The Sound of a Star

In the musical universe only a few stars shine by themselves. One of these stars flew over the moon of London on June 28, 1996. At 7:30 PM, in the London sky, the sun was hidden by some clouds and some drops of rain had changed the scent of the air. Another light should have illuminated the audience of the Barbican Hall, where the London Symphony Orchestra members were already taking their seats, while hundreds of persons of every age had already taken theirs. Then, to thunderous applause, the quintessential film composer John T. Williams climbed up the platform. The concert began.

First, the sound of Summon The Heroes, which everyone may have heard at the July 1996 Centennial Celebration of the Modern Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia (USA). In this piece, a solo trumpet theme reminded me of the sound of the Born on the Fourth of July theme but, this time with a different tune: the tune of the human glory of the athlete — “who is living sculpture” (Williams’ words) — and since I am a musician, I must underline that, if you listen to this piece with enough attention, you can discover what I call “the musical signature” of Williams, that is, a strange special chord (minor and major together!). The Cowboys Overture followed and then music of JFK (from the Oliver Stone movie). The “Arlington” piece sounded me so ardent a string elegy that, later, it was very hard to listen to anything else. (Even in this piece, the French horn solo reminds us of the Williams “signature.”)

After that, we had the immortal Star Wars (1977) music. Who doesn’t know it? The “Imperial March” and the Main Title to Star Wars brought me back to the past (I was just 7 years old when I first saw the movie). I can assure you that this is a very difficult score, especially for the brass, but the LSO played it excellently. Congratulations! After a short interval, the March from Superman was followed by music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Jurassic Park and the Oscar-winner Schindler’s List, played in a touching way by the violinist Marcia Crayford. Moreover, I was delighted to listen to “Adventures on Earth” from E.T. (1982) — which, I think, is Williams’ best work — and the Raiders March (1981) as an encore. Since the applause wouldn’t stop, we had a second encore: the theme music from the first Spielberg-Williams collaboration, Sugarland Express (1974). This piece has a very strange ending: listen to the piano notes just at the end…I can’t hide that at the end of the concert I was feeling deeply touched because of the never-ending applause and the standing ovation for this man. As I’ve already said I am a musician, so I have listened to a lot of music in my life. I can surely say that in London I was in front of one of the best composers of our age and this fact, made me feel very nostalgic because it was like being in front of Bach, Beethoven or Mozart, with the only difference that those geniuses are among us only with their music, but John Williams was just in front of me.

After the concert, I waited — among a lot of people — for the autograph, even if I would have had more time for talking to Maestro Williams. I will not be able to forget that when Williams and I had a handshake and he looked at me, his lively blue eyes seemed to me like two stars.

Giuseppe Arena is a violinist living in Catania, Italy.