Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA
April 23, 2016
by Shera Cohen
Maestro Kevin Rhodes asked the near-full house audience at Symphony Hall to name the single piece of music that everyone could instantly name by the orchestra’s only playing the very first note. Actually, pretty much everyone on the planet (a bit of an exaggeration) would get this one right. The answer: “Star Wars.” Needless to say, the SSO’s salute to John Williams had to include the composer’s signature piece. Take note for future Pops, not to put on your coat at the program’s end as there is always an encore. SSO offered a dramatic Darth Vader composition.
While my person favorite part of any orchestra is the percussion section, admittedly, Williams keeps the brass players quite busy. Directly aligned with the drums, et al, my orchestra seats could not have been any better. Watching the percussion quartet of young men compared to seeing a choreographed dance. The brass players especially shined in “Olympic Fanfare & Theme.”
Themes from 13 of Williams’ many films showed off Rhodes’ finesse and humor, and SSO’s dramatic and whimsical interpretation. The movie music created a list of “who’s who” primarily among Spielberg blockbusters. The softer refrains from “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List” contrasted with the spirited theatrics of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Superman.” In a category all its own was “Amistad,” underlined with the sounds of African drums. Of course, topping the list as inarguably the most delightful moment of the performance had to be the “E.T. Flying Theme.”
A few comments that are not necessarily found in a review are important to say. First, thank you to the MC who, in addition to asking (no, telling) the audience to turn off cell phones, said that texting and the bothersome accompanying shining light was highly discouraged. I asked myself, who on earth would find a need to text during a symphonic concert of the hits of John Williams? Second, kudos to the kids, and some adults, who added extra fun to the evening by dressing up as recognizable characters from Williams’ movies. Saw a few Princess Laias and Superman/men. Third, was the SSO’s invitation to a little post-concert party at the Sheraton. Since the seating was family-style, we munched with two of the musicians at our table. The soiree was a lovely treat at the end of the evening.
Thank goodness, that at age 84, John Williams continues to prove that he is a music genius.