A Special Evening
C. E. Harris
August 15, 1996

“Williams in Concert” was a memorable evening for all who participated in and attended this featured event of the British and American Film Music Festival at the Royal Academy of Music, London, on 21 June 1996. The Academy’s eleventh Composer Festival honored living film music composers, and what better way for the students to appreciate John Williams and his music than by performing in the intimacy of Duke’s Hall before a standing room only audience of parents, peers and professors.

John Williams conducted the RAM Symphony Orchestra in a broad ranging program which included the European premiere of Five Sacred Trees, played by Judith LeClair, principal bassoonist for the New York Philharmonic. From the opening notes of Sound the Bells!, with its hushed mellowness, to the rousing strains of the immortal Star Wars, neither the players nor the conductor lost any enthusiasm and freshness for these compositions being heard for their first or familiar time.

It was a special evening for John Williams, too! He was presented with Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music and honored with the playing of an original composition by James Shearman, Metropolis — A Tribute to John Williams, conducted by Paul Brough, an RAM post-graduate. After the interval, Mr. Williams thanked the Academy for the award, and for the opportunity to come all the way from Hollywood via Boston to work with their exceptional orchestra. Citing the heritage of British orchestral music and his appreciation of its quality, he complimented the students when he spoke in his warm, friendly manner: “To you parents and friends, this is a very special evening for me. This orchestra, well, not only do they play the notes, but their comprehension and understanding is tremendous!”

Just to give you an idea of how accomplished the orchestra and chorus were under the leadership of Mr. Williams, the second half of the program was comprised of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (“Adventures on Earth”), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Suite), the theme from Jurassic Park, “Remembrances” from Schindler’s List and three encores!

Judging by the length and heartiness of the applause, no one wanted the music to stop! The audience stood in admiration and appreciation for the man and his music and it was only when Mr. Williams signalled it was time to sleep that we had to accept this very special performance had come to a close.

C. E. Harris lives in London, England.