Movie legend John Williams returns for the ‘scary honor’ of conducting the CSO
Movie maestro John Williams will conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Friday, March 24, in a sold-out concert at Symphony Center. Tickets to see the 91-year-old legend perform his indelible themes for Darth Vader, Harry Potter and Superman are, as of this writing, going for as much as $7,200 on StubHub, which puts Steven Spielberg’s closest collaborator in the same stratosphere as Taylor Swift. (Well, almost — some tickets for her summer Soldier Field shows break the $10,000 barrier.)
Williams has performed in Chicago and at Ravinia in Highland Park multiple times over the years. He also recorded his score for Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Illinois’ own Honest Abe, with the CSO.
“I think the Chicago Symphony has been with me pretty much for my whole life,” Williams said in a CSO video produced in 2018, the last time he performed here. “I remember the orchestra’s great, mythic stature … . So by the time 1994 came around, when I had an opportunity to guest-conduct the orchestra at Ravinia, that was a frightening treat, and a scary honor, and quite a thrill.”
Williams was at the Academy Awards last weekend in Los Angeles, nominated for a 53rd time. His gorgeous work for “The Fabelmans,” Spielberg’s fictionalized autobiography that ends with a wink to the audience and a riff on Williams’ “Out to Sea” cue from “Jaws,” lost to Volker Bertelmann’s blasts and drones in the WWI adaptation “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
You may be surprised to learn how few Oscars Williams has actually won: “He’s been nominated 53 times; he’s won five. Which, honestly, is not that great,” Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel joked during Sunday’s opening monologue.
Not that Williams needs more awards. His themes will be hummed and whistled by movie fans forever, or at least until the Death Star blows us up. He’s got another film score, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” coming this summer, and told Entertainment Weekly in January that he doesn’t intend to retire. Here’s hoping for another 91 years of music.
• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who heard Williams and the CSO perform “Duel of the Fates” just months after “The Phantom Menace” hit theaters.