Audio: Brett Mitchell discusses 'The Legacy of John Williams'

Brett Mitchell is the featured guest on the most recent episode of The Legacy of John Williams, a podcast that “celebrates and promotes the cultural and aesthetic importance” of the music of the great American composer:

One of the missions of The Legacy of John Williams is to spotlight how much the music of the Maestro inspired legions of people to become talented musicians. As it’s often already told, a lot of youngsters fell in love with John Williams’ music after hearing it in films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Jurassic Park and, more recently, the Harry Potter series. But, after being captivated by the incredible sound of the symphony orchestra accompanying those magical movies, many of those youngsters decided also to learn to play an instrument and begin serious study to become professional musicians.

Talented American conductor Brett Mitchell is certainly one of them, and his successful career is proof of how much influential John Williams has been (and continues to be) in building a new generation of classical musicians, conductors and composers….

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in a performance of  Star Wars: A New Hope – In Concert  in March 2018. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in a performance of Star Wars: A New Hope – In Concert in March 2018. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Born in 1979 in Seattle…he fell in love with the music of John Williams already as a kid, while watching films such as Star Wars, E.T. and Superman. He pertains to that generation of people who were very young when the popularity of the composer exploded world-wide, influencing young minds: “It’s really impossible to overestimate how influential John Williams is on my career”, says Brett at the beginning of our conversation. This genuine love led him to become not only a successful conductor, but also an enthusiastic ambassador of a wide-eyed attitude toward Williams’ music, and film music repertoire in general. Over the course of his career, he conducted a lot of John Williams’ music (both film and concert works, including rare pieces like Celebrate Discovery, Soundings!, and Air and Simple Gifts), and also live-to-picture concerts of John Williams’ classics like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Jaws, and Jurassic Park.

Brett Mitchell addresses the audience before a performance of  Jurassic Park – In Concert  with the Colorado Symphony in May 2018. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell addresses the audience before a performance of Jurassic Park – In Concert with the Colorado Symphony in May 2018. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

In this wide-ranging conversation, Brett talks about how much the music of John Williams played a crucial role in his artistic and personal life. We also talk about the challenges of conducting live-to-picture concerts, the differences between film and concert works, the importance of John Williams in the history of American music, and Brett’s attitude when preparing and programming a concert program.

Listen via the audio player above, or hear the episode on The Legacy of John Williams’s website.

Feature: "The Colorado Symphony goes all-in on movie scores"

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for  Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back  at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, CO in March 2019. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, CO in March 2019. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

DENVER — The Denver Post has published a feature about the Colorado Symphony’s ever-expanding slate of live film score offerings, including an interview with Brett Mitchell, who leads several film projects with the orchestra each season:

The Colorado Symphony would have been crazy not to note the trend, if not fully embrace it, said music director Brett Mitchell.

“We have at least a half-dozen films in our 2019-2020 season, which is impressive for a classical-performance genre that didn’t even exist a decade ago,” said Mitchell, who conducted the March 23 “[The] Empire [Strikes Back]” show…

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for  Jurassic Park  at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver, CO in May 2018. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for Jurassic Park at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver, CO in May 2018. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

“I’ve probably done 20 to 25 films over the course of my career, but it’s totally different than learning a Mahler symphony or a Strauss tone poem,” Mitchell said. “In those projects, you have complete control. With film projects, your hands are tied. If you get a little behind, the movie’s not going to wait for you, so that’s why I spend about a month prepping for it.” …

Mitchell and his other conductors start with digital practice files that allow them to instantly remove dialogue, sound effects and the score as needed during the rehearsal process. The laser blasts, lightsabers and dialogue that the audience hears during a performance must perfectly match the timing of the musical performance, or else the symphony risks shattering the illusion of a cohesive, if obviously hybrid, cinematic experience.

