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Rousing performance of Beethoven’s 9th closes Tanglewood 2019

Contributed photo Beethoven's 9th Symphony at Tanglewood, featuring Giancarlo Guerrero, Nicole Cabell, J'Nai Bridges, Nicholas Phan and Morris Robinson.
September 3, 2019 10:30 am

With a rousing performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero brought their summer program of wonderful music to a glorious close.

The Tanglewood Festival Chorus stole the show as it always does with its size and power, as did bass soloist Morris Robinson with his deep, rich, resonant voice and presence.

The event was a unique and moving experience because it coincided with the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first enslaved Africans in English North America in 1619. The National Park Service asked that town halls, churches, schools and other public places ring bells as an audible symbol of freedom to honor the memory of all those who were enslaved. Maestro Guerrero introduced the ringing of the bells with words stressing the blessings of universal brotherhood, dignity, freedom and respect for the cultures of all people. He asked the audience to stand as two Boston Symphony percussionists hammered chimes in somber harmony to those enslaved.

The concert opened with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus led by its conductor, James Burton, in a soulful performance of Schoenberg’s “Friede auf Erden” (“Peace on Earth”), a Christmas poem written by the Swiss poet Conrad Ferdinand Meyer with a hopeful prediction for a better future. Opening the concert in this manner and closing with a glorious performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Ode To Joy (based on the poem by Friedrich Schiller), the Tanglewood Festival Chorus with the full force of the BSO, soloists, and chorus brought the audience to its feet with a rousing ovation and curtain calls that went on and on: an emotional experience that will not be forgotten.

The previous evening was Film Night, hosted by the beloved John Williams, who brings the audience to its feet the moment he walks on stage. The high point and most moving part of the concert for this listener was his “Dry Your Tears, Afrika,” from the movie “Amistad,” the story of a slave ship, which tied in so well with the remembrance of the introduction of slavery that came to our shores and the ringing of the bells which followed the next day. Again, it was The Tanglewood Festival Chorus, this time with The Boston Pops.

David Newman conducted most of the evening and paid tribute to John Williams, mentioning that it was Williams who began to introduce music from the movies to Tanglewood years ago. Now, Film Night is one of the best-attended programs of the summer.

My favorite of Williams’ works performed this Film Night was “The Cowboys Overture,” where his music stands up very well without video. Hearing this piece played in a concert hall by a great orchestra makes one realize that Williams truly is one of the world’s great composers of orchestral music. “Star Wars,” “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park” and other warhorses were all played, with encores, ovations, flowers and love showered on Williams. We all returned home with memories of another great time at Tanglewood.

The really new and exciting thing for Tanglewood this year is the opening of the Linde Center and the Tanglewood Learning Institute, which will keep this wonderful institution open all year-round with all kinds of programs. Check it out and enjoy it until next year when Tanglewood returns to its full glory for another summer.

Dave Sear is a folk singer who has given concerts and played on major folk festivals all over the country with singers from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to Tom Paxton, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Judy Collins. He is now presenting a new concert, Pete Seeger’s America in Song, in tribute to his old friend and mentor. He spent over 45 years in radio as host/producer of “The Folk Music Almanac” and “Folk and Baroque” and was heard nationally over the NPR Network and locally on WAMC. For 10 years he produced the folk music concerts at the Spencertown Academy for his radio shows, which are now being rebroadcast. He is a freelance writer living in Great Neck, Long Island, and also has a home in Hillsdale, NY. He teaches folk banjo and guitar in his studios and worldwide over Skype to people wanting to use the instruments to accompany their singing.