Scores evoke old Hollywood

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra will perform a pops concert honoring John Williams (above) and his movie music.

Instantly recognizable for their dynamics and verve, the film scores of John Williams may be most closely associated with mega-blockbusters of the '70s and '80s — the original “Star Wars” trilogy, “Jurassic Park,” the Indiana Jones series, et al.

The musical sensibilities, however, are old Hollywood.

“From a conductor's perspective, it is impressive how well Williams scores and orchestrates things and how much he carries the torch of these old swashbuckling, blockbuster film scores of another era,” says South Carolina Philharmonic Music Director Morihiko Nakahara.

“Williams has taken the soaring strings, brass and percussion we traditionally associate with the big Hollywood sound and made it his style. It's a thrill for an orchestra to play.”

Nakahara returns this week as guest conductor of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, this time for “The Music of John Williams: A Night at the Movies,” to be performed Saturday at the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium.

Composer of some of the most memorable film scores of the past 40 years, rivaling industry legend Bernard Herrmann for his prolific output and achievements, Williams has five Oscars to show for his 40 Academy Award nominations, not to mention a clutch of Grammy Awards.

“Unlike the work of some other composers, Williams places an emphasis on the orchestra. It's a symphonic sound,” says Nakahara, “Also, the fact that he served for so many years with the Boston Pops also adds to his recognition. He has done a lot of concert works, as well.”

Growing up in Japan in the early 1980s, Nakahara recalls seeing “E.T.” yet admits, sheepishly, that it was not until his girlfriend sat him down to watch the trilogy last summer, that he had ever seen the three original “Star Wars” movies.

“I had always resisted watching them. I had been performing all Williams' music and knew the tunes, even if I had not seen the films. But I did enjoy watching them, finally, and now know why they are such a big deal.”

If audience members show up for the concert in costume from their favorite films, so much the better.

“The question was whether to stick with playing all the ‘usual suspects' that we know and love or to do some different things, like his scores from such movies as ‘Catch Me If You Can,' to show different sides of Williams' compositions,” says Nakahara, who also is resident conductor of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. “We decided to stay with down-the-middle pieces because — who knows? — there might be a sequel.”

Reach Bill Thompson at 937-5707.