Top 7 Pirate Classical Music Pieces


Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day! In honor of the day, we’ve compiled a list of classical music related to the pirate life. From famous soundtracks to swashbuckling operas to rousing overtures, we’ve got your definitive playlist for the day.

1. Gilbert & Sullivan – The Pirates of Penzance

Probably the best known on our list is the fifth Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration. This comic opera brought us the much-parodied “Major General’s Song“. However, “I am a Pirate King” is a more appropriate selection for today. Watch this rousing pirate selection below.

2. Leroy Anderson – Pirate Dance

A light and exuberant piece, Anderson’s “Pirate Dance” has melodies you can certainly associate with pirate life. In fact, at one point, you can almost imagine it leading into the Disney “A Pirate’s Life For Me”, but it never quite gets there. Still, it’s a nice lighthearted selection for International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

3. Vincenzo Bellini – Il Pirata

Another opera on our list, Bellini’s “The Pirate” is based on a three-act melodrama called “Bertram, or The Pirate”. It was an immediate success upon its premiere in October 1827. Recent notable recordings have included such famous names as Maria Callas and Renée Fleming in the cast. Hear the opening below.

4. Walter Leigh – Jolly Roger

A rousing overture for sure, this lively piece will have you thinking adventure in no time. Leigh was an English composer in the early 20th century. Like “Pirates of Penzance”, “Jolly Roger” was a comic opera. Hear the overture below.

5. Klaus Badelt – Pirates of the Caribbean

You have to be marooned on an island not to know (or guess) that the music from the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” has a distinctly swashbuckling sound. Hear it performed live below.

6. Erich Wolfgang Korngold – The Sea Hawk

Another piece written for the movies, Korngold’s soundtrack for “The Sea Hawk” is an exciting and romantic score you wouldn’t guess was composed in the 1940’s. The movie itself starred Errol Flynn as an English privateer who defends his nation against the Spanish Armada. Hear the overture from the film score below.

7. John Williams – Hook

To round out the list, we couldn’t help but include John Williams’ Hook soundtrack. Of course a score for a film about Peter Pan and Captain Hook would have a distinctly adventurous sound. Watch the “Flight to Neverland” from Hook conducted by the composer himself.


About John Williams’ The Cowboys Film Score

Cowboys John Williams

Image courtesy of

With a career that has spanned over five decades, it is not surprising that John Williams scored at least one Western. What is interesting, however, is that despite being a prolific film composer with numerous notable works in his portfolio, he has scored less than five Westerns in total! One might wonder why when you hear his robust and brassy soundtrack for the 1972 movie The Cowboys.

The Cowboys starred John Wayne as an aging Montana cattle rancher who is forced to hire youngsters, who he eventually takes under his wing, to drive his herd to South Dakota. It’s a coming-of-age story that was met with mixed reviews, although it did win the Best Theatrical Motion Picture “Bronze Wrangler” award from the Western Heritage Awards. Like many old Westerns, The Cowboys also has Colorado ties. Several of its filming locations include Castle Rock, Durango, Pagosa Springs, and the Buckskin Joe Frontier Town & Railway in Canon City.

The main theme can be heard frequently throughout the film with several variations. It is a delightfully rousing theme that instantly conjures up images of galloping horses, sweeping landscapes, and all things…well…cowboy, of course. It is a distinctly Copland-esque piece that is highly-infectious and grand – everything you’d expect from a real Western saga.

You can hear the Parker Symphony orchestra performing The Cowboys Overture at our SOLD OUT concert on May 6.


10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About John Williams


John Williams

By Alec McNayr – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

John Williams. You probably know him best as the composer of some of the most famous film scores including Superman, the Star Wars Trilogy, ET, Jurassic Park, and the Indiana Jones Trilogy. However, his movie music work also includes the mysterious tunes of the Harry Potter movies, the stirring melodies of Schindler’s List, the haunting themes from Jaws, the expressive scores of Saving Private Ryan and Amistad, and the choral harmonies in Home Alone and Empire of the Sun. In fact, he has worked on more films and won more awards than we can name here.

While you may know all of this, there are probably some things about him and his work that will surprise you. For example, did you know that he wrote the music for the pilot episode of Gilligan’s Island? Even though the episode didn’t air, you can hear the theme on YouTube.

Here are 10 more things you probably don’t know about John Williams:

  • He was drafted in 1952 and arranged, played, and conducted music for military bands including the U.S. Air Force Band. After his time in the service, he moved to New York and studied at Julliard.

  • After Julliard, he worked as jazz pianist, playing in nightclubs. He was known as “Little Johnny Love” Williams when he was a bandleader for singer Frankie Laine.

  • He moved back to Los Angeles from New York and became a studio pianist on film scores. He can be heard playing the famous opening riff on Henry Mancini’s Peter Gun theme.

  • He composed music for various TV programs in the 1960’s where he was sometimes credited as “Johnny Williams” – a name he shares with his jazz percussionist father. In addition to Gilligan’s Island mentioned above, he also wrote for Lost In Space, Land of the Giants, and The Time Tunnel.

  • He met Spielberg on a blind lunch date in 1972 and, since then, has collaborated on all but one of his films. The Colour Purple was scored by Quincy Jones.

  • He holds the Academy Award record for the most nominations for a living person (50 nominations as of 2016).

  • His first Academy Award nomination came many years before he started collaborating with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. It was for Valley of the Dolls (1967), though he didn’t win. He was nominated after that for Goodbye, Mr. Chips. His first actual Oscar win was for musical direction for Fiddler on the Roof.

  • He has composed numerous pieces for concert hall performance including a symphony and various concertos for horn, cello, clarinet, flute, violin, and bassoon.

  • He composes using a pencil and paper on a small writing desk next to his Steinway piano. He has never had time to learn to write music using a computer.

  • He was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Obama for his achievements “as a pre-eminent composer and conductor [whose] scores have defined and inspired modern movie-going for decades.”


The Parker Symphony Orchestra is excited to be playing the music of John Williams on May 6 at 7:30 PM at the PACE Center.