Great American Cinema would be nothing without its scores. The man behind many of those familiar film scores is the great John Williams, who has written some of the most iconic themes for some of the most iconic blockbuster movies of the last 40 years. Music in the Mountains will celebrate John Williams at this year's Pops Night, when The Festival Orchestra, which is about 60 or so musicians, along with conductor Richard Kaufman, will dip into the world of Harry Potter and beyond on Saturday night at the Sky Ute Casino Resort’s Events Center, playing Williams’ familiar scores from hit films.
“So, for this one it was really Angie Beach’s inspiration to do the music of Harry Potter, but it’s also something where there was so much other great John Williams music, that I said, ‘What if we include some other music as well?’” said Kaufman. “And that’s how the program took shape. So, we’ve got ‘Harry Potter,’ and a lot of this has to do with fantasy, and we’ve got ‘Superman,’ we’ve got music from ‘Hook,’ and how could you do a John Williams program and not do some music from ‘Star Wars’?”
Kaufman is a trained violinist whose resume includes playing for Williams on some of these scores when originally recorded for film. He jokes that his desire to become a conductor was to have power over people, but the real reason was so he can be part of what is a huge group effort that brings this music to life.
“When I work with an orchestra, one of my main goals is they will feel ownership with what they are doing, that it isn’t some guy standing on a box waving a stick in their face and saying, ‘I’m the conductor, this is what you’re going to do, so sit down, shut up and play the music,’” he said. “I guess it comes from my being a player, I really feel that the collaborative idea of making music is so exciting, and then to enjoy that success with everybody.”
The aforementioned films, as well as many more of these Williams scores are at this point a major part of cinematic pop culture. These are familiar pieces of music that are as much a part of the films as characters like Elliott from “E.T.” or Hagrid from the Harry Potter series. These films wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful were it not for the music of Williams, and for a conductor like Kaufman, this is a way for him and the orchestra to provide a familiar, theatric experience solely with this memorable music.
It’s also fun to watch 60-some musicians play high-energy, dramatic and wonderful pieces of familiar music. It's what Kaufman refers to as “the ultimate team effort” as he leads an orchestra “from zero to 60 in half a second.”
“These are other worlds we go to for a short period of time and enjoy the storytelling, enjoy the characters, feel for them, cry for them, laugh with them, are amazed at them, look at the stars with them and just be taken to another place, and I think that in today’s world people are looking for those oases to get away to. The music provides that,” he said. “The other thing I would say, you can go to the movies and watch the movie and hear the music, but when you see a symphony orchestra performing this music, it’s also a visual experience, like being on the scoring stage itself. You watch the players, you watch the action going on, it’s very exciting.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.