It’s “a staggering amount of new music to learn and play,” as Colorado Symphony associate conductor Christopher Dragon told The Denver Post earlier this year… Mitchell similarly estimated that the score to “Empire” covered 80 percent of the film’s 2-hour, 7-minute runtime. That allows little break for the versatile players, who may be performing a different classical score or pop collaboration the very next day at a venue like Red Rocks Amphitheatre…

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for  Star Wars: A New Hope  at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, CO in March 2018. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for Star Wars: A New Hope at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, CO in March 2018. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

The symphony does not collect data on how many movie-score attendees eventually become subscribers. But without any exposure to orchestral music, those people stand no chance of becoming a patron. And the natural marriage of film and music — Mitchell cited movies such as 1940’s “Fantasia” and the 1977 “Star Wars” as formative experiences in his lifelong pursuit of classical music — makes the decision to embrace these hybrids that much easier…

“Scores for series like ‘Star Wars’ are this generation’s Ring Cycle,” Mitchell said, referring to Wagner’s acclaimed, oft-performed orchestral standard. “John Williams has spent literally half of his long life creating music for these films, including the ninth episode coming out in December. They’re grand, romantic, artistic statements. And we’re just getting started here, because we’re moving on to ‘Return of the Jedi’ next.”

To read the complete article, please click here.

Audio: Brett Mitchell leads the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra on 'Performance Today'

Brett Mitchell leads the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (Houston) in the world premiere of Jim Stephenson’s  ROCOmotive .

Brett Mitchell leads the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (Houston) in the world premiere of Jim Stephenson’s ROCOmotive.

Today’s episode of Performance Today (American Public Media) features the world premiere recording of Jim Stephenson’s ROCOmotive, performed by the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (Houston) with guest conductor Brett Mitchell in February 2019. To listen to this performance, please click here.

Preview: 2019 Hollywood Bowl Summer Season Celebrates Oscar-Winning Films

WeAreMovieGeeks.com has published a preview of the Hollywood Bowl’s 2019 summer season, including Brett Mitchell’s upcoming debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic:

On Thursday, September 12, the LA Phil, conducted by Brett Mitchell, presents the digitally-restored An American in Paris, winner of six Academy Awards including Best Picture, featuring a treasure trove of Gershwin classics.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Preview: 'Apollo 11 fever! How Colorado is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing'

Buzz Aldrin plants the U.S. flag on the surface of the moon, July 1969. (Photo by Neil Armstrong)

Buzz Aldrin plants the U.S. flag on the surface of the moon, July 1969. (Photo by Neil Armstrong)

DENVER — The Denver Post has published a preview of Brett Mitchell’s upcoming performance with the Colorado Symphony commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing:

Americans are fired up for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which arrives on July 20. And Colorado, with its wealth of aerospace institutions and growing legacy in the industry, will be one of the epicenters for the celebration….

As part of its “Lunar Landing 50th Anniversary Celebration,” Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell will lead a night of live music from composer John Williams (featuring selections from not only “Star Wars” but “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) and contemporary American composers Mason Bates and James Beckel, all accompanied by archival footage from the moon landing and other visuals.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Preview: 'Lunar Landing 50th Anniversary Celebration touches down July 20'

Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. (Photo by Neil Armstrong)

Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. (Photo by Neil Armstrong)

DENVER — The Sentinel (Colorado) has published a preview of Brett Mitchell’s upcoming performance with the Colorado Symphony commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing:

Mission Control…the Eagle has landed…in Denver. On July 20, the Colorado Symphony will present the Lunar Landing 50th Anniversary Celebration at Boettcher Concert Hall. Music Director Brett Mitchell will conduct the Colorado Symphony with music from the iconic John Williams, including selections from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars and E.T. Former NASA astronaut Richard Hieb — a veteran of three space shuttle missions and a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder — will serve as narrator [for James Beckel’s From the Earth to the Moon and Beyond (2018)].

Mason Bates’s Passage (2017)—featuring mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke—will round out the program.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

To read an additional preview in the Los Angeles Times, please click here.

