The Music of John Williams: Star Wars + More

The Louisville Orchestra
Bob Bernhardt, Principal Pops Conductor
Michael W. Davis, Violin
University of Louisville Cardinal Singers, Kent Hatteberg, Director
Louisville Youth Choir, Terri Foster, Director


Composer John Williams

By Shaun Kenney

Entire contents are copyright © 2016 Shaun Kenney. All rights reserved

As many times as I have attended performances by the Louisville Orchestra this is the first time I have been to a pops concert. This particular performance was designed to celebrate Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt’s 35thAnniversary season. As the night was dedicated to him he put together an offering of works created by his favorite composer, John Williams, arguably one of the most prolific composers of our time. Most widely recognized for his film scores, Mr. Williams has received 50 Academy Award nominations and has won a total of 5. His most iconic works include all seven Star Wars films, Schindler’s List, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

The evening was divided into “three halves” as Mr. Bernhardt put it. The show opened with “Superman March” from, you guessed it, Superman. The first few notes from the trumpets were, in my opinion, a little rough but they quickly recovered and delivered a powerful performance. It was the perfect way to begin the night. This section also included two selections from Star Wars: “Anakin’s Theme” from Star Wars: Episode I and “The Imperial March” from Star Wars: Episode V. This was an excellent juxtaposition of themes as you could almost hear how young Anakin becomes Darth Vader from one work to the next. In the words of Mr. Bernhardt, John Williams had to “pre-compose” himself as “The Imperial March”, representing Darth Vader, was written almost 20 years prior to Anakin’s Theme.

Long time concertmaster Michael Davis was back on the stage tonight at the request of Mr. Bernhardt. He exquisitely executed the violin solo in the “Theme” from Schindler’s List with beautiful and haunting accompaniment from the orchestra. This was probably my favorite piece of the night, and it brought a lump to my throat.

After the first intermission the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers and the Louisville Youth Choir joined the orchestra for the “second half” of the evening. Works in this section ranged from “Somewhere in My Memory” from Home Alone, to “Dry Your Tears, Afrika” from Amistad. The choirs sounded lovely, although I do feel they were a bit overpowered by the orchestra at times. This may have been the intention in a few of the selections, such as “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan, as the choir’s part seems to have been written as more of an accompaniment to the orchestra instead of the other way around.

The “third half” of the night closed the concert with themes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Memoirs of a Geisha, and the newest movie in the Star Wars franchise, Episode VII – The Force Awakens. At the end of the show several Storm Troopers and others in Star Wars costumes marched out onto the stage to the delight of the audience. After donning an Indiana Jones style wide-brimmed fedora, Mr. Bernhardt closed out his 35th anniversary concert by conducting the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark as an encore.

The audience was clearly very into this show. There were several standing ovations and some folks were enjoying themselves so much that they couldn’t stop talking, even as the orchestra was playing. We sat in front of one particularly vocal older lady. I now know more about her prescription medications and how they are causing her hair loss than I care to. Despite this I did enjoy the performance, though I will say it was a tad long for my taste. But John Williams is one of my favorite composers and I was thrilled to be a part of this celebration of his work and of Mr. Bernhardt’s 35th Anniversary season.

The Music of John Williams: Star Wars + More

November 5, 2016

Louisville Orchestra
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main St
Louisville, KY 40202


Shaun KenneyShaun Kenney studied Music Education and Instrumental at Campbellsville University. In Louisville, he has worked with Finnigan Productions since its inception, as Stage Manager, Sound Designer, and Director.