... a musical jewel
The lights were dimmed in the down-stage area in Symphony Hall on Massachusetts Avenue. Upstage, the Boston Pops Orchestra members were entering stage-right. Above them, the more than 35-foot tall gold organ pipes filled most of the back wall. The side walls shone with groupings of multi-sized stars of light. The beep, twittle and whine of instruments being tuned provided an air of anticipation. People were fast-filling the seats of both balconies, looking over the maroon rail which bordered the gold, contoured latticework seating. Above the second balcony, single statues filled the alcoves in the wall. It seemed to be six stories between the people-buzzing floor seats and the ornately decorated ceiling which was frosted with a multitude of spotlights.
Pre-concert warm-up, and the photographer wanders about the hall.
Stylishly-dressed people in the aisles were finding their tables. When I looked back at the stage, the white jacketed orchestra members were in place, their instruments complacently waiting in their hands. Applause burst forth with the arrival of Conductor Bruce Hangen. Everything came alive...bass! trumpets! cymbals! horns! They exploded into an overture of "State Fair" music. The leader's whole body moved with grace, controlling the rhythmic and tonal interpretation of waltzes and knee slappers and love songs. With a cresendo, "It's a Grand Night for Singing" ended the opening. WOW! It equalled the great talents of the Birthday Boy who was being honored...the late 100-year-old composer Richard Rodgers.
When the overture was completed, audience late arrivals hurried down the aisles to their seats and all joined in a sing-a-long of selections from "South Pacific." There was a lot of talent in the audience. I had to stop singing and just listen. It was bee-yoo-ti-ful!
The star-shaped lights on the stage walls changed color again and the audience kept time to the music by clapping their hands to the rousing parts of "Victory at Sea."
We were on a very pleasant "high" during Intermission. The lemonade and iced tea and cheese and fruit snacks added to the happy fellowship.
The author, at right, and friend, Lorry Norris.
The overture to Act II was from "Babes In Arms" which preceded the performances of two fine vocalists from Boston University's Opera Institute. Kathryn Skemp, soprano, and Alok Kumar, baritone, soloed and dueted fabulously with songs from "The King and I" and "Carousel." There was no movement in the audience as she radiantly sang Hello, Young Lovers and he rendered with splendor If I Loved You. They both continued to please the rapt audience with When I Marry Mr. Snow and I Have Dreamed. Everyone in the audience tapped and rocked to each different rhythm in which Shall We Dance? was played.
The second intermission brought on a discussion at our tiny table and fertilized our imaginations. After a lifetime of listening to music on the radio, TV, phonographs, tapes and CDs, what is it about the live instruments and voices that is so appreciatively stimulating? One thing that adds to that answer, whatever it be, is the exhilaration of live applause! The synchronization of the movement-as-one of the twenty-eight violin bows was also an awesome contributor.
Of the seven songs from "The Sound of Music" in the final sing-a-long, the second one marvelously bespoke my feelings about this grande evening...this was certainly one of A Few of My Favorite Things.
The audience applauded louder than loudly. The Director, Bruce Hangen, as full of fresh energy as he had been at the start of this glorious evening, lifted his baton for an encore after a couple of curtain calls to center stage. The standing audience was seated and quiet until the last note. Then their excited enthusiasm brought Ms. Skemp and Mr. Kumar onstage and they rendered multiple solos and duets to deafening applause which sounded like Encore! Encore! Hurray! Applause! Hysteria!
The jubilant crowd left the hall to find a Surrey With the Fringe on Top - or a bus with a namecard in the windshield - or, in our case, the turnstyles of the nearby "T" station named Symphony.
On the way home, younger people on our subway car offered us their seats. They didn't know that we may have looked elderly, wrinkled and white-haired, but this evening had refreshed and restored us and we were rarin' to go again.