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Jurassic Park Live Conductor On Bringing John Williams' Iconic Score to Life

"The first time we see the dinosaurs, this incredibly noble, majestic theme is heard," says the conductor who's bringing the Jurassic Park score to life in concert.

By Josh Weiss
A split screen image of Constantine Kitsopoulos and a brontosaurus from Jurassic Park (1993)

What makes composer John Williams an undisputed master of his craft? Veteran conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos posits that it comes down to an "uncanny ability to musicalize the human experience."

Kitsopoulos told SYFY WIRE over a Zoom chat all about his work as conductor for The Philadelphia Orchestra's upcoming live performance of the Jurassic Park score, which was composed by Williams, at The Mann Center (located just outside the city in Fairmount Park) on July 22.

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Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking dinosaur blockbuster — which celebrates 30 years this summer — will play onscreen at the same time, allowing fans "to hear details in the music that they've never heard before," the conductor promises. "It's a unique way to present a film, but it also highlights John Williams’ unbelievably skillful abilities as a composer."

Jurassic Park in Concert conductor on the musical genius of John Williams

While he's overseen a slew of similar concerts performing the music from Star Wars, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Home Alone — all of which boast scores composed by Williams — Kitsopoulos insists that each experience reveals a new sonic discovery. "His palette of musical styles continues to astonish me," he says of Williams. "Every time I open up any of his scores, I find something new. And that’s the joy of great music."

Jurassic Park, of course, is an example of Williams at the top of his cinematic game, with a central motif that somehow gives voice to the awe and wonder you'd feel if your eyes fell upon a Brachiosaurus rearing up on its hind legs to reach a patch of leaves.

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"The first time we see the dinosaurs, this incredibly noble, majestic theme is heard," Kitsopoulos continues. "It appears again and again in the score, but it goes with what we're seeing on the screen. And you think, ‘How the heck did he do that?’ But he did it as only John Williams could."

He also points to the famous "kitchen chase" sequence, where the two Velociraptors attempt to snack on siblings Tim (Joe Mazzello) and Lex (Ariana Richards). "If you watch that scene without the music, it's effective," he explains. "I mean, it's a Steven Spielberg film — he’s a great director. But the music adds to the suspense and, in effect, creates additional suspense by the way John Williams uses rhythm and harmonies that are very tense."

The biggest challenges of putting on a show like this are syncing music to picture and, more importantly, endurance, "especially with a John Williams score," Kitsopoulos emphasizes. "This music is very, very difficult."

Unlike an orchestra performing on a movie scoring stage, however, these players cannot take breaks or correct mistakes. But that's not really an issue for the talented members of The Philadelphia Orchestra. 

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"We're talking about some of the greatest musicians in the world and they pride themselves in being able to nail anything that they play," the conductor proclaims. "They have a sense of pride about what they do."

He concludes: "This is great way of introducing people who have never heard a symphony orchestra live to that sound. It's a visceral experience to hear a live symphony orchestra playing anything, but especially the music of John Williams. And it’s a great experience for families."

Jurassic Park in Concert takes place at The Mann Center July 22 at 8 p.m. EST. Click here to pick up tickets!

The first three Jurassic Park movies are now streaming on Peacock alongside 2015's Jurassic World.