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The Symphony Goes to the Movies

The San Francisco Symphony pays tribute to John Williams, the Hollywood composer who scored everything from Star Wars to Harry Potter. 


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Gilligan's Island

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The Cowboys

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It’s hard to believe, but the same man is behind almost every film score you’ve had stuck in your head over the past 40 years: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Jaws, the Indiana Jones and Harry Potter movies—they’re all John Williams joints. On July 7, the San Francisco Symphony will pay tribute to the Hollywood great by playing through both Williams’s greatest hits and his lesser-known masterpieces. “For many of us, myself included, John Williams is the gateway drug to the sound of the orchestra,” says Edwin Outwater, the symphony’s director of summer concerts. But Williams’s true legacy is his versatility. Here, a list of projects that showcase it. 

Gilligan’s Island
More than a decade before he wrote the score for Star Wars, Williams scored the pilot episode of the comedy about a marooned moron and his fellow castaways. It’s not quite as orchestral as his more famous work, but it’s just as catchy.

Home Alone
The mischievous theme from this Christmas classic has some of the same playful trills you’ll find in Harry Potter’s “Hedwig’s Theme” or in the score for The BFG, due out this month. Even so, it’ll still tug at your heartstrings.

Catch Me If You Can
Williams brought midcentury big-band style and Sinatra-like spunk to this jazzier, ’60s-inspired number.

The Cowboys
The overture from this 1972 John Wayne classic—which the symphony will play as part of the program—is about as western-sounding as it gets.


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco

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