Preview: 'Summer Heats Up at the San Francisco Symphony'

SAN FRANCISCO — SFGate has published a preview of the San Francisco Symphony’s upcoming summer season, featuring Brett Mitchell’s debut with the orchestra on Thursday, July 18:

Those looking for a more traditional night of classical music at the SF Symphony should look no further than the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto at the SF Symphony. Conductor Brett Mitchell will lead the SF Symphony in an exhilarating concert of the masterworks, before one of today’s most promising violinists, Canadian Blake Pouliot, will perform the Violin Concerto to what is sure to be a captive audience.

Also on the program are Berlioz’s Hungarian March from The Damnation of Faust and Symphonie fantastique.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Review: Cleveland Orchestra bids adieu to season with enchanting ‘An American in Paris’

Brett Mitchell conducts The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell conducts The Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

CLEVELAND — The Plain Dealer has published a review of Brett Mitchell’s performances this weekend with The Cleveland Orchestra:

It’s got Gershwin. It’s got dancing. It’s got Mitchell. On a Cleveland Orchestra season finale, one couldn’t ask for anything more.

No weighty symphonies or concertos on this occasion. Instead, Thursday night at Severance Hall, the orchestra wrapped the year with a film: the award-winning 1951 classic “An American in Paris”….

Make no mistake: this was no walk in the park for the Cleveland Orchestra. For the audience, “An American in Paris” may have been a pleasant way to end a season, but for the orchestra and conductor, Colorado Symphony director (and former Cleveland associate conductor) Brett Mitchell, Thursday’s project entailed two solid hours of vigilant hard work lining up brisk music with the lips of singers and the feet of dancers in lavish tap and ballet numbers….

Nice. Wonderful. Marvelous. These players and their colleagues exemplified every one of the Gershwin brothers’ favorite adjectives. They again made it great to be a music-lover in Cleveland.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Video: 'An American in Paris' with The Cleveland Orchestra

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Orchestra has published several behind-the-scenes videos previewing their upcoming performances of the classic 1951 film ‘An American in Paris’ led by guest conductor Brett Mitchell.

In the first video, Mr. Mitchell explores the methods and challenges of syncing a live orchestra in 2019 with singing and dancing in a film made almost 70 years ago:

Opening on the iconic MGM lion roar, the Academy-Award winning score to "An American in Paris" kicks off at a blazing pace! Watch conductor Brett Mitchell lead The Cleveland Orchestra in the opening moments of this classic movie musical.

Preview: Brett Mitchell returns to The Cleveland Orchestra

Brett Mitchell will return to The Cleveland Orchestra to lead their 2018-19 season finale. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell will return to The Cleveland Orchestra to lead their 2018-19 season finale. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Scene has published a preview of Brett Mitchell’s upcoming return to The Cleveland Orchestra to lead their 2018-19 Severance Hall season finale:

The Cleveland Orchestra has two programs left in its regular season… Former associate conductor Brett Mitchell returns to lead the Orchestra in Gershwin’s score to An American in Paris on Thursday, May 30 at 7:30 pm, Friday, May 31 at 8:00 pm, and Saturday, June 1 at 8:00 pm. Meanwhile, the 1951 film inspired by Gershwin’s 1928 orchestral piece will be shown on the big screen, starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, and others.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Preview: Colorado Symphony season finale

DENVER — Westword has included this weekend’s Colorado Symphony performances on this week’s list of “The 21 Best Events in Denver”:

Medieval poetry and modern composition clash with glorious bombast in Carmina Burana, a scenic cantata that sounds every bit as grand in the concert hall as it does on the soundtrack to cinematic epics like Excalibur. Adapted from a collection of satirical verses mostly written by Goliard monks in the twelfth century, Carl Orff's masterpiece retains its source materials' timeless warnings against lust, gluttony and the caprices of fortune while evoking the horrors of the German composer's experience as a survivor of both world wars. Join the Colorado Symphony's Brett Mitchell and Duain Wolfe along with Colorado Children's Chorale artistic director Deborah DeSantis for three rousing performances of Carmina Burana, plus Adam Schoenberg's American Symphony, at Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Debut: San Francisco Symphony

Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the San Francisco Symphony in July 2019 on a program featuring violinist Blake Pouliot.

Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the San Francisco Symphony in July 2019 on a program featuring violinist Blake Pouliot.

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Symphony has announced that Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the orchestra at their home of Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday, July 18. The program will be:

BERLIOZ - Hungarian March from The Damnation of Faust
MENDELSSOHN - Violin Concerto
Blake Pouliot, violin
BERLIOZ - Symphonie fantastique

For more information, please click here.

New York Times: "How to Celebrate the Moon Landing, From Coast to Coast"

The Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. (Photo by Robert Rausch/The New York Times)

The Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. (Photo by Robert Rausch/The New York Times)

The New York Times has featured Brett Mitchell’s July 20 program with the Colorado Symphony in its list of “eight standouts” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing:

For an artistic take on the space race, head to Denver, Colo., for the Colorado Symphony’s Lunar Landing 50th Anniversary Celebration. The program, organized by the music director and self-described “space kid” Brett Mitchell, will feature renditions of John Williams’s scores from “E.T.,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Star Wars.” Two contemporary pieces from the composers Mason Bates and James Beckel will also be played. Expect sung and spoken-word accompaniments, references to John F. Kennedy’s 1961 moon shot speech, archival footage and a special surprise encore. Get tickets and details here.

To read the complete article, please click here.

Video: Iconic musical themes from Star Wars explained

DENVER — To celebrate Star Wars Day, Colorado Public Radio Classical has published an article with two accompanying videos featuring Brett Mitchell exploring the soundtracks of the first two “Star Wars” movies: “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Composer John Williams created some of the most memorable musical themes in 1977 with the soundtrack to "Star Wars: A New Hope."

When filmmaker George Lucas met with Williams to first talk about the score, he told Williams that "Star Wars" was essentially an "old-fashioned" film and that he wanted a big, symphonic score reminiscent of the scores from the Golden Age of Hollywood by Erich Korngold, Max Steiner and others.

What he got was some of the most memorable, culturally iconic music ever created. 

"Aside from George Lucas, nobody deserves more credit for the success of ‘Star Wars’ than John Williams," actor Mark Hamill has said.

 You can still hear themes from the original movie in the most recent "Star Wars" films -- a testimony to how enduring they are.  

Colorado Symphony Music Director Brett Mitchell walks CPR Classical's David Rutherford through the score to  the first film, "A New Hope," in the video above and "The Empire Strikes Back" in the video below.

Reviews: Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias

Brett Mitchell leads Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias on Thursday, May 2.

Brett Mitchell leads Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias on Thursday, May 2.

OVIEDO — Several media outlets have published reviews of Brett Mitchell’s Spanish debut with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias:

  • El Comercio called the May 2 performance in Gijón “a concert full of energy and emotional abundance.”

  • Cuca Alonso in La Nueva España lauded the May 2 performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in Gijón as “the highlight of the evening.”

  • Andrea Torres in La Nueva España praised the May 3 performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in Oviedo as “full of nuances and a majestic sonority.”

  • Jonathan Mallada in La Nueva España hailed the May 3 performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in Oviedo: “Mitchell knew how to maximize the sonic power of the orchestra, and showed good handling of tempi and dynamics with great taste for a phrasing always in favor of the musical discourse.”

Preview: Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias

Brett Mitchell will make his Spanish debut with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias in Gijón on May 2 and Oviedo on May 3.

Brett Mitchell will make his Spanish debut with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias in Gijón on May 2 and Oviedo on May 3.

OVIEDO — The Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias has published a preview of Brett Mitchell’s upcoming Spanish debut:

The Symphony Orchestra of the Principality of Asturias will continue its subscription season this week with the program Lenguajes propios II, which will be directed by maestro Brett Mitchell, who makes his debut on the OSPA podium at the Jovellanos Theater and in the Príncipe Felipe Auditorium. The program features violinist Akiko Suwanai and twelve students from the Superior Conservatory of Music 'Eduardo Martínez Torner'. The program includes the following works:

  • Bedřich Smetana, The Bartered Bride: Overture

  • Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35

  • Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

Mr. Mitchell also sat down between rehearsals for a brief conversation about this program with violinist Fernando Zorita, which can be viewed below.

