Sometimes I just get lucky. And so I was able, due to a consulting schedule change, to pass through Boston last weekend and accept an invitation to the Boston Philharmonic Annual Fundraising Gala. This is no ordinary city orchestra. The BPO was founded in 1979 by Maestro Benjamin Zander, whose passion for bringing music to the masses inspires the 12 annual classical concerts given each year, as well as their numerous CDs and recordings of great classical music.
Ben Zander has a unique approach to explaining classical music, and his intense passion for the art form attracts hundreds of attendees for each talk. As a result, our audience describes the Boston Philharmonic as “passionate,” “inspiring,” “unique,” and–perhaps our favorite descriptor–“un-stuffy.”
The BPO fundraising event this year was held at a downtown Boston hotel and featured the newly formed Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, which in its first year has given two sold-out concerts in Boston Symphony Hall and in the summer will be touring in Holland. For those aged 13-21 fortunate enough to get in, it is an opportunity to learn about music, leadership and life.
Since my host for the evening was the Chairman of the BPO Board of Directors, we arrived early, while the orchestra was still rehearsing. I always enjoy watching rehearsals. To me that’s the real life of an orchestra, where the back and forth teaching and learning takes place.
On the program for the evening, besides the BPYO giving a concert of music by Revel and two violin solos (Pablo Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy” and “Meditation” from the opera Thais by French composer Jules Massenet), was a fabulous Las Vegas singer in the style of Sinatra, Steve Lippia.
As I was watching Steve Lippia rehearse with the kids from the BPYO, who acted as his backup orchestra for the evening, a very profound event took place, which is worth mentioning as it made a big impression on me.
At the end of one of the songs during the rehearsal, Steve Lippia stopped and turned to the orchestra. He looked from one end of the stage to the other, trying to make eye contact with nearly everyone, and gave them a very heart-felt compliment that went something like this. “You kids are fantastic to work with. I am so impressed. You are professional, follow my lead, and have the musical instincts on when to soften the sound. I am very impressed!”
You can imagine the feelings of pride swell up in not only the young people in the orchestra, but also in Maestro Zander, since they were all hand-picked by him from auditions.
Then Steve Lippia spoke again, and here for me is the profound part.
“However, as I look at this wonderful orchestra, I see that none of you are smiling. This is Sinatra music! This music is to make people feel good, to touch them and lift them up. To make them feel like they could dance all evening. And none of you are smiling. If you take music too serious you will lose the connection between music and life and it will be just notes. Let me urge you to have fun tonight, in fact you have my permission to enjoy the evening!”
I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family – and I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that, actually. ~Frank Sinatra
I hope these young and talented musicians understood what he was saying, because I certainly did.
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress