Grand Rapids Symphony Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt often refers to film composer John Williams as “my hero.”
Bernhardt and Williams have been friends for more than 25 years, ever since Williams, formerly conductor of the Boston Pops, first hired Bernhardt to guess conduct in Boston back in 1992. But Williams, a five-time Academy Award winner, is a hero to anyone who loves a good action and adventure film, whether it was composed by Williams or not.
Before Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader spoke a line or even appeared on screen, it was Williams’ brilliant fanfare that jolted you out of your seat and set the stage for the 1977 film Star Wars.
The 24-time Grammy Award-winning composer gave birth to the soaring symphonic scores for the silver screen that soon would accompany epic adventures through space, heroic journeys across middle earth, and forays into the world of magic.
Grand Rapids Pops concludes its 2018-19 Fox Motors Pops series with Star Wars, Star Trek, Middle Earth, and More! a musical salute to the symphonic soundtracks of some of the greatest films from such franchises as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The Grand Rapids Symphony goes where no orchestra has gone before with highlights from 1978 film Superman starring Christopher Reeve, and the main themes from the Star Trek franchise including TV shows as well as movies.
Bernhardt leads performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 10-11, and at 3 p.m. Sunday May 12, in DeVos Performance Hall. Tickets start at $18 adults, $5 children. Call (616) 454-9451 or go online to GRSymphony.org for tickets. There’s never a service fee if when you buy tickets at GRS Ticket Office at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW.
Special guest vocalist Mela Sarajane Dailey joins the Grand Rapids Symphony to sing Can You Read My Mind? from Superman. The Grammy Award-winning singer, who first appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony for its Holiday Pops in 2015, also sings two show-stopping operatic arias, the “Mad Scene” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, and “Vissi d’arte” from Verdi’s Tosca.
Bob Bernhardt, who became Grand Rapids Symphony’s Principal Pops Conductor in 2015, last year marked his 25th anniversary as a guest conductor with the Boston Pops. Williams, who served as conductor of the Boston Pops from 1980 to 1993, personally hired Bernhardt in 1992 to guest conduct the famous pop orchestra.
Today, Williams, a 51-time Oscar nominee, is famous for such movies as the Indiana Jones series and the first two Jurassic Park films. In the mid-1970s, he was a rising star who won the Oscar for the 1974 film Jaws when Steven Spielberg invited him to compose the music for a new space adventure move.
To compose music for the first Star Wars film and another eight films in the franchise that would follow, Williams revived the practice of composing leitmotifs or “leading motifs” to represent each character. Star Wars fans are familiar with The Imperial March and know that it’s Darth Vader’s theme. The main theme for Star Wars actually is Luke Skywalker’s theme, and the theme is heard, played by a single French horn, when the young Skywalker first appears on screen.
Williams used the same technique, which dates back to the 19th century operas of Richard Wagner, in such franchises as Harry Potter, in which key themes appear over and over across all eight films, even those composed by others.
Grand Rapids Pops’ Star Wars, Star Trek, Middle Earth and More! includes music from the latest Star Wars installments including the 2015 film Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, the 2016 film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the 2017 film Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The concert also includes music from the 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness and a medley of music spanning the entire Star Trek franchise.
Bernhardt will lead the Grand Rapids Pops in a suite of melodies from The Lord of the Rings films, all composed by Howard Shore, who won Oscars for the first film in the series, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and for the third film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.