John Williams Film Prom BBC Proms


John Williams Film Prom

Movie magic from John Williams's back catalogue, including Star Wars, Harry Potter and ET, as the Proms celebrates the 85th birthday of the world's favourite film composer.


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Transcript


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Harry Potter, Superman, ET and the most famous shark

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in cinema history are all ready for their close-ups

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here at the Royal Albert Hall.

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Tonight, the iconic music of John Williams is going to

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transport us to the worlds of our favourite movies,

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and indeed to galaxies far, far away.

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I do hope you have plenty of popcorn.

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Welcome to the John Williams Film Prom.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Ladies and gentlemen, the BBC Concert Orchestra

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with conductor Keith Lockhart.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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And that is our concert off to a thrilling start,

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with The Raiders March, music that conveys daring and danger

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and derring do so strongly that I feel I should just

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reassure you, the audience here, there aren't any

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poison pits or snakes or anything too dangerous here in the hall,

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and if I do see a giant boulder rolling towards you from the back,

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I promise I will tell you.

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I'm Katie Derham, welcome to a very special Proms,

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celebrating one of the world's best-loved composers -

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the man who launched the Death Star, sent Harry Potter

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off on his broomstick and helped ET and Elliot ride across

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the face of the moon.

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Tonight, the music of John Williams is going to raise the roof

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here at the Royal Albert Hall.

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John Williams can't be with us this evening,

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but he did send a message and he said,

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"I send my fond regards to everyone gathered in the Royal Albert Hall,

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"along with my best wishes for a joyous evening of music."

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Well, John Williams is the reason why when we go to see

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a modern blockbuster movie we expect to hear a big, full-blooded sound.

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No other living composer has done more to preserve

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the orchestra's starring role in the movies.

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So tonight we're going to hear the classics that we sing

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in the bath, like his theme for Jaws,

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and some rarities as well.

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And we're going to begin with one of those,

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written in that scarcely imaginable time where nobody in the world

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had heard of Darth Vader or Indiana Jones.

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Back in 1969, John Williams was already a great success.

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He'd written television music for Lost In Space

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and the NBC nightly news, he'd earned an Oscar nomination

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for the big screen melodrama Valley Of The Dolls.

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And that led to a collaboration with the veteran British composer

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and lyricist Leslie Bricusse, on a musical version of

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the well-loved school story Goodbye, Mr Chips.

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And this is the overture built from Bricusse's songs,

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but already strong with the force of Williams' genius.

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APPLAUSE

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AUDIENCE LAUGHS

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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The March from Superman The Movie,

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a classic theme by John Williams

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who we are here to celebrate tonight.

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The director that film, Richard Donner, liked the music

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so much that he shouted out, "Genius!" and "Fantastic!"

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and completely ruined the first take of the recording.

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LAUGHTER

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Now, you may remember, at the end of Superman The Movie,

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Christopher Reeve takes to the air

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and circles the globe in just a few minutes,

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well, we're going to do that now,

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with music that takes us to a Geisha house in 1930s Kyoto

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to the lounge of JFK Airport,

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and to Dartmoor on the eve of the First World War.

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Now, there's a thread which runs through much of the music tonight,

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and it has Stephen Spielberg's name on it.

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John Williams has worked with dozens of directors and producers

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over the years, but his strongest bond is with Spielberg

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and you can tell, because it seems they can say whatever

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they like to each other without ever falling out.

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Back in 1975, when Williams sat down to play Spielberg

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the Jaws Theme for the first time,

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the director thought he was going to hear something elaborate,

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and instead he got that famous two-note motif.

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# Der-dum. Der-dum. Der-dum... #

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So simple, Spielberg thought it was a joke and laughed. And he said so.

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But he soon admitted that maybe he was wrong to laugh.

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And then, years later when Williams saw a rough cut of Schindler's List,

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Spielberg's harrowing drama about the Holocaust,

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Williams said to him, he said,

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"You need a better composer than I am for this film."

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"I know," said Spielberg, "but they're all dead."

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So, these next pieces,

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all from films directed or produced by Spielberg

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demonstrate how he and John Williams

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have travelled space and time together.

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APPLAUSE

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Jamal Aliyev on the cello, everyone,

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with Suyuri's Theme, the heroine of Memoirs Of A Geisha,

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directed by Rob Marshall, produced by Stephen Spielberg.

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23-year-old Jamal from Azerbaijan

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is one of our BBC Introducing classical artists.

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And, like all of our soloists this evening,

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he's making his debut here at the Proms and,

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judging by that, I think we'll be seeing him again, don't you?

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Now, let's move to another young soloist

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who's going to take us to our next stop.

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She is the Belgian clarinettist, Annalien Van Wauwe,

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one of the BBC's New Generation artists,

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and she is going to be playing the quirky theme

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from a film that Spielberg directed as well as produced - The Terminal.

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Tom Hanks stars as a man who finds that the East European state

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in which he was born has been abolished

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while he is on a flight to New York,

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so he decides to live in the no-man's-land

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of the airport lounge of JFK,

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dodging the security guards and living on ketchup and crackers.

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Williams maps out this strange life with a comic theme

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that tells The Tale Of Viktor Navorski.

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APPLAUSE

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SILENCE DESCENDS

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Annelien Van Wauwe and Mark Bousie on accordion,

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thank you very much indeed, conjuring Viktor Navorski,

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that eccentric hero of Steven Spielberg's The Terminal,

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a film about a man who wants to return to a homeland

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that has ceased to exist.

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The next stage of our journey brings us to Britain,

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a place where Williams and Spielberg have often worked,

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but have rarely depicted on the screen.

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The story that allowed them to do so was War Horse -

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Michael Morpurgo's much-loved children's novel

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that takes its four-legged hero from Dartmoor

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to the battlefields of the Great War.

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While he was writing, Williams spent time on a ranch in California,

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observing the behaviour of the horses in the fields and stables.

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"The experience," he said, "was joyous."

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If the greatness of Jaws lies in the idea

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that it's music written from the point of view of the shark,

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then Williams' War Horse music

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does the same for a more friendly kind of animal.

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APPLAUSE

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Dartmoor, 1912 - from Steven Spielberg's film War Horse,

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played by the BBC Concert Orchestra under Keith Lockhart,

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with flautist Ileana Ruhemann.

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It's John Williams in full-blown pastoral mode,

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with a nod and a wink in the direction of Vaughan Williams

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and Aaron Copland.

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Now, most of us know Williams' work from the screen -

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but he's also an accomplished composer

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and conductor in the concert hall.

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For many years he was conductor of the Boston Pops -

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a job that he relinquished in 1995 to...

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Well, to this man on the podium, Keith Lockhart.

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-Hello, Katie.

-Well, hello.

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Now, can you remember when you first met him?

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I can, it was the night before the press conference

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announcing my appointment, so that would have been February of 1995.

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I had dinner with him in a secret location,

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because they did not want the press to get wind

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of what was happening the next morning

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and he was the most gracious, most modest possible man.

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It was hard to believe I was in the presence of THE John Williams.

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He gave me very sound advice, he hasn't offered much of it,

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but everything he's offered has been spot on!

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Now, in the next selection of music

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that we're going to hear from you and the orchestra,

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we're going to hear themes of magic, flying wizards, giants -

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lots of comedy as well.

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What is it about John Williams' style of writing

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that lends itself so well to that?

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Everybody has their favourite John Williams movie score

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and so many of us tend towards the big, action-adventure things,

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to Jurassic Park, the Star Wars franchise or Indiana Jones,

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but I think John is at his best when he is in a fantasy world,

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especially when he inhabits the mind and imagination of the child.

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To me, his most evocative scores

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are the ones that really have just a flight of fancy.

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Are things like ET and Hook and the BFG,

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some of which we're going to hear tonight.

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And, you know, I think that's because

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he has the magic to make that happen,

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And those are the movies that he enjoys scoring the most.

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And you know, with that white beard, and a twinkly eye,

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there's something of the wizard about him, too, I think.

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There is kind of a Santa Claus aspect to him!

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But that has happened more in the last 20 years

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since I've gotten to know him, but he was magical even 50 years ago.

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Thank you, Keith, and thank you for telling us a little bit about him.

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Now, let's experience some of the magic of John Williams -

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some more of it. We're going to hear a suite from The BFG -

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which Williams said he scored as if it were a children's ballet.

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And we'll also hear one of his most uplifting pieces of music -

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composed for that breathtaking moment

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when ET waves his magic index finger

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and sends a phalanx of BMX bikes flying up towards the moon.

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But first, music written for a certain wizard called Harry Potter.

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SCATTERED APPLAUSE

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WILD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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SILENCE DESCENDS

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APPLAUSE

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SILENCE DESCENDS

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WILD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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The pleasures of space opera are still ahead of us,

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but now we're going to confront the real dark side,

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music from three films that look back into history

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to tell stories of violence and agony and injustice.

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But music that also offers a note of hope.

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Williams has always had an affinity for movies

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that attempt to reconnect us with the traumatic events of the past,

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for Steven Spielberg, he scored Amistad,

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the story of a slave rebellion and its legal aftermath.

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And for Spielberg, too, he scored Munich,

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a controversial account of the Palestinian terrorism

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at the 1972 Olympics

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and the response of the Israeli security forces.

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We'll hear haunting pieces from both of those films.

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But we will start with some classic Americana,

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a suite from Oliver Stone's JFK,

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a film that worked hard to cast doubt upon official accounts

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of the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

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Williams has written music for other American heads of state.