Brett Mitchell returns to the San Antonio Symphony

Brett Mitchell will return to the San Antonio Symphony in March 2020 to lead a program of works by Missy Mazzoli, Mozart, Prokofiev, and Ravel at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

Brett Mitchell will return to the San Antonio Symphony in March 2020 to lead a program of works by Missy Mazzoli, Mozart, Prokofiev, and Ravel at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

SAN ANTONIO — After a highly successful debut in November 2017, the San Antonio Symphony has announced that Brett Mitchell will return to its 2019-20 subscription series on March 13 and 14, 2020. The program will be:

MISSY MAZZOLI - Holy Roller
MOZART - Symphony No. 29 in A major, K. 201
PROKOFIEV - Violin Concerto No. 2
Angelo Xiang Yu, violin
RAVEL - Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé
San Antonio Symphony Mastersingers (John Silantien, director)

For complete information, please click here.

To read more about this season announcement in the Rivard Report, please click here.

Preview: 'Star Wars Symphony arrives in Colorado this first weekend of spring'

Brett Mitchell will lead the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for  The Empire Strikes Back  on March 23 and 24.

Brett Mitchell will lead the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for The Empire Strikes Back on March 23 and 24.

DENVER — NBC’s Denver affiliate, 9NEWS, has included the Colorado Symphony’s upcoming performances of John Williams’s iconic score for The Empire Strikes Back, led by Music Director Brett Mitchell, in their weekly arts roundup:

The Colorado Symphony is headed to Broomfield this weekend for an epic presentation of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert. Colorado Symphony's Music Director Brett Mitchell will lead the two performances which include a screening of the complete film with Oscar-winning composer's John Williams' score performed live. Star Wars in Concert takes place Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the 1stBank Center. Tickets are sold at AltitudeTickets.com.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Video: Brett Mitchell discusses John Williams's score for 'The Empire Strikes Back'

Brett Mitchell at the piano in the Colorado Public Radio studios. (Photo by Hart Van Denburg/CPR)

Brett Mitchell at the piano in the Colorado Public Radio studios. (Photo by Hart Van Denburg/CPR)

DENVER — Before leading the Colorado Symphony in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back next weekend (more info here), Brett Mitchell sat down with host David Rutherford in the Colorado Public Radio Performance Studio to explore some of the highlights of John Williams's iconic soundtrack.

After reviewing themes from Star Wars: A New Hope (watch the breakdown here), Mr. Mitchell explores the new themes Mr. Williams created for characters in The Empire Strikes Back, including Darth Vader, Yoda, and Han and Leia.

Watch the full video below.

This special was also featured on the most recent episode of Star Wars podcast Rebel Force Radio. To hear this segment, please begin at 1:57:07 in the video below.

Colorado Symphony announces its 2019-20 season, Brett Mitchell's third as Music Director

DENVER — The Colorado Symphony has announced its 2019-20 season, which marks Brett Mitchell's third as Music Director. Over the course of the season, Mr. Mitchell will lead the orchestra in nine subscription weeks and half a dozen other special projects.

Demonstrating his deep commitment to contemporary music, Mr. Mitchell will conduct works by eleven living composers over the course of the Colorado Symphony's 2019-20 season, including Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra, Missy Mazzoli’s Holy Roller, Anna Clyne’s Masquerade, and Libby Larsen’s Deep Summer Music. Mr. Mitchell will also lead contemporary works by Kevin Puts, Mason Bates, Christopher Theofanidis, Adam Schoenberg, James Clarke, John Williams, and James Beckel, as well as a number of works by previous generations of American composers, including Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and Leonard Bernstein.

Highlights of Mr. Mitchell's third season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony include Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”), Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, and Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”).

Mr. Mitchell will collaborate with the following soloists during the Colorado Symphony's 2018-19 season:

Mr. Mitchell will lead several other special programs throughout the season, including: