Music is incredibly important to me, even though I was hopelessly incompetent at learning guitar as a teenager, once embarrassed myself on drums in front of a Motown greats and never won playing Rock Band.
Although I mainly listen to rock’n’roll, I enjoy many forms of music, including classical. This was triggered by Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s exhilarating scores for Errol Flynn swashbucklers like “The Sea Hawk”, “Captain Blood” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” which I watched on TV when I was a child.
There is something moving, majestic and magnificent in the performance of a symphony orchestra.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of many public performances. As a result, I missed going to the Boston Pops in Tanglewood and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall for much of 2020 – and looked forward to their return this year.
The Boston Pops summer season at Lenox has been uplifting, albeit woefully short in terms of performance time and number of shows.
Sadly, a more than a year-long contract dispute between musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and the board of directors continued to sideline classical music in the City of Homes.
While a free concert offered by musicians and conductor Kevin Rhodes at Symphony Hall on October 15 did not mark the end of the impasse, it reminded the 1,300 people present, and many more who watch online, the power of music.
Audiences listened with great attention to numbers as diverse as the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, premiered in Vienna 213 years ago, and âLyric for Stringsâ by 20th century African-American composer George Walker. A thunderous applause echoed through the century-old hall at the end of each number.
Why do melodies have such a hold on us?
Perhaps “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark summed it up best: “Music is the soundtrack of our lives.”
Many couples have a âour songâ. In my case, it’s a tie. My wife, Sally, and I chose âCan’t Help Falling In Loveâ by Elvis Presley for our wedding. Our first date was a screening of “Casablanca” with Dooley Wilson singing the immortal “As Times Goes By”. A few notes of one or the other tune and I remember those first dates and our heart.
I remember singing “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon to my baby, Alex, before I fell asleep. When I hear this melody now on the radio, I realize how quickly those days have passed.
Music also has the amazing ability to lift your spirits (Down on the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival) or stir your soul (Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland). It can make you think (Political World by Bob Dylan) or dance (Pump It by Black Eyed Peas).
One of the most spellbinding albums I own was recorded three years before I was born, “Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely”. With unrequited or lost love stories like “Angel Eyes”, “What’s New” or “One for My Baby”, Sinatra has created an artistic work that to my ears has never been equaled.
The first song that sparked my love for popular music was âBand on the Runâ by Paul McCartney and Wings. The dark intro and then the musical explosion sounded on my little transistor radio in 1973. I’m pretty sure I was listening to WHYN-AM that night and the disc jockey who introduced the song was “Famous” Amos B. Moses (aka Russ DiBello).
It wasn’t until 1978 that I went to a rock concert. The first song I heard live was “Badlands” performed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It struck me like lightning. I’ve seen “The Boss” perform 20 times in venues ranging from the intimate Orpheum in Boston to cavernous Madison Square Garden in New York City, but the September 13, 1978 concert at the Springfield Civic Center remains special to me.
In the decades since that Civic Center concert, I’ve taken in more than my fair share of live performances, ranging from Pavarotti to Ozzfest. Still, I hadn’t realized how much I loved hearing a band or orchestra perform live until the pandemic rolled the curtain.
The online streaming concerts offered by some artists were cool, but not even close to the experience of a show at Mohegan Sun Arena.
With the easing of COVID restrictions, I recently attended my first three concerts in 20 months. I had to wear a mask for all and provide proof of vaccination for two. Regardless, it was a minor inconvenience to hear live music again.
One of the few ‘gifts’ of this pandemic could end up being a renewed appreciation for the concerts and musicians who make it possible.
(Ray Kelly is the editor of The Republican. He can be contacted at [email protected])