Colorado Springs Philharmonic conjures the genius of film composer John Williams

By: david sckolnik Special to The Gazette
May 10, 2013 Updated: May 10, 2013 at 11:25 am
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On Friday and Saturday, Colorado Springs Philharmonic music director Josep Caballe-Domenech will lead his orchestra in 'An Evening with John Williams, ' some of the most popular orchestral music composed in the past four decades.

Music includes themes from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark, 'Hook, ' 'Jurassic Park, ' 'Catch Me If You Can, ' 'Jaws, ' 'E.T.,' 'Schindler's List, ' and 'War Horse ' - all iconic collaborations with director Steven Spielberg.

Warren Epstein will moderate the evening. The former film critic and editor of the Gazette's GO! section will be working with the orchestra for the first time.

The Gazette: With your varied skills and experience, this sounds like a gig you've been after for a long time.

Warren Epstein: Nathan (Newbrough, the philharmonic's president and CEO) just gave me a call and said 'Hey, Warren, how would you like to be part of one of these concerts? ' And I thought, 'Well, I haven't really touched my French horn for a few decades but I'm willing to give it a shot if they're willing to lower their standards. ' Newbrough went on to say 'we're looking for somebody to be a host and to work with Josep and give him some insights about the films and how the music worked with them. ' And I thought 'I can do that. '

Gazette: Did you have to come up with a script?

Epstein: Yeah. In fact, I probably should work on that. (He laughs). I had coffee with Josep: He's an interesting and fun guy and gave me some insights. So, a lot of the dialogue will be from our coffee together.

Gazette: What did you come up with?

Epstein: What I knew about John Williams is that he aimed everything at the center and the core of American culture. Whatever he borrows from other composers he manages to make it so distinctly American. The insights that Josep brings are that 'Star Wars ' borrows from (Holst's) 'The Planets, ' that 'Schindler's List ' borrows from Mahler. We were talking about 'Jaws ' and I said I don't think there are two notes that have ever been so iconic - that dah-duh, dah duh, dah duh. And Josep says 'Well, I think Beethoven might have something to say about it. ' (He laughs.)

Gazette: What stands out to you about this pops concert?

Epstein: All but two of the works are collaborations between John Williams and Steven Spielberg. The only ones that aren't are the 'Harry Potter ' scores and the 'Star Wars ' scores. That was an amazing partnership that helped define both of their careers. For years they had this going and still with (2011's) 'War Horse. ' That's a complex and a really interesting score from a man (Williams), who, at the time, was on the verge of his 80s and is still showing his chops. Kind of like Woody Allen.

Gazette: This is music that everyone knows and that has been played many times by the philharmonic. What will be different this time?

Epstein: It's easy to get lost in this music and it's easy to conjure the movie in your head as you're listening to these pieces. What I'm hoping for is maybe to bring it to a level where people might be asking 'why? ' A little bit of discussion of the films could start bringing us to a different level, where we're starting to not just enjoy this, not just ... be transported by the music, but actually start asking some deeper questions about it.

Gazette: I know you love to wing it, which often includes some spontaneous comedy. Can we expect some surprises?

Epstein: Once you're up there, regardless of what kind of script you've given them, you're on your own. You have a perfect right to run away with the show as best you can and if you can't, it's best of all to just shut it up and let the orchestra do its work.

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