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When Spielberg cast Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln,

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the composer scored the story of the President's final months

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of life as he struggled to pass anti-slavery laws through Congress.

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Williams also wrote the music for a real-life ascent to the White House,

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when he composed a quartet for the inauguration of Barack Obama.

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JFK, however, takes us to a more painful moment in American history.

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APPLAUSE

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SILENCE DESCENDS

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APPLAUSE

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Prayer For Peace from Munich, written by John Williams

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for what remains the most controversial film

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of their joint career.

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It's about the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics,

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in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered

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by the Black September terror group.

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But it also follows the Mossad hit squad

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assigned to kill the men responsible,

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and argues that this violence was motivated by a desire for revenge,

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something that many commentators rejected.

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Well, if there's a cry of despair in Williams' Prayer from Munich,

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then this next piece treats another painful subject

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with an audible note of hope.

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It's from Amistad, Spielberg's drama about a rebellion

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on board a slave ship in 1839,

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and its legal aftermath in the American Supreme Court.

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And joining Keith Lockhart and the BBC Concert Orchestra

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are some of the best young voices

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that we could possibly bring to you tonight.

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They are Haringey Vox

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and Music Centre London choirs

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and they're going to perform Dry Your Tears, Afrika.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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John Williams took its words from a poem by Bernard Binlin Dadie,

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a prolific writer who, in the 1970s and '80s,

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also served as culture minister in his homeland of Ivory Coast.

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He celebrated his 101st birthday this year.

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So, as you hear our youth choirs perform,

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reflect on the fact that the author of these words

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was born into a world where the transatlantic slave trade

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was not a distant event.

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Dadie was born in January 1916.

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That October, a convention of former slaves

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gathered in Washington DC to demand a pension from the American state.

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All of them had experienced the process that Amistad describes -

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to be considered, in the eyes of the law, someone's private property -

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and then to be reclassified as a human subject.

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So, this is Dry Your Tears, Afrika.

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THEY SING IN MENDE

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WILD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Dry Your Tears, Afrika from the score of Amistad.

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Thank you to Haringey Vox

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and the Music Centre London.

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Now, Amistad, one of several films on the Williams CV

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that aim to put a definitive account

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of an historical event on the big screen.

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So, thank you again to those fantastic young singers. Well done.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Time now for two more light-hearted pieces -

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even though they invoke a con-artist

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who became the FBI's most wanted,

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a victim of black magic who vomits cherry stones all over the place,

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and the devil. So, some dance music that'll make you want to get

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up on your feet - particularly if you're a Cher fan!

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Oh, yes, and I think we have one right on this stage!

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Well, it was either Cher or Professor McGonagall, I wasn't sure,

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but I thought there was a theme going on here tonight.

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Now, in 1987, Williams scored The Witches Of Eastwick -

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a wild fantasy based on a novel by John Updike.

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It's about three frustrated women

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from Rhode Island who use black magic

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to bring a bit of excitement into their lives

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and end up summoning Beelzebub.

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Even more alarmingly, he looks an awful lot like Jack Nicholson.

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For the climax of the picture, Williams composed a Devil's Dance,

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proving the truth of that famous proverb

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about all the best tunes.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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The Devil's Dance from John Williams'

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score for The Witches Of Eastwick,

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performed by Keith Lockhart and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

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Our next piece of music

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also describes something a bit morally dubious.

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Williams' score for Spielberg's 2002 crime caper,

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Catch Me if You Can, takes us back to his early days,

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when he was playing piano in the nightclubs of New York

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under the name "Little Johnny Love Williams".

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It's also a reminder that in the 1950s and '60s,

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one of his employers was the composer Henry Mancini,

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the man who put the saxophone slink into the Pink Panther theme.

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Frank Abagnale Junior was a boy who,

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at the age of 16, in New York,

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began a five-year criminal career

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that made him one of the most wanted criminals in America.

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Using stolen uniforms and a lot of front,

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he impersonated an airline pilot,

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a doctor, and the assistant Attorney General.

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His memoirs were the basis for a Steven Spielberg film

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called Catch Me If You Can,

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in which Leonardo DiCaprio played the lead

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and Tom Hanks played the agent on his tail.

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Williams wrote the score,

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and used it as an opportunity to pay homage to his old friend

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and employer Henry Mancini.

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And to play the sneaky, stealthy alto sax solo,

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we're going to welcome another new young soloist to the stage.

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The saxophonist Jess Gillam.

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18 years old, and a finalist in the 2016 BBC Young Musician,

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for which she performed Michael Nyman's Where the Bee Dances

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with the BBC Symphony Orchestra,

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Jess didn't use any disguises or subterfuge

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to get to the platform tonight, just her brilliance,

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as you will hear any minute now as she makes her Proms debut.

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APPLAUSE

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APPLAUSE

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Ladies and gentlemen, the amazing Jess Gillam.

