By NICOLE JOBES
Fifty sets of eyes gaze at him with calm anticipation, nothing breaking their concentration. The lights dim; with a confident grin he raises his hands with great determination and purpose, inviting those eyes to join him on his adventure.
A wave of sound floods the stage and pours over the audience. Low, metallic oboes drone and the hum of cellos vibrate through the air. The music is unbearably tender and gorgeous. The baton cuts the sound fearlessly and pushes it in a new direction.
Pupils dilate and palms begin to sweat as adrenaline punches through the harmonies. The hairs on my arm stand up, and I stare at those 100 eyes, watching, thinking, concentrating, producing. It’s chaotic, yet it’s so logical in its melody; the music envelops me like a syndrome, and I find myself hoping it’s incurable.
With special guest conductor, Michael Krajewski, and his John Williams program spread across his music stand at the Centre in the Square, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony blew the audience away with a unique and surprisingly entertaining show on the weekend of March 2.
The entire concert was dedicated to the works of Williams, famously known for composing many motion picture film scores including Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and, of course, everyone’s favourite, Star Wars. The night appropriately began with music from the classic film John Wayne, one of the first blockbusters Williams ever wrote for. The audience was transported back to the Wild West and the violins carried the melody like dust in the wind, and the percussion kept the beat like galloping horses.
Having done the John Williams program more than once before for the KWS, Krajewski knows that it’s one of the best ways to bring in a wide variety of ages and attract new listeners.
“There is a feeling of nostalgia; one of the most powerful things about this type of concert is that it’s music that people are familiar with but hearing it played live,” said Krajewski. “It makes it extra exciting for everyone.”
A new and very interesting instrument was introduced during the third piece, the celeste. Imagine a piano, but instead of strings on the inside, the hammer hits tiny metal bars, not unlike a bell instrument. One classic song one may recall the celeste being used in was the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. Williams recognized the uniqueness of this instrument and used it in his own children’s fantasy composition for Harry Potter.
A less formal approach was taken with conducting and Krajewski just had fun with the symphony and the audience.
“For me, what’s so much fun about it is concentrating on the music that is normally in the background of the film,” said Krajewski. “You hear it in the background but are distracted by the visuals and the plot of the film; when you listen to the same music played by a symphony, you can just focus on the music and it is not lost in the visuals.”
That is not, however, to say that visuals are not a welcomed addition to the concert, as the creative conductor showed with his special effects, or his “not so special effects,” as he put it, during the performance. During one of the most famous scores composed of literally two notes, the theme from Jaws, Krajewski stayed true to his comedic nature and sent an inflatable shark over the heads of the symphony in the opening sequence of the piece.
Music to follow were pieces from Schindler’s List, E.T. and The Terminal, however, it was clear what everyone was anticipating from the moment Krajewski mentioned a light saber and a Wookie: a compilation from Star Wars.
Krajewski delivered flawlessly, and did not fail to cleverly string in some of his own humour. During the Imperial March, more commonly known as Darth Vader’s theme, the dark lord himself strolled onto stage accompanied by two Stormtroopers. Darth looked at Krajewski as he conducted and then, as he so famously does in the motion picture, lifted his hand and twisted, as to use the Force to choke the busy conductor. Krajewski stumbled off the podium and Darth climbed up to appropriately finish the piece with his own conducting.
This show touched all ages and was extremely entertaining thanks to the mixing of guest conductor Krajewski’s passion and natural humour with a compilation of John Williams’ finest pieces. It was clear from the jam-packed theatre that his songs are just as popular off-screen as they are on it.