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August 7, 2017
Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert
David Newman conducts LA Phil in John Williams' classic score live-to-picture by Jon Burlingame
HOLLYWOOD—An estimated 28,000 fans thrilled to the original adventures of Indiana Jones, set to a live performance of the original Raiders of the Lost Ark score, Friday and Saturday nights at the Hollywood Bowl.
David Newman conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a live-to-picture presentation of John Williams' Oscar-nominated, now iconic music for the Steven Spielberg-directed, George Lucas-produced 1981 film starring Harrison Ford and Karen Allen.
After the concerts, Newman – one of the world's finest conductors of film music in concert – praised the work of the Philharmonic musicians. "The sense of excitement, rhythm and warmth, made the performances, both nights, truly memorable," he said.
Watching Raiders of the Lost Ark while one of the world's great orchestras is playing the score live is a very different experience than watching it at home, or even in a movie theater. The sound mix was much more prominent, which is to be expected in an outdoor music venue, but that also served to remind the audience how important the score can be in propelling the action, underlining the emotion and heightening the suspense.
Approximately 74 minutes of the 115-minute movie has music, from the eerie string figures of the opening in Peru to the powerful "map room" scene where Jones discovers the location of the Ark of the Covenant; and from Williams' tender theme for Marion to various stirring renditions of the Indiana Jones march. Added for the live presentation was a bit more music to the close of Act I (after the map-room sequence) and an entr'acte that opens Act II, bringing the total played by the orchestra to nearly 79 minutes.
Depending on where you were seated in the Bowl, you were watching one of five giant screens placed at the front and sides, or one of six smaller screens positioned for those especially close to the stage itself. Most of the time Newman was conducting without technical aids, although a handful of carefully timed sequences required the musicians to play to a "click track" that is commonplace in movie scoring.
The audience cheered at key moments, including the first appearance of Ford and the famous comedic moment when Jones shoots a sword-wielding assailant in the Cairo marketplace. Lucas' and Spielberg's idea to make Raiders a modern-day version of the old Saturday-afternoon serial, with action and cliffhangers aplenty, worked spectacularly well for the audience – most of whom stayed through the end credits to cheer Newman and the musicians.
Williams, who is in Tanglewood, Mass., for the summer, did not attend, but sent a note for publication in the Bowl program. "The experience of composing the music for this film, and for the subsequent installments in the series, was a very happy one, and offered me a wild and truly joyous ride," he wrote. "I'm especially delighted that the magnificent Los Angeles Philharmonic has agreed to perform the music in a live presentation of the movie."
Film Concerts Live!, which offers several concert versions of Williams films including Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Home Alone and Jurassic Park, presented the two-night Raiders program at the Bowl.