Tanglewood On Parade
Tribute to 30th Season of John Williams
By: Charles Giuliano - 08/05/2010
Seated in the audience John Williams greeted fans and signed autographs. Giuliano photos.
A face in the crowd.
Keith Lockhart kicked it off with the March from Superman.
Stefan Asbury conducting Seven for Luck sung by Elizabeth Baldwin.
Reflecting on 30 seasons at Tanglewood.
He has composed scores for more than a hundred films.
Yo Yo Ma soloed on a suite from Memoirs of a Geisha.
Introducing a special guest artist.
A duet between Yo Yo Ma and James Taylor thrilled the audience.
Yo Yo on the run.
Taylor and Williams interact with humor.
Yo Yo reaches out to James.
John Williams and friends shared a special evening.
On a Tuesday evening Tanglewood was packed for a traditional seasonal highlight Tanglewood on Parade. The norm is for several conductors to offer vignettes. Generally of lighter fare. Mostly Pops with a touch of gravitas.
But for this year’s program there was a tribute to John Williams and his thirty year association with Tanglewood. In addition to Williams there were three other conductors; Keith Lockhart, Stefan Asbury, and Julian Kuerti playing his compositions. Williams has written scores for more than a hundred films.
On August 14, Williams will return with the annual Film Night. He will offer a tribute to the films of Steven Spielberg. Don’t be surprised if the director makes a cameo appearance as he has in the past. If he is available surely he will drop by to greet an old friend.
It was a glorious night in the Berkshires which lured thousands to the lawn and filled the Shed. You could cut the humidity with a knife and there wasn’t much of a breeze.
The program commenced with a spirited March from Superman conducted by Keith Lockhart. The familiar, thrilling anthem got the music launched in the right direction.
What followed was a more serious side of Williams the Suite from JFK. There was a solemnity to the music in three sections Theme, Motorcade, and Arlington. The cadence of the snare drum evoked the clatter of horses’ hooves during the funeral procession. It is an image burned into the memory of all who watched the weekend long event of Kennedy’s funeral. The music richly conjured the ghosts of that national disaster.
Before changing the mood with a suite from Harry Potter there was a tribute from Lockhart who followed Williams as conductor of the venerable Boston Pops. He asked Williams to stand and take a bow. He was seated in the audience a few rows from the stage. A number of fans visited him for autographs, a brief chat, and photos. He was very gracious about receiving all this adulation.
When Lockhart exited he was replaced at the podium by Stefan Asbury. There was also a change from the Boston Pops Orchestra to the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. The Tanglewood Music Center Fellow, soprano Elizabeth Baldwin, sang Seven for Luck by Williams. The spirited conducting of Asbury evoked a rich and textured sound from the orchestra which nicely complemented Baldwin’s delivery.
It seems that Williams wrote For New York a tribute to Leonard Bernstein on the occasion of his 70th birthday. This was nicely conducted by Julian Kuerti.
When Williams emerged to conduct the anchor leg of the musical marathon he was greeted by thunderous applause. That was sustained by another outburst when he was joined by Yo Yo Ma.
It was particularly insightful as Ma, the most renowned classical cellist in the world, revealed another side of his playing. He was the soloist in the Asian themed music from Memoirs of a Geisha. The ever versatile Williams evoked traditional Japanese music in Sayuri’s Theme, Going to School, and Brush on Silk. It was of course a commercial pastiche on the sound of the music. Ma and Williams combined to deliver the exotic score with a compelling flourish.
We will hear Yo Yo Ma in a more authentic context on Sunday, August 8 when he returns to Tanglewood with his Silk Road Project. He has been working with a wide range of indigenous musicians in this ongoing venture. We heard him and the ensemble several years ago in Lenox and it was thrilling.
Taking over the microphone Ma also saluted Williams as a long time colleague and friend. He told us that they had searched all over the Berkshires to find an appropriate special guest to perform in this tribute. After much deliberation they had settled on a local singer and songwriter.
The crowd went wild when James Taylor ambled out. He and Ma settled into a duet. Of course the audience, as usual, went nuts when Taylor sang the familiar lines about “Stockbridge to Boston.”
This was followed by a brief film encapsulating vintage clips from his distinguished career. Williams composed his own score which was conducted by Lockhart. Williams, Taylor and Ma clustered at the side of the stage to watch the video on TV monitors.
When they departed the stage was set up combining both the BSO players as well as the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. Again, this is an annual treat. But this time Williams had the honor of conducting the truly massive orchestra in a rousing rendition of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.
As we exited the Shed after a magnificent evening of music by Williams the sky lit up with spectacular fire works. It just doesn’t get better. Indeed it had been Tanglewood on Parade.