In a world where “showtunes” is more likely to refer to songs by Monty Python and Mel Brooks as much as Gilbert & Sullivan, going to a concert centered around movie music can be positively high brow. That’s especially the case when John Williams takes the stage. The prolific composer’s works have been celebrated with an annual concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles for over two decades. Although, his time on stage has been reduced to the second half of the concert following his 80th birthday in 2012, all nights of the “Maestro of the Movies” concerts are invariable sold out.

This year coincides with the 40th anniversary of two of his biggest cinematic scores – Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Friday, September 1, 2017 was also the date set forth in the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that Harry and Ginny Potter along with Ron and Hermione Weasley put their respective children onto The Hogwarts Express for their first trip to the school for wizards and witches. So it is only fitting that music from these three movies formed the bulk of the night’s program.

Going off the menu

Williams’ usual playlist consists of his popular standards. The themes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman and ET are almost mandatory along with Leia’s Theme, The Throne Room and The Imperial March from Star Wars. This year, his works were represented by music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders, Harry Potter and Star Wars with an encore from Superman.

He lead off with Mutt’s Theme from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This was followed by a medley of music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind in honor of the film’s 40th anniversary of its release.

A cruelly clipped segment to comply with fair use requirements:

Close Encounters was immediately followed by a compilation of The Chamber of Secrets, Aunt Marge’s Waltz and Harry’s Wondrous World accompanied by scenes from across the eight movies – with the Epilogue scene appearing on screen at the end.

Yet another cruelly clipped segment:

As a surprise, Williams revealed that he had composed music for a short animated film based on prose written by former NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant. He then introduced the retired Lakers guard onto the stage to read his work while the animation played above and the orchestra played.

Star Wars by Saber Light

Following this, the Star Wars franchise was represented by the old and the new. Rey’s Theme and Scherzo for X-Wings from The Force Awakens preceded Star Wars: Main Title. This last tune brought out the light sabers that the audience had carried in with much anticipation.

Hollywood Bowl, concert audience, light saber

The Hollywood Bowl and Lightsabers

Hollywood Bowl, audience, light sabers

The audience brings light sabers to the John Williams concert

As mentioned earlier, him playing The Imperial March, aka “Darth Vader’s Theme” is practically obligatory. It showed up in the first encore and the audience let out a big cheer as it was illuminated by the glow of several thousand lightsabers. Everything from the cheap knock-offs sold by street vendors, to the retail mass-market toys to more than a few of the high end props were bouncing to the beat. According to Williams, Los Angeles is the only venue where this occurs and he absolutely loves it. After the music ended even orchestra members were waving lightsabers on stage. And, after the second – and final – encore of the night, Superman, Kobe Bryant came on stage carrying a lightsaber as well.

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