An Epic Adventure: Fort Smith Symphony takes on challenges of ‘Raiders’

An Epic Adventure: Fort Smith Symphony takes on challenges of ‘Raiders’

The scene opens with suspense-filled music, as a tall man in a leather jacket and a well-used fedora forges his way through the jungle. Birds and primates call, and a native guide screams. And you still haven’t seen the face of Indiana Jones for the first time. But in the years since its release in 1981, everything about “Raiders of the Lost Ark” has become familiar, beloved. The whip; the slow, almost always sardonic grin; the reunion with his great love Marion; the destruction of the Ark of the Covenant at the hands of the Nazis — and God.

Harrison Ford as Indy and Karen Allen as Marion survive the destruction of the Nazis in one of the final scenes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The Fort Smith Symphony will play the score while the movie is screened on April 2.
(Copyright 1981 Lucas Film Ltd.; presentation licensed by Bantha Music; used by permission granted to the Fort Smith Symphony)

Fans could pick out the major themes of the music from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” anywhere they might hear it — but on April 2, fans in the River Valley will get to hear the John Williams score live, played by the Fort Smith Symphony, while the film is screened.

“This is a great film and film score,” says John Jeter, music director of the symphony. “The music captures the storyline and action so well. It’s an incredibly fast-paced film with music to match. It’s a challenging score, and on the original soundtrack, it’s done in receding sessions so sections can be redone if needed. Performing live, once a scene starts, we are off and running with no option to stop. It makes the chase scenes just as exciting on stage as on screen!”

It is not the first time the symphony has brought music and movies together.

“The first music and film project was an evening of Disney film scores with extended film clips,” Jeter remembers. “A few years later we performed Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’ and ‘The Kid.’ People love the combination of music and images. Having the music presented live is a huge auditory plus that adds a sound element that one does not experience in theaters or at home.

“I would say our audience likes all kinds of music and tends to come to some of everything,” he goes on. “However, this sort of programming does bring in first-time symphony audiences as well as many young people. It’s a great evening of music, and of course, don’t forget the Symphony After-Party at the Bakery District across the street from the concert hall post performance. Concert tickets serve as drink tickets for a free ‘beverage,’ [and] the party includes terrific live music by guitarist Gary Hutchinson. It’s a chance to hang out with friends and meet the musicians.”

Composer John Williams is legendary for writing the scores for movies like “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” the first two “Jurassic Park” films, “Schindler’s List” and the first three “Harry Potter” films, frequently collaborating with director Steven Spielberg. And Jeter says he has always been a movie fan himself.

“[But] I remember that when ‘Raiders’ came out, I had not heard a thing about it,” he marvels. “A friend of mine kept saying we should go and see it. I thought ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ sounded like a medieval movie or something, and I was not interested for some reason. After a few other friends said some amazing things about it, I saw it in the theater and was of course totally blown away by how great and fun the movie was! The music made a big impact on me as well.”

The “Raiders of the Lost Ark” performance also marks the end of the 2021-22 “Greatness Endures” concert season.

“The 2022-2023 ‘Legends’ season will be announced the week of March 28,” Jeter says. “Current season subscribers will receive a mailing and e-mail during this week, and our new website will be launched. Both renewing and new subscribers will be able to purchase season tickets online. The season is one of the most unique and in some ways potentially most historic in the Symphony’s 99-year history.”

Audiences already knew Harrison Ford from “Star Wars” before “Raiders of the Lost Ark” became a beloved film in 1981. But they also knew John Williams, who composed the film’s score, from a host of other movies, including “Star Wars.”
(Copyright 1981 Lucas Film Ltd.; presentation licensed by Bantha Music; used by permission granted to the Fort Smith Symphony)


Fort Smith Symphony:

‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’

WHEN — 7 p.m. April 2

WHERE — ArcBest Performing Arts Center in Fort Smith

COST — $35-$65


Categories: Music