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Music from John Williams' score for Catch Me If You Can

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performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra

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and their conductor, Keith Lockhart,

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and Jess on the alto sax was joined by

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two principals from the BBC Concert Orchestra,

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Alasdair Malloy on vibraphone and Dominic Worsley on double bass.

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APPLAUSE

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A long time ago, in a film studio far, far away,

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John Williams made movie history.

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The year was 1977.

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The studio was 20th Century Fox,

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and the movie was an old-fashioned space opera

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that cinema managers just were not very keen to book.

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Even the director's friends and family

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thought Star Wars would be a flop.

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When George Lucas screened a rough cut to them,

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his wife Marcia burst into tears,

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convinced that her husband

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had just flushed away a promising career.

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"Who," she asked, "wanted to see a film about a villain in a cloak

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"and a gas mask, menacing a princess with Danish pastry hair?"

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Well, everyone, as it turned out!

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But it was only when George Lucas sat down at a recording studio

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here in Britain to hear John Williams lay down the film score,

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that he dared to think the movie might be a success.

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"To hear Johnny play the music," he said, "for the first time,

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"was a thrill beyond anything I can describe."

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Let's get Keith Lockhart back into the picture to find out a bit more.

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Keith, is it as thrilling to conduct it as it is to listen to?

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It's just thrilling to think about this piece.

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John has just put the finishing touches on the eighth episode

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of the original nonology.

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40 years ago, the first one came out.

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So, this has occupied almost,

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it's going on a half-century of his professional career.

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I cannot believe the endless well of creativity

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that John seems to bring to these things.

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It's funny, it was debatable as to whether

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he would score the seventh, eighth,

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and now, he's planning, knock on wood, the ninth,

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but I talked to him about this before this last episode,

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and he said, "Well, I didn't really want to do it,

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"it's hard work doing these things,

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"but then, I wrote the theme for that new action hero, Rey,

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"in the most recent one," and after the first one, he said,

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"I don't want anyone else writing her music!"

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LAUGHTER

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He's just incredible, this will be John's equivalent

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of the Wagner Ring Cycle, something that nobody else has done,

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scoring nine films, all of music over a half-century period,

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it's incredible. What a capstone to an amazing career!

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Keith, thank you, and I know we're going to hear Rey's Theme now.

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Let us launch the X-wings and the TIE fighters.

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It's time to awaken the Force here in the Royal Albert Hall.

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I think I can feel it already.

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We must have a few Jedi in the audience, right? Come on.

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It's certainly strong in this one,

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in Keith Lockhart and the BBC Concert Orchestra,

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now, they're going to lead us into battle

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with the March Of The Resistance.

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APPLAUSE

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SILENCE DESCENDS

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Music from John Williams has more Oscar nominations

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than any other living person.

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His fans love him so much that they sometimes stand on his lawn

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playing the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back.

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He is immensely clever.

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Ask him about the language of music,

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and he'll start quoting Noam Chomsky. He's immensely inventive.

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For a cue in one of the Star Wars prequels,

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he took a poem by Robert Graves

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and got a friend at Harvard to translate it into Sanskrit,

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to give him the big open vowel sounds he wanted.

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He was 85 this year, and he is still hard at work, building worlds,

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sometimes destroying them.

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How can we sum up his achievements?

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He's won five Oscars and 23 Grammys,

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he's scored over 100 feature films.

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But those are just numbers

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and John Williams has given us something more than that.

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Something unaccountably rich.

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"I'm just the guy who puts the dots on the paper,"

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he once said. "It means nothing."

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But he must know, that for those of us listening tonight -

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and to all those across the world

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who have heard the orchestra strike up on the soundtracks of Jaws

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or Harry Potter or Star Wars,

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that it means an awful lot indeed.

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May the Force be with him.

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APPLAUSE

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WILD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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SUSTAINED CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

1:47:371:47:40

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE CONTINUES

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WILD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

1:51:431:51:47

Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen.

1:52:121:52:15

Wow, I hope this concert has been as much fun to hear

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as it has been to perform for you tonight.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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I know from personal conversation,

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how much everyone's goodwill means to John.

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He said so, he'd like so much to be with us here this evening,

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but at 85, he is travelling less and composing more,

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which, I suppose is as it should be.

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That was of course the Cantina Band from the original Star Wars.

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We'd like to leave you with a little bit more of that magical wizard.

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Ladies and gentlemen, this is Harry's Wondrous World

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from Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone.

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CHEERING

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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The BBC Proms celebrates the 85th birthday of the world's favourite film composer, John Williams. The BBC Concert Orchestra and conductor Keith Lockhart perform some of the best-loved music in cinema history, including movie magic from Star Wars, Harry Potter, ET and Indiana Jones as well as lesser-known gems from John Williams's extraordinary back catalogue. Presented by Katie Derham.


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