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Symphony celebrates composer John Williams’ 90th birthday

Nov. 2, 2022 Updated Thu., Nov. 3, 2022 at 3:04 p.m.


Spokane Symphony music director James Lowe rarely conducts pops concerts. But, for John Williams, he had to make an exception.

In honor of Williams’ 90th Birthday, the symphony’s second pops concert of the season will feature a range of selections from some of the composer’s most iconic film scores including “Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Superman,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jurassic Park,” “Harry Potter” and, of course, “Star Wars.”

“He has such an incredible gift for writing memorable melodies,” Lowe said. “Superman’s theme … takes me back to being a kid again, charging around the school playground Monday morning wearing my duffle coat like a cape after watching ‘Superman’ on TV Sunday afternoon.”

Ranging from the “frightening modernist noises of ‘Close Encounters’ to the touching music of ‘Schindler’s List’ … the music makes us feel like we can fly,” he said.

As ubiquitous as Williams’ influence on film culture has been, Lowe couldn’t quite pin down his first time hearing one of his film scores. But he vividly remembers an early screening of “E.T.”

“My mum … put her sunglasses on to hide how much she was crying,” he said. “I’m sure the music played a large part in that.”

The job of a film score, Lowe explained, is to create atmosphere and emotion without distracting from the action on screen.

“The composer has to know precisely how to calibrate the music to the story’s journey,” he said.

And the magic of Williams is that he manages to do all of the above while also creating memorable pieces of music.

“Most composers would give their right arm to have written just one of Williams’ tunes,” he said. “They seem to flow from him like water from a faucet … and yet his music never gets in the way. Surely the greatest of all time.”

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