A Hymn to New England

John Williams originally composed A Hymn to New England as accompaniment to New England Time Capsule, an Omnimax travelogue shown in the Mugar Omni Theater at Boston’s Museum of Science. Williams conducted the Boston Pops in the first public performance on May 5, 1987. Steven Ledbetter’s program notes for that Opening Night at Pops concert read, in part:

John Williams has been asked, over the years, to provide suitable music for many occasions. Music of celebration, composed for a special event or purpose, can lift the spirits and bring people together in harmony all too often lacking in our world. Two new Williams compositions heard tonight include the score for the film New England Time Capsule, a breathtaking panorama of New England sights, … and the exuberant “We’re Lookin’ Good!,” written in celebration of the forthcoming International Summer Games of the Special Olympics.

The composer dedicated the work “with gratitude to David Mugar.” Boston Pops percussionist and arranger Pat Hollenbeck orchestrated the score and arranged it to fit the IMAX film. “John had other commitments,” Hollenbeck told The Boston Globe in 1989, “so he wrote the themes and I basically put it together.”

The three-minute concert version opens with a rising two-bar theme based on open fourths and fifths, stated by unison trumpets; bravura quintuplet figurations follow. These elements build into a full orchestral fanfare, subsiding as we hear the opening theme in low strings and then oboe. Strings state the principal theme in G major, a hymn-like tune based on the same fourths and fifths as the opening trumpet theme. Quintuplet figures from the fanfare appear in the woodwinds at the end of the phrases and the oboe joins in the tune as the theme repeats. A second subject — the chorus to the refrain of the first hymn theme — follows. A solo trumpet intoning the fanfare theme leads to a brief recollection of the opening segment. The first hymn theme, now in C major, returns on horns, accompanied by scurrying quintuplet runs in the violins. Full orchestra restates the second subject, with glockenspiel and harp providing color. An ensuing coda, based on the opening fanfare, leads to a final C-major chord from organ and orchestra.


Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops made the first commercial recording of the work in November 1996, released on their 1997 album American Visions (RCA/BMG 09026-68786-2) as well as the compilation album Encore! (RCA/BMG 09026-63662-2). Williams recorded the piece himself with the Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles in June 2000 for the album American Journey (Sony Classical SK 89364), released on January 15, 2002.

Sheet Music

The orchestral score and parts to this work are not commercially available, although Hal Leonard has published a band arrangement by Paul Lavender (HL 4000271). A piano arrangement appears in both the John Williams Anthology and Fanfares and Themes.