Updated: Aug 9, 2019
One of my favorite LA things to do is attend the annual Hollywood Bowl John Williams concert. Under the stars you sit and listen to the maestro conduct the LA Philharmonic to scenes from STAR WARS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, ET, JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, JURASSIC PARK, and all his iconic film scores.
The above video, from the August 29, 2014 shows the literal electricity (by light sabre) from the crowd as Williams conducts to his fabled STAR WARS score. As I sat and listened to the music I was instantly transported back to 1977 when I was a child and STAR WARS was a newborn. It’s the music that takes me back and conjures the emotions.
Watch the below clip from STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE without the soundtrack then watch it again, and play the music from the above video. As soon as you hear the first few notes you can feel your heart pounding and your pulse racing. The iconic trumpet sounds with the familiar theme and right away you're transported back to the moment when you saw the film for the very first time. It gives you chills, makes you cry, brings out emotions you didn't know you could produce so instantly.
Seeing Star Wars for the first time, especially as a child, I wanted to dive in and follow Luke and Leia around the galaxy. Like so many other fans, STAR WARS has deep meaning beyond a love for the story and characters. It deeply impacted my life.
My Dad took me to see the film when it was originally released in 1977. Going to the movies with my father was very special to me, every screening a virtual lesson in film history. He took me to everything from James Bond to Alfred Hitchcock and every age inappropriate film in between. I vividly remember my mother and father getting in an argument after he took me to see TAXI DRIVER. I was seven. My father, a scholar and a writer, argued that it was crucial for my development to seek out art that would challenge my intellect and imagination. Mum wasn't buying that but I thank him for it every day.
My father knew very little about STAR WARS other than it was Science Fiction--not his favorite genre. I vaguely remember some subtle cajoling to try to get me to see an old film noir picture instead but I managed to convince him to see it. When we sat down in the theater he was a bit snarky having acquiesced to what he thought would be a frivolous experience. His skepticism quickly turned to intrigue as the forceful sound of the trumpets led us into a galaxy far far away. When Obi-Wan appeared and revealed his face Dad gasped, "That's Alec Guinness!". I couldn't figure out why he was so excited to see this old man who was saving Luke Skywalker from the Sand People. Ahh youth.
As the film went on, his fascination grew. He leaned over periodically to point things out I may have overlooked or giving me background on old movie actors I'd never heard of--Peter Cushing, who? If only I knew then what I would covet now. When we got to the final scene where Luke and Hans walk the long walk to receive their medals from Leia, the music strong and majestic, I could see Dad's face light up with the excitement that only STAR WARS fans understand. We were suddenly the same age, two kids discovering the magic of STAR WARS together. STAR WARS will forever connect me to my Dad and I'm grateful for that attachment.
There were thousands of people in the audience at the Hollywood Bowl annual "John Williams: Maestro of the Movies" concert. I'll bet that every one of them had a personal story swimming around in their head spurring emotions as they listened to the music. It's the musical score, in the hands of the maestros like Williams, that deepen the meaning of a film's story. STAR WARS illustrates this point possibly better than any other. I challenge you to watch this video without experiencing an immediate reaction as soon as the tune becomes familiar. It's simply impossible.
Thank you John Williams for securing a lasting, sweet memory and for inspiring me to reach for the stars through stories. Thank you Dad for sharing the magic of STARS WARS with me.
May the Fourth Be with You!
Before this article was published my father passed away very suddenly. May the Fourth Be with You Dad, in that galaxy far far away.