- Event: The Music of John Williams: Star Wars and Beyond
- Date: Saturday, February 24th, 2018
- Location: Suntory Hall, Roppongi, Tokyo
Intro: A Line-Up of Favourites
Saturday, February 24th was a cold but sunny Saturday afternoon in Roppongi, Tokyo, when the diehard fans started to pour into Suntory Hall. The venue has seen many different kinds of shows throughout the years, from ultimate classics to Broadway orchestras and more. And on this day, it was to be the venue for something really special; a wonderful conglomeration of music by one of the finest movie composers of our time. Of course, we mean none other than John Williams.
With seats ranging from very affordable to incredibly expensive and every seat in Suntory Hall filled, there was a wide variety of people from every walk of life. From families with small children to elderly couples, young friends, foreigners, Japanese people...basically a little bit of everything! And there was even a group cosplaying as Luke Skywalker, Rey, and a Stormtrooper who took their place in the balcony seats. It was a good experience to see so many different fans all easily filling the gigantic hall, and all ready to enjoy the music together. Whether fans of the movies themselves, the music, or even just classical music and the orchestra in general, everyone had come out to enjoy their Saturday afternoon at the orchestra together.
Suntory Hall itself was a nice venue and there wasn’t really a bad seat in the house. Even the most affordable seats that were located in the orchestra were not far away at all, so you could easily watch the conductor Keitaro Harada while he directed and hear the music without a problem. We sat in the wings right over the orchestra close enough to see many of the musician’s faces and with a great view of Harada (and it was quite an affordable ticket as well!). Of course, the best seats were on the floor right in front of the orchestra or the balcony right above it for the best view and sound. But the hall was set up for this kind of event, and acoustically, it was great. No one had a “bad” seat!
Performance: Hollywood Magic Brought to Life
The hall erupted into applause when the orchestra took to the stage, and it doubled when the conductor, Keitaro Harada, joined them. But the moment he lifted his hands to begin, silence fell over the entire room. Everyone waited with anticipation for that first note. And well timed with the 2018 Winter Olympics that were happening at the same time, the orchestra began with the Olympic Fanfare and Theme. From the very start, we knew we were in for an amazing two hours. The acoustics in Suntory Hall, the enthusiasm of Harada, and the dedication of the members of the orchestra was clear immediately in their delivery. And the audience was already captivated!
Looking around we could see so many smiling faces. After the Olympic Fanfare and Theme, the cinema music began. The show built up the anticipation for Star Wars by saving all of those pieces for last, featuring many of John Williams’ other famous works first. The setlist was a selection of favourites with the most recognisable themes, making the concert easily accessible even to people that don’t typically make classical music their hobby. Themes like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter are easily recognisable by most people, so everyone could enjoy them!
Throughout the show, the conductor Keitaro Harada showed his very obvious passion for the music. Watching him conduct was a show in and of itself, with his over-the-top gestures and intense expressions. He even broke his conducting stick during the most intense part of the Flying Theme from E.T., sending a piece of it flying over the orchestra! Luckily, a stage attendant was quick to bring him a handful of new sticks in case his vigour led to another casualty. Harada always took the time after each piece to allow the featured sections or soloists stand for their much-deserved applause from the audience and seemed happy to let the musicians accept the praise more than himself.
Of course, the musicians themselves were incredibly talented. Nothing quite compares to seeing music that you know and love from the cinema come alive in front of you, giving each piece depth you never knew it had before. Many of the most powerful sections were enough to give chills up the spine, goosebumps on the skin, or even bring a tear to the eye. We were fortunate enough to sit close enough to the orchestra to see the smiles on their faces after each piece as well, which added something really special to the experience. Knowing that the performers are enjoying delivering the music to us as much as we are happy to hear it is a great feeling.
One of the most emotional moments of the entire performance was the Theme for Cello and Orchestra from Schindler’s List. For people that have watched the film, the music already stirs up a lot of emotions. But this experience was an even more special one. The soloist was a special cellist named Eru Matsumoto, an alumnus of the famous school of music, Juilliard. She came to the stage in a stunning wine coloured dress with silver accents, taking a special place right next to Keitaro Harada for her featured moment. And then she played her cello without any sheet music, and it was enough to bring tears to your eyes. The arrangement was a special one John Williams himself sent in his apology for not being able to attend himself due to his schedule, and it was definitely beyond what words can really give justice to.
Outro: Music That Transcends Borders
Some things bring people together across cultural lines, and Star Wars is one of those things. Classical music is another! So it’s no surprise that The Music of John Williams: Star Wars and Beyond easily filled Suntory Hall on Saturday. Music without lyrics needs no translation, so everyone can enjoy it together and have the same understanding. Everyone can share their feelings. And everyone can relive their favourite movies together! With such a wide range of people in attendance, old and young, male and female, foreign and Japanese, everyone had something big in common - a love of the music of John Williams!
At the end of the concert, Keitaro Harada went around the orchestra allowing each section of musicians their chance to stand up and be showered in the applause of the audience. Some groups, such as the saxophone trio that featured in the Cantina Band song, received extra enthusiasm, along with the section leaders of the other instruments. There wasn’t a face in the hall that wasn’t smiling, and everyone clapped as long as they were able to. The praise for the orchestra and conductor didn’t finish until the members of the orchestra began to thank one another and pack up, and then the audience finally began to trickle out.
Even as the last note faded from Suntory Hall and the applause finally died down, the memories will stay forever. From mega fans and devotees to people that can just appreciate a well-written score, it was a show to capture people’s hearts, imaginations, and appreciation. It was an honour to see the Tokyo Philharmonic Symphony be able to perform so many amazing pieces by the musical mastermind John Williams.
And the best part? The conductor and emcee said there might be another concert in the future! Let’s hope for even more of the new Star Wars music!