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The ominous sounds of Jaws, a phalanx of Stormtroopers marching onto the stage with Darth Vader, silver confetti cut in the shape of R2-D2 and C-3PO, and violinist Itzhak Perlman (performing the Schindler’s List solo he originally played for the film’s 1993 score) heralded the gala opening of 2014-15 season of the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Tuesday night, Sept. 30 at downtown L.A.’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The theatrics were all part of the night’s celebration of the music of John Williams, the famed film composer, conductor and winner of five Academy Awards (Jaws, Star Wars, E.T., Schinder’s List, Fiddler on the Roof). The Philharmonic, conducted by music director Gustavo Dudamel, played portions of Williams’ work from Amistad, The Adventures of Tin Tin, Catch Me If You Can and George Lucas‘ sci-fi classic, plus the composer’s Olympic Fanfare for the 1984 games in Los Angeles.
One particular highlight was an approximately nine-minute video, which ran during the Star Wars compositions, showing original sketches and blueprints for the film, many of them brought to life with animation by British artist and director Netia Jones. She told THR that traveling to the Lucasfilm archives was a thrill. “They are fabulous drawings,” she said of some of the earliest representations of the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star and its infamous trench. “They were very well formed right from the start. Some of the sketches are tiny, maybe only a couple of inches wide on very loose scraps of paper. They are absolutely amazing references.”
Jones, who has been working on the video since May, says the images of the original 1977 Star Wars storyboards gave the audience a taste of some of the material that Lucas fans will see when the director’s planned Lucas Museum of Narrative Art opens, hopefully in 2018. “All of this imagery will be making its way toward the new museum,” said Jones. “I think it will be fantastic when it comes out into the public eye.”
The evening, attended by such names as Julie Andrews, Sherry Lansing, William Shatner, Michael Eisner and Anjelica Huston, pulled in more than $3.4 million for the Philharmonic’s music programs serving 150,000 children, families and teachers a year.
For the first encore, a few dozen children — members of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus — filled the stage singing “Dry Your Tears Afrika” from Amistad. When Dudamel then launched into the theme song from Jaws, the kids ran for the exits, playfully screaming. “You should have seen those kids rehearsing and getting off the stage. They loved it,” said L.A. Philharmonic president and CEO Deborah Borda.
For the finale, Williams, who had been sitting in the audience, then took to the podium for a surprise appearance, conducting the orchestra in Star Wars‘ “Imperial March” while the costumed villains from the film crashed the stage.
After the show, more than 600 guests enjoyed dinner by Patina in a tented area on Grand Avenue where the sci-fi theme continued with an alien trio from Star Wars‘ Cantina Band performing a number. Earlier in the evening, Dudamel called one of the best composers of our time. “Musicians try to be close to composers like Mahler, Shostakovich,” he said. “But in this opportunity, we have the chance to be so close to this one — that is, John Williams.”
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