It’s early September and I’m on a train bound for Matsumoto, a city located in the heart of the mountainous Nagano Prefecture. I strike up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. “I’m a big fan of John Williams,” she says as our chat progresses. “When the first orchestral chord rang out in the ‘Star Wars’ opening scene, I was blown away as if I was thrown into space.”
The woman’s name is Keiko Katahira and it appears we are both headed to the same destination: Kissei Bunka Hall, to attend a concert by the Saito Kinen Orchestra featuring an all-Williams program. The event is part of the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival, which ran from Aug. 19 to Sept. 6.
In addition to the “Star Wars” soundtrack, the now 91-year-old American composer and conductor is the man responsible for such iconic scores as those for the films “Jaws,” “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” A titan of orchestral music, Williams has received five Academy Awards (as well as 53 nominations) and 25 Grammys. Keiko tells me she saw the first “Star Wars” film as a junior high school student in 1978 and can still remember the feelings of freedom and excitement it evoked in her.