For all the film music aficionados out there, especially fans of John Williams, this is one concert that was definitely worth the price of admission.
The John Williams Celebration: Music From the Movies and More features a compilation of memorable music composed by John Williams throughout his career, including the fanfare for the Statue of Liberty centennial in 1986, as well as his popular film scores from films, such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Catch Me If You Can, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and the original Star Wars trilogy. The concert is performed by the University of Alberta Concert Band led by Daryl Price, and the Symphonic Wind Ensemble led by Dr. Angela Schroeder.
Having attended the concert with my young cousin, it was an incredibly fun experience to be listening to such classic film scores that reminded me of why John Williams has endured as a iconic staple of Hollywood cinema. “Hymn to the Fallen,” composed for Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, was surprisingly haunting for me, hearing the far-out bugles along with the voices of the Memorial Composite High School Mass Choir and Vocal Collective. It created a solemn yet heroic theme that made me instantly visualize that visceral opening scene of incredible bloodshed on the Normandy beaches from the film.
During the first half, everything sounded excellent and Price led the Concert Band extremely well. However, there was one moment during the first half that was pleasantly unexpected. During “Reflections” from Catch Me If You Can, there was this low and deep strum from Connor Hoppenbrouwers on the double bass that took me aback. That sound seemed to curve like a boomerang and once it came back it was over, and the orchestra proceeded as normal. It was such a stunning moment that only lasted a second, but both me and the woman in front of me were equally impressed.
In the second half of the concert, the concert became considerably more fun as the composer, Dr. Angela Schroeder, and all the players dressed up in full cosplay, dressing as cowboys and cowgirls, E.T. characters like Elliot and Gertie, and Star Wars characters like Rey and Darth Vader. Everyone in the audience was having fun as Schroeder rounded out the concert with performances from The Cowboys, E.T., and selected themes from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. For the last Star Wars segment, she was dressed up as Darth Vader and composed the orchestra with a light saber, which made those themes all the more special.
My only issue is that there were no themes for Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park, arguably some of the most iconic film scores of all time. I am not sure why these themes were excluded, barring licensing issues or unavailabilities, but their absence was truly felt throughout the entire concert.
All in all, The John Williams Celebration concert was a fantastic outing to go with your friends and/or family. The performances from the Concert Band and Symphonic Wind Ensemble were all well-performed and executed, thanks to their experienced and tested composers. It was a great time listening to classic film scores from the iconic John Williams live, experiencing his music for the first time or reliving that warm wave of nostalgia from your childhood memories.