Two events that are always enjoyed and much anticipated at Tanglewood are Tanglewood on Parade and film Night.
The parade began at 2 p.m. with fanfares at the main gate as the grounds opened, followed by an instrument playground where instruments are displayed, courtesy of the Boston Symphony Association of Volunteers, that introduce children, in a hands-on way, to the instruments of the orchestra. Mini-concerts, tours of the grounds, and loads of family fun, fulfill one of the goals of the BSO – to develop interest in, and an audience, for concert music.
My first visit to Tanglewood at the age of 8 did exactly that.
I arrived this year about 7 p.m. to be greeted by the sound of two Alpine horns, playing music of the Alps in rich harmony. I was captured by the unusual look and sound of these very long, valve-less horns that rest on the ground and are blown into by the hornist maybe 10 feet away.
This was followed by the Tanglewood Music Center Fellows opening from the stage with one of the loudest most dissonant fanfares I have ever heard, followed by the brightest and most exciting performance of Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” with the brass and timpani leading the way. The evening concert opens with this work every year and this was the most memorable performance I have heard.
After intermission, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” was performed with Kirill Gerstein at the keyboard with Keith Lockhart conducting the Boston Pops in a performance that was free and wild. As always, the evening ended with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” with Bramwell Tovel conducting the TMC and the BSO orchestras.
Tovel did a magnificent job leading these two huge orchestras in a spectacular rendition of this exciting work. Even with cannons exploding on the lawn, the music stole the show in this great performance.
Moving on to John Williams’ film night, the lawn was jammed with concertgoers even in the rain. This always-popular event was opened brightly by Andris Nelsons conducting the Boston Pops in music from The Sea Hawk and A Place In the Sun.
I found myself thinking, “Gosh, it would be so nice to see the movie along with the music.”
Nelsons must have been thinking the same thing, because the screen came down and the program continued with “Psycho,” the film, with the Pops playing the score, much to the pleasure and enjoyment of the audience.
I sometimes think the music of film night sounds a little disjointed because it is written to enhance an ever-changing visual scene, but Nelsons ended the first half of the concert with Leonard Bernstein’s “Suite from On the Waterfront,” where I think the opposite would have been true.
This summer, Tanglewood is celebrating the centennial of this great American legend, and I think the film would have distracted from his music.
The second half of the program was conducted by John Williams, who came out to a standing ovation. A treat for the eye and the ear was the movie “Call of the Champions,” with its fast moving, spectacular filming of athletes at the peak of their abilities, and his perfect music to enhance the action.
The high point of the evening for this reviewer was John Williams’ song “Dry Your Tears, Afrika,” from the movie “Amistad.” Williams introduced the work by explaining the Steven Spielberg film is based on the true story of “La Amistad,” a slave ship on which Mende tribesmen overpowered the crew and took control of the ship off the coast of Cuba.
In his research, Williams came upon an African poem containing the words, “take me home again,” which he had translated into the language of the tribesmen.
This was so beautifully sung by the Buti Young Artists Chorus, I found it to be the most beautiful and moving part of the evening.
The concert ended with four selections from “Star Wars” (surprise, surprise) and John Williams came back to thunderous applause and several encores. The audience would just not let him go.
Dave Sear is a folk singer who has given concerts and played on major folk festivals all over the country with other singers, from Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to Tom Paxton and Judy Collins. He is performing 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 on 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. He teaches folk banjo and guitar in his studios and worldwide over Skype to people wanting to use the instruments to accompany their singing.