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Boston Pops Dedicates Season To Its Former Conductor, The Composer Behind 'Star Wars' And 'Jaws'

John Williams conducting at Film Night in 2014. (Courtesy Stu Rosner/Boston Symphony Orchestra)MoreCloseclosemore
John Williams conducting at Film Night in 2014. (Courtesy Stu Rosner/Boston Symphony Orchestra)

This spring, the Boston Pops will dedicate its season, which begins on May 10, to celebrating the life and career of beloved Hollywood film composer and Pops Laureate Conductor John Williams.

Williams led the Pops from 1980 to 1993. But it’s safe to say he’s best known as the artist who’s conjured some of cinema’s most memorable film scores.

For the "Star Wars" series, Williams’ imposing leitmotif made Darth Vader’s scenes even more evil and intimidating. He’s created a slew of neo-romantic musical backdrops for other Hollywood classics including, “Superman,” “Indiana Jones,” “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List” and the first three Harry Potter films.

Two of William’s iconic scores will be performed live in their entirety by the Boston Pops in May as the films screen simultaneously over the stage at Symphony Hall.

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is scheduled for May 12 and 13 to mark the movie’s 35th anniversary, and “Jaws,” has its live-with-orchestra debut on May 25.

“John wanted us to have the premiere,” Pops conductor Keith Lockhart said. Then with a laugh he added, "'cause we’re pals."

Williams return to the stage in person on May 31 and June 1 to conduct his annual Film Night.

The composer has been writing lush, complex music for movies for six decades. Lockhart — who succeeded Williams’ as Pops principal conductor in 1995 — marvels at the composer’s global reach.

“His music is probably the best-known, high quality symphonic music on the planet — by everybody — without even knowing it,” Lockhart mused, “because people go to movies, and they absorb this, but they don’t say, ‘Wow, I’m listening to a great symphony orchestra play a truly masterful composer’s music.’ But that’s actually what they’re doing.”

In April, Lockhart and the Pops will record two pre-season concerts for a live tribute album of Williams’ music to mark the composer’s 85th birthday year. (The actual day he came into the world is Feb. 8.) Lockhart believes the album will reveal a lesser-known side of Williams, with music from, “The Towering Inferno,” and “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”

“It really will show a man who is able to reinvent himself for every film — and that’s a fascinating talent,” Lockhart said. "To be able to celebrate that throughout the season is a real honor."

William’s lives in LA but has New England roots. His father was from Maine and went on to be a jazz percussionist with the Raymond Scott Quintet. Williams’ mother was from Boston.

While the Pops’ season is undoubtedly Williams-centric, his art will share the stage with other entertainment luminaries. The opening night headliner is the multitalented Queen Latifah (“a coup,” Lockhart said). Pop artist Ben Folds returns on May 17 and 18. And “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. (“another coup,” Lockhart added) performs in June.

Lockhart says he is also excited to present two June performances of the musical review, “Sondheim on Sondheim.” The Pops 25th Annual Gospel Night will be celebrated on June 17.

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Andrea Shea Twitter Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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