Thursday, July 23, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Boston Pops' John Williams Doesn't Mind Omitting The Shark

Think of a shark. (No, this is not a lawyer joke.)

If you are thinking about sharks, probably in the back of your mind is that ominous music from the movie "Jaws." That music has become so entrenched in public memory that just the opening notes of John Williams' shark theme are enough to make chills go up a lot of backs.

Of course, it's not just "Jaws" for which we have Williams to thank. Consider any blockbuster movie from the past 15 years - "Star Wars" and "Superman," the "Indiana Jones" movies, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and "E.T.," right up to "J.F.K." and "Hook" - and you're considering his musical legacy.

Williams also has been the music director of the Boston Pops since January 1980, and he's bringing the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra to the Tacoma Dome Aug. 7 for an 8 p.m. concert sponsored by the Seattle Symphony (for tickets, call 443-4747).

You'd think a guy with more than 30 Oscar nominations for his 70 film scores (and four of those little Oscar statuettes, plus 15 Grammys), who's in his last season as the leader of one of the nation's leading musical institutions, might have a fairly healthy ego. Williams' ego, however, is well hidden.

"I can't believe this is really my 13th season with the Pops," he confessed in a recent interview.

"It's gone so fast! I'm always a little in awe of the demand for these concerts.

"The statistics might surprise you. The Pops Esplanade Orchestra, which was founded by Arthur Fiedler to cover the demand for summer orchestral music when the Boston Symphony goes to the Tanglewood Festival, does 10 weeks of concerts, six concerts a week. That's 60 concerts - and they're all sold out!

"There's not a city in the country, really, that has that kind of demand. It's an old tradition in Boston. It's what's done. You go to the Pops. And I'm happy when I get the chance to bring that tradition on the road."

Williams isn't sure whether audiences introduced to good orchestral music through the Pops programs also go on to be subscribers at the regular symphony.

"That's not really our goal, though it's a nice thought," he says.

"My guess is that they're two different publics, the Pops public and the regular symphonic crowd. And if there's a percentage who hear the light classics and then get into the symphonies, that's great. But we're not trying to make converts; we're just trying to serve the broad spectrum of the public that loves the Pops."

Back in 1980, when Williams took over the Pops, there were rumblings of mutiny from contingents of Pops fans who feared that Williams' own movie scores would take over the programming, sort of the way the Great White Shark takes over . . . sorry.

There were accounts of protests both within and outside the Pops orchestra. Williams' scores get mixed reviews from serious musicians, who cite his occasional reliance on music already published (most notably the music of Richard Strauss).

"There hasn't been much fuss," Williams maintained, "about programming my own pieces. A lot of times, when I haven't done this, people have come backstage afterward and said how disappointed they were not to hear `Star Wars' or one of the other scores. It's like politics: You can't please everybody."

More scores are in the offing, including one for "Jaws" director Stephen Spielberg's upcoming thriller "Jurassic Park," in which Williams gets a chance to do for renegade dinosaurs what he did for the Great White Shark.

Has he read the Michael Crichton novel on which "Jurassic Park" is based? Does he own a copy like mine, in which sweat marks from the grip of terrified fingers are still to be found on the cover?

"No, I always wait," Williams said, "to see the film. The film always drives the music. I wait, and I match what the inner eye creates."

The composer spends some six to eight weeks writing a film score, in a process Williams calls "journalistic work - it has to be fast."

Writing film scores for orchestra, like conducting the orchestra, is Williams' idea of fun.

"I'm like a kid playing with a great toy. The orchestra still is that, for musicians: It's the ultimate toy."

Published Correction Date: 07/24/92 - Tickets For The Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra's Concert At The Tacoma Dome On Aug. 7 Are Available Through Ticketmaster (628-0888). This Article Gave Incorrect Ticket Information.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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