John Williams

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John Williams : biography

February 8, 1932 – F
Considered a customary practice of opinion, some players hissed while sight-reading a new Williams composition in rehearsal; Williams abruptly left the session and turned in his resignation. He initially cited mounting conflicts with his film composing schedule, but later admitted a perceived lack of discipline in and respect from the Pops' ranks, culminating in this latest instance. After entreaties by the management and personal apologies from the musicians, Williams withdrew his resignation and continued as principal conductor for nine more years. In 1995, he was succeeded by Keith Lockhart, the former associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. 

Williams is now the Pops’ Laureate Conductor, thus maintaining his affiliation with its parent, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Williams leads the Pops on several occasions each year, particularly during their Holiday Pops season and typically for a week of concerts in May. He conducts an annual Film Night at both Boston Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, where he frequently enlists the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the BSO’s official chorus.

Williams has written many concert pieces, including a symphony; a Concerto for Horn written for Dale Clevenger, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Hornist; a Concerto for Clarinet written for Michele Zukovsky (the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Principal Clarinetist) in 1991; a sinfonietta for wind ensemble; a cello concerto premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1994; concertos for the flute and violin recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra; and a trumpet concerto, which was premiered by The Cleveland Orchestra and their principal trumpet Michael Sachs in September 1996. His bassoon concerto, "The Five Sacred Trees", which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic and principal bassoon player Judith LeClair in 1995, was recorded for Sony Classical by Williams with LeClair and the London Symphony Orchestra. He is also an accomplished pianist, as can be heard in various scores in which he provides solos, as well as a handful of European classical music recordings.

Williams was the subject of an hour-long documentary for the BBC in 1980, and was featured in a story for ABC’s newsmagazine 20/20 in 1983. from the John Williams Fan Network, June 2, 2007.

In 1985, Williams was commissioned by NBC to compose a television news music package for various network news spots. The package, which Williams named "The Mission", consists of four movements, two of which are still used heavily by NBC today for Today, NBC Nightly News, and Meet the Press. Williams also composed the "Liberty Fanfare" for the Statue of Liberty’s rededication, "We’re Lookin’ Good!" for the Special Olympics in celebration of the 1987 International Summer Games, and themes for the 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2002 Olympic Games. His most recent concert work, "Seven for Luck", for soprano and orchestra, is a seven-piece song cycle based on the texts of former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. "Seven for Luck" was given its world premiere by the Boston Symphony under Williams with soprano Cynthia Haymon.

Williams makes annual appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and took part as conductor and composer in the orchestra’s opening gala concerts for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.

In 2004, Williams both served as the Grand Marshall for the Rose Parade, and directed the Star Spangled Banner at the Rose Bowl’s beginning.

In April 2005, Williams and the Boston Pops performed the "Throne Room Finale" from Star Wars at opening day in Fenway Park as the Boston Red Sox, having won their first World Series championship since 1918, received their championship rings. For Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, Williams conducted a brass-and-drum ensemble through a new dissonant arrangement of the "Star Spangled Banner."

In February 2004, April 2006, and September 2007, he conducted the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. The initial program was intended to be a one-time special event, and featured Williams’ medley of Oscar-winning film scores first performed at the previous year’s Academy Awards. Its unprecedented popularity led to two concerts in 2006: fundraising gala events featuring personal recollections by film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.Chris Matthew Sciabarra, from Notablog, 16 May 2006. Continuing demand fueled three more concerts in 2007, which all sold out. These featured a tribute to the musicals of film director Stanley Donen, and had the distinction of serving as the New York Philharmonic season’s opening event.Anthony Tommasini, from New York Times, 17 Sep 2007. After a three-season absence, Williams conducted the Philharmonic once again in October 2011.