There may be no better way to enjoy the North Carolina Symphony than through their Summerfest series at Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. NCS shed their formal attire for the concert hall in exchange for cool white shirts or blouses, lending to the casual atmosphere of the evening. The Booth amphitheatre likewise loosens typical concert protocol permitting bring-your-own picnics and lawn chairs, with roving judges to crown the best picnic spread of the evening. Children run and play by the nearby lake and in the trees edging the lawn of the theater without being hushed or shuffled back to their seats. Guests can kick off their shoes and enjoy the warm summer night as the symphony swells from the stage.

Although Summerfest this year has been threatened by frequent summer storms, Friday night was perfectly clear and comfortable; early enough in the summer that heat and humidity aren’t oppressive, and the mosquitos have yet to arrive. Guests who missed last night’s performance need not fear; this weekend’s Summerfest selections feature works of the great American film composer, John Williams, whose volumes of works require at least two nights to fully appreciate his impact. Guests who were lucky enough to enjoy Friday’s performance can return for an entirely different repertoire to close out the John Williams festival this evening.

Hosted by maestro turned Master of Ceremonies, conductor Grant Llewellyn, Friday night’s performance spotlighted a variety of Williams’ famous film scores and was bookended by suites from three Harry Potter films, much to the delight of avid “Potterheads” young and old. Llewellyn was witty and well-versed in the evening’s repertoire, forging connections between the music and the audience with succinct highlights of what to listen for in selected pieces. The evening’s program was well-balanced – magical, patriotic, romantic, and whimsical – with each suite or movement offering a balance of voices and moods.

The initial two Harry Potter suites, three and seven movements respectively, moved from the invigorating “Double Trouble” of The Prisoner of Azkaban suite to the lilting “Potter Waltz” and “Harry in Winter” of the Goblet of Fires suite. The Symphony alluded to the patriotism of the impending July 4th holiday with suites from J.F.K. and The Patriot, as well as “March” from Midway, diversified by the romantic South American tango, as Maestro Llewellyn joked “with the least romantic title,” Por Una Cabeza (in English “By a Head”). The evening returned to the land of magic and fantasy with what Llewellyn rightly described as one of Williams greatest talents – creating the perfect imagery of flight with music. Just as Williams has mastered the proud cadences and trumpeting brass of the American march, so did his sweeping string sections and lilting woodwinds transport listeners over the rooftops of San Fransisco in “Flight to Neverland” and the Quidditch pitch of Hogwarts in “Nimbus 2000” of the Suite for Orchestra from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which closed out the evening’s performance.

Saturday night’s repertoire will include more of Williams’ famous scores from films such as Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. With clear skies and warm weather in the forecast, the John Williams Festival should close on another beautiful night at the Booth Amphitheatre with the North Carolina Symphony. See our sidebar for details of the upcoming performance.