George Shaw of Nerd Reactor (via Making Star Wars) is reporting that William Ross (composer, conductor, and music arranger) is conducting some of the score of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for John Williams.
Shaw heard this information through a friend, who is reportedly involved in the recording of The Force Awakens score at Sony. Shaw wrote that this friend observed that Ross was doing “the majority of the conducting. Which is no surprise,” Shaw adds, “as Bill [Ross] worked with John Williams on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”
According to the About page on his website, “[Ross] has served as Music Director and Conductor for many artists and occasions.” He has arranged music for Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Michael Buble, Whitney Houston, and many more. His numerous compositions include the scores for The Tale of Despereaux, Tuck Everlasting, and The Young Black Stallion.
But of course, it’s John Williams who has composed/is composing the score for The Force Awakens; Ross, it seems, may merely taking over some of the conducting work. This may be due, in part, to Williams’s “minor health issue” that prevented him from scoring Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies a few months ago, though Disney said that the issue had been “corrected.” Bridge of Spies was the first time, excepting The Color Purple in 1985, Williams did not score for a Spielberg film, .
Conducting involves a great deal of standing and arm movement, as well as mental focus, and is therefore likely very taxing on both the body and the mind. Any composer might be glad to have another conductor stand in for them from time to time. Ross conducting for Williams from time to time may not have anything to do with Williams’s health.
On a more humorous note, Shaw also mentioned a moment his friend witnessed at a The Force Awakens recording session that could have ended in disaster, if it had but happened to anybody else.
"Funny story: as the orchestra was recording, a cell phone went off (which can get a musician fired), but it was J.J. Abrams’ father who forgot to silence his phone. Guess he has the right connection to not get thrown off the Sony lot."
I guess it pays to be related to the director of a Star Wars movie!