For once, I won’t complain about the sound. While my past reviews of the NY Pops Concert Series have exposed the poor imbalance between the orchestra and the vocalists, “Grumpy Grandpa” Leeds will refrain from any such criticism this time around.
On Friday evening April 8th, the incomparable NY Pops took center stage at Carnegie Hall to pay tribute to one of Hollywood’s finest collaborations: Director Steven Spielberg and his “go to” composer, John Williams. The only gripe? That every New Yorker should have been there to experience the live thrill of these magnificent compositions.
Williams met the promising filmmaker when Spielberg was just 23 years old. Since then, Williams has scored every one of his movies except for 1985’s The Color Purple (which Quincy Jones did) and last year’s Bridge of Spies, which Thomas Newman composed while Williams was rebounding from illness. Williams has earned 50 Academy Award nominations, taking home five of them. It is easy then, to understand why his music is so revered and beloved; it transcends the silver screen and has become deeply woven into our culture.
The chronologically ordered evening began with Williams, “Shark Theme” from Jaws and continued with excerpts from Close Encounters Of the Third Kind. The March from Raiders of the Lost Ark was next, followed by music from the cherished E.T. Reineke dedicated the next selection, “The Flight to Neverland” to the late Robin Williams, who starred in 1991’s Hook. Act I ended with the gorgeous theme from Jurassic Park. A talented thirteen year old violinist from Ohio, Ethan Olaes, joined the orchestra for that stirring finale to the first act . Williams music is not at all easy to play (as noted by sweat drenched conductor Steven Reineke.) Both he and his orchestra were working overtime, much to the delight of subscribers and ticket holders alike.
Fewer pieces of music are more moving than the main theme from Schindler’s List and the second act opened with a stunning version featuring violinst Cenovia Cummins. 2011 brought War Horse, and the Pops played “Dartmoor, 1912” from that film. In a rare, but amusing moment of forgetfulness, Reineke lost his train of thought while introducing “The People’s House” from Lincoln and with his always winning charm, shrugged off the “senior moment” and turned to his orchestra to begin the number . As he introduced the other pieces, he provided some enthusiastic and interesting movie trivia which added to the already engaging evening.
Saving the arguable best for last, the NY Pops ended the show with selections from both the original 1977 Star Wars and the latest 2015 J. J. Abrams installment Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens. It was an epic ending to an epic season of quality programming from The New York Pops.
On Monday May 2nd, they will celebrate their 33rd Birthday gala with “Do You Hear The People Sing: A Tribute to Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, the songwriting team behind Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre, and more. Major Broadway stars are included in the line-up and proceeds will benefit the Pops Education programs throughout New York City. For tickets and information visit http://www.newyorkpops.org/33rd-birthday-gala