Kennedy Center hosts composer John Williams’ 90th birthday celebrations


John Williams is arguably the greatest film composer in the history of cinema. The Kennedy Center hosts Williams…

WTOP’s Jason Fraley salutes John Williams at the Kennedy Center (Part 1)

John Williams is arguably the greatest film composer in the history of cinema.

The Kennedy Center is hosting Williams in person for a series of 90th anniversary events throughout the week, including special National Symphony Orchestra movie concerts.

“You’ve never seen movies like this,” conductor Steven Reineke told OMCP. “There’s a huge HD screen above the orchestra, the film is shown and we provide the live, time-synchronized, front-to-back soundtrack for the entire film. … They were never meant to be made that way! … John Williams’ scores are my favorite to conduct.

On Wednesday, Reineke will perform an NSO screening of “AND the extra-terrestrial.”

“We are celebrating the 40th anniversary,” Reineke said. “It’s a fantastic film. It’s just touching, really sincere and the music is spectacular. This is truly one of my favorite John Williams scores. A lot of people think of bike chase and great exciting music, but most of it is really sensitive and tender music that illustrates this bond between ET and Elliot.

What instruments did Williams use to create the iconic “ET” score?

“He really uses a lot of tinkling orchestral instruments,” Reineke said. “He uses a lot of piano, a lot of an instrument called the celestial, which sounds like a bell, and there’s a lot of harp. There are so many great harp writings and great harp solos in this score. I don’t know of any other film music like this that puts the harp so prominently.

To this day, it remains one of the most immortal children’s films ever made.

“It has stood the test of time,” Reineke said. “It’s about finding a connection and finding yourself. … It’s kind of autobiographical of Spielberg’s childhood upbringing. He also had an imaginary friend and that’s kind of where the idea of ​​ET came from, dealing with trauma, dealing with divorce… and that alien gives Elliot that real sense of purpose.

On Friday, Reineke will then perform an NSO screening of “Jurassic Park.”

“We all remember being in awe watching it, thinking, ‘We’ve never seen anything like it. It was so realistic, so realistic,” Reineke said. “It’s still really holding up. I think part of that is because it’s not all CGI. They created dinosaurs, the triceratops, it’s not a fake animal, they actually interact with puppet animatronics. It’s real and it’s scary.

What instruments did Williams use to create the “Jurassic Park” theme?

“There’s obviously a lot of brass in ‘Jurassic Park,’ these big fanfares, the big main theme…it’s all trumpets, horns and trombones,” Reineke said. “Then, the second theme is a little softer with strings and woodwinds. [Reineke starts singing the theme while making up his own lyrics]; “I love dinosaurs, super big dinosaurs.”

Between the individual cine-concerts, Thursday brings a birthday gala directed by Stéphane Denève with guests Steven Spielberg, Yo-Yo Ma and Anne-Sophie Mutter. If you’re disappointed it’s sold out, you can still catch Williams before “Jurassic Park.”

The film starts at 8 p.m. but at 7 p.m. John Williams will do a Q&A on stage, “so people should come early and listen to John,” Reineke said.

Reineke is eager to ask Williams a few questions.

“I’ve never met him and he’s one of my musical idols, so I’m kinda freaking out,” Reineke said. “I’m going to ask him if he’s going to sign something for me. … His first album when he was 24 or 25 is called “The John Towner Touch”, his middle name is Towner. … I scoured the internet and found a copy of this album from Japan … and I’m going to surprise John with it.

WTOP’s Jason Fraley salutes John Williams at the Kennedy Center (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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