enhance the moods, to heighten the suspense.

Do you think the impact would be the same as if there were a musical score to guide you from plot point to plot point, from emotional lows to highs, from nerve-wracking action to calm?

Not likely.

If you have seen any of these films — "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Jaws," "War Horse," "Jurassic Park," "Hook," "JFK," "Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Last Ark" and "Star Wars" — try to imagine what the experience might have been without their music.

The impact? Not even close.

But you don't have to imagine the effect of the music without the films.

You can experience it Saturday night at The Maryland Theatre when the Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents "A Night at the Movies with the Music of John Williams," a tribute to the award-winning composer of the music for those movies and many, many more.

In 2007, the MSO opened its 26th season with a concert of Williams' movie music. The popular concert "begged for a sequel," Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in this season's second issue of Bravo!, the orchestra's magazine.

In a Herald-Mail preview of that 2007 concert, she called Williams a wonderful composer who has found a way to make a coherent language that can go from the screen to the concert stage.

"What's so great about it is it evokes so many great stories whenever we play it." she said. "It's instantly recognizable and instantly enjoyable, standing on its own and also in relation to the story we have seen it tell on the screen."

John Williams' own story began in 1932 when he was born in New York. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1948. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and served in the U.S. Air Force. After that, he moved to New York City where he studied piano at The Juilliard School and worked as a jazz pianist in clubs and on recordings. He began his career in the film industry after returning to California and, in the 1960s, wrote music for many television programs, winning two Emmy awards for his work, according to information at

In his career of nearly six decades, Williams has composed the music and served as music director for more than 100 films, according to MSO press information. He has won five Oscars and 21 Grammy awards — out of 54 nominations — four Golden Globes and seven BAFTA Awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Williams was also one of the 2004 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement in the performing arts.

Williams also has composed 15 concertos and 21 other orchestral or chamber works. From 1980 to 1993 he was the Boston Pops Orchestra's principal conductor and is now the orchestra's conductor laureate. 

A December 2011 Wall Street Journal story reported that Williams "doesn't farm out any piecework to underlings. "I'm still writing every note,'" he said.

And he does it the "old-fashioned way," according to a November 2012 National Public Radio piece. He writes music with pencil and paper and begins composing only after he's actually seen a rough cut of the film.

In 2011, Williams' music for Steven Spielberg's animated "The Adventures of Tintin" and "War Horse" — on this weekend's MSO program — scored his 46th and 47th Oscar nominations. Last year, his work on the Spielberg's "Lincoln" marked Williams' 48th.

"I'm convinced that Williams will be included among the very greatest of American composers when the history of the 20th and 21st centuries is written," Schulze wrote in an email Monday. "Our audience will get to hear the orchestra in its largest form, with full sections playing full force. It will be a feast for the ears and the imagination."

So picture this: The composer wrote music for more than 100 films — more than enough for a few more "Nights at the Movies with the Music of John Williams."

If you go ...       

WHAT: MSO Pops: "A Night at the Movies with the Music of John Williams"

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 6

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $15 to $83 for adults; $8 to $25 for children from 3 years of age through high school. College student rush tickets (with college ID) are also available at the Maryland Theatre box office beginning 90 minutes before the performance for $5. No reservations accepted. Seat selection will be at the discretion of the box office personnel. 

CONTACT: Tickets may be purchased at; in person at 30 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown; or by calling 301-797-4000. Tickets also will be available on the evening of the performance at The Maryland Theatre box office, which opens at 6:30 p.m.


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