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September 22, 2019

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Discover how music makes movies work with the Las Vegas Philharmonic

Las Vegas Philharmonic

Donato Cabrera and the Las Vegas Philharmonic present the music of John Williams at two concerts this weekend.

Movie music is magical. That concept will be proven this weekend at the Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall when Donato Cabrera and the Las Vegas Philharmonic present the music of John Williams, the acclaimed composer of memorable themes from Jaws, Superman, Star Wars, E.T. and so many more.

The concerts, set for 7:30 p.m. March 4 and 2 p.m. March 5, will also include music from the Harry Potter films as well as material from Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. Choir-in-residence the Las Vegas Masters Singers will be part of the performances, as will pre-concert conversations with conductor/music director Cabrera and UNLV Assistant Professor of Music History Jonathan Lee.

No word yet on whether Darth Vader will make an appearance Star Wars’ “Imperial March.”

“I’m a child of the ’80s and grew up watching these blockbuster films and they were partially why I started writing about movie music, because I love it so much and grew up with these scores as my entrees into classical repertories,” says Lee, who has studied film music in depth and is currently working on a research project focused on film music and the American South. “For films like these, where such a suspension of disbelief has to happen, music plays a huge role in making it work.”

We all remember the tension-filled throbs of the Jaws shark-attack music and the uplifting waves of soaring strings that characterized the most exciting moments of E.T., but Lee predicts we’ll interpret the sounds differently and fully realize their impact on our movie-watching experience when we listen to the music without the images.

“My children walk around singing ‘dum dum da dum,’ Darth Vader’s theme, thinking they are mimicking him and that means evil, not realizing the way in which Williams has created such iconic themes is tapping into centuries-old musical practices,” he says. “What happens when you sit and listen to this music in a concert setting is you come to appreciate just how much of your consciousness this music takes up in the film environment. Williams isn’t using sci-fi tricks to create his atmospheres. He’s using 250-year-old orchestral techniques wielded by Mozart and Beethoven and Mahler in order to create these sonic worlds that are so endlessly captivating.”

The concerts serve as a natural gateway to an appreciation of classical music for those who are more into pop culture, just like the movie music did for a younger, pre-professor Lee. Tickets range from $30 to $109 and are available by calling the Smith Center box office at 702-749-2000 or online at

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