Every summer, the Hollywood Bowl becomes a showcase for film music — sometimes live-to-picture concerts, sometimes potpourri evenings of classic movie music, always an end-of-summer bash featuring the legendary John Williams. It’s been my pleasure (for more than 20 years now) to provide program notes for many of these evenings, as these concerts often feature music not previously played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic or the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. This year they included notes for “America in Space,” the annual Williams concert, and a live-to-picture presentation of the 1951 classic An American in Paris. The latter was especially fun to research, watch again and write about. Click on the image at left.
This weekend John Williams, the most famous composer in Hollywood history, celebrated his 40th anniversary conducting at the Hollywood Bowl. His very first concert leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Bowl was on July 28, 1978, subbing for an ailing Arthur Fiedler, who had been scheduled to conduct a pair of “Pops at the Bowl” concerts that weekend. Since then, the much-honored dean of American film composers has returned to the Bowl on dozens of occasions, conducting not only his own music but that of other composers, most of whom were active in Hollywood at one time or another. The program included not only Williams compositions but also those of a friend and mentor, Leonard Bernstein (whose centennial is also being celebrated this year). Steven Spielberg served as host; David Newman conducted the first half. Here is my review for Variety.
The annual John Williams concerts at the Hollywood Bowl are always cause for celebration, and they remain as popular as ever, generally selling out three consecutive nights on a late-summer weekend. But this year offered a surprise: Williams conducted, live-to-picture, his score for the animated short Dear Basketball, based on Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s farewell poem to his beloved sport, narrated in person by Bryant himself. I contributed the program notes, as I often do for this concert (co-conducted by David Newman), but this year I also had the opportunity to preview the Dear Basketball premiere (including a new interview with director-animator Glen Keane), and I wrote about the concerts afterward.
John Williams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic during three weekend concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. It was, as always, hugely entertaining, with the maestro doing considerable Star Wars music and introducing a new suite of music from The BFG. Then in just a few days, he’ll be honored on Turner Classic Movies with a night of his movies plus two terrific American Film Institute specials: a commercial-free version of the Life Achievement Award dinner from earlier this year, and his conversation with Steven Spielberg that first aired in 2011. Here is a look at both events.
Mission: Impossible composer Lalo Schifrin says he’s given up scoring movies (maybe!) but, at 84, he is still writing potent music for the classical world. His new guitar concerto, his second for renowned soloist Angel Romero, will debut Tuesday night at the Hollywood Bowl (with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic). In this piece for the Los Angeles Times, I interviewed the five-time Grammy winner about his concerto, about writing for films vs. the concert hall, and about the enduring legacy of a 1966 TV theme that remains his most famous work. (I also talked to Romero, who laughed and said Schifrin’s guitar writing was “diabolical” — as in difficult.)
Last weekend marked the first time that the paying public had ever seen Steven Spielberg’s classic E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial with live musical accompaniment. (John Williams conducted a studio orchestra before an invited audience at the Shrine Auditorium in 2002.) More than 35,000 attended over three nights as David Newman conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Williams’ iconic score at the Hollywood Bowl. I wrote the program notes for the evening, but I felt it was also important to report on the event. My overview contains details you won’t find anywhere else.
Talk about a fun assignment: Last night, the Los Angeles Philharmonic played Alan Silvestri’s music for the 1985 film Back to the Future “live to picture,” with the estimable David Newman conducting. It was a near-sellout with more than 16,000 people attending, and the crowd cheered every iconic moment in the time-travel romp starring Michael J. Fox. I interviewed the composer about his memories of scoring Back to the Future — which was only his second opportunity to write for orchestra — and why he wrote another 20 minutes of music specifically for these live presentations.
This was among the few film- and TV-music nights at the Bowl this summer I was not involved with, even peripherally. So we got to go and just enjoy. Here’s a recap with a little more musical detail than you will find in most reviews of the weekend celebration.
It’s been a pleasure to write scripts not only for myself — both for radio and live concert appearances — but for others, especially at the Hollywood Bowl in recent years, often for their “Big Picture” nights when the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performs movie music. This year I wrote three: for an evening of music from Alfred Hitchcock films, hosted by Eva Marie Saint (who was delightful to work with); for the Motion Picture Academy’s celebration of the “Black Movie Soundtrack”; and a last-minute polish for Jack Black’s hosting of music from DreamWorks Animation. Here find reviews of the Hitchcock show; of the Black Soundtrack evening, hosted by Craig Robinson; and of the DreamWorks bash. I often write the program notes too.