Q&A: John Williams talks Fenway, Red Sox
April, 16, 2012
By Louise K. Cornetta | Special to ESPN.com
As the guy behind the themes from "Jaws," "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones," John Williams isn't your ordinary Red Sox fan. In fact, to get in on the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, the Academy and Grammy Award-winning composer and conductor wrote “Fanfare for Fenway,” which will be performed by the Boston Pops at the 100th anniversary ceremony on Friday night. Every living Red Sox player has been invited to attend the festivities and the game (against -- who else? -- the Yankees). We caught up with Williams to hear about his fandom and latest composition.
How long have you been a baseball fan?
All my life. I remember having a baseball glove when I was 4 and trying to hit balls and so on. I remember going to the Polo Grounds with my father in the late 1930s. So it’s been a while.
How is it you’re a Red Sox fan, considering you were born in New York and raised in California?
My mother was born in Boston and loved Fenway Park all of her life. She lived to be 97 and insisted that she lived that long because she wanted to see the Red Sox win the World Series again. Once they did it in 2004, she felt she could pass on very happily. For me, there is a strong family connection to Boston and anything connected to Boston, which includes Fenway.
How did you go about creating "Fanfare for Fenway"?
This piece is a fanfare and not very long, so I spent a week or so sketching it out and scoring it for the double brass ensemble. For me, inspiration is rarely a “Eureka!” where I have the idea and write it instantly. It’s a process of working through and rewriting the music until it’s finally put in score form and ready to be performed.
What inspired you while composing the piece?
I just love Fenway. On the dedication of the fanfare, I wrote, “Written especially for the first centennial celebration of Fenway Park.” Meaning I won’t be around for the second one, but there surely will be one. When you think about Boston, Harvard and M.I.T. are the brains of the city, and its soul might be Faneuil Hall or the State House or the Old Church. But I think the pulsing, pounding heart of Boston is Fenway Park. When it’s empty, being in Fenway is like being in a cathedral. You can sense all the great performances that have taken place over the decades and the millions of happy people who have sat in those seats. It’s a very inspiring place.
You got to throw out a first pitch once. How’d that go?
It went pretty well. I was trying to be a wise guy with catcher Jason Varitek. So as I started walking to the mound, I asked him if he wanted a curveball or a strike. He said, “Just get it here.” And I did. I got it there in one flight and, of course, he caught it. He’s an admirable, straightforward guy who knows how to get it done.
What do you think makes Fenway special, compared to other ballparks?
It looks like a hometown ballpark. It seems to be put together with nuts and bolts and old lumber -- a baseball yard. It’s maintained that old baseball yard feel and keeps in touch with a romantic past. It doesn’t seem like a big, modern stadium. It doesn’t seem fancy. It doesn’t seem like a place that’s expensive to go to. And it has a way of being in touch with the people; it connects to a strong nostalgia. It’s a good, wholesome thing and reminds us of who we were and describes us as we are.
Who are your favorite players?
There have been so many great heroes. Of the current players, I particularly like Big Papi [David Ortiz]. I think Kevin Youkilis is a fabulous player to watch. I always loved Wade Boggs and, of course, Yaz [Carl Yastrzemski] was dramatic and wonderful. But out here in California, I always thought Sandy Koufax had one of the smoothest left-handed delivery systems ever. Great players of the past come to my mind, too, like Jackie Robinson.
What’s your favorite seat from which to watch a game at Fenway?
Any one I can get into.