It had become a running joke between Dawn Holley and me that this year’s “Symphony at the Celebration” concert was cursed. It seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong. That was the case in the lead-up to the event, and it was even the case tonight – the “instrument petting zoo” was stuck in rush-hour traffic getting out of Nashville, no one had taken care of the cooler of bottled water for the symphony musicians, and so on and so on.
Our crowd was down – which we were expecting. In fact, we were expecting worse than we got. The date of the concert has to do with when the Symphony is available and when Calsonic Arena is available; the organizing committee doesn’t set the date, we just have to deal with what we’re given. This year’s date was later than normal and conflicted with a couple of other activities that probably cut down on our crowd.
But you know what? It all worked. Everyone had a great time. Once the instrument petting zoo showed up, it was mobbed by kids (and some adults) anxious to try their hands at real-life instruments:
This young man, by the way, made a point of coming up to both me and Dawn, individually, after the concert and (prompted by his grandmother, but adorable anyway) thanking us for bringing the symphony to town. He shook our hands.
Albert-George Schram and the Nashville Symphony were in fine form, with one of their best programs ever, including selections from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, and an Irish sing-along. My friend and former castmate Joe Rada told me he was in tears during a Puccini medley.
I have to say I teared up a little bit during the traditional finale, “Stars And Stripes Forever,” one of four selections which the symphony played along with the Community High School Band. As always, Maestro Schram asked the piccolo player from the high school band – which, this year, meant a young woman named Victoria Brown, at right in the photo below – to take the solo. (The photo was taken during a pre-concert rehearsal.) Over the past seven years, seven Bedford County high school students have had the opportunity to solo with the Grammy-Award-winning Nashville Symphony. That’s a memory they’ll treasure forever.
The Community band, led by Jimmy Bratcher, sounded fine both playing along with the symphony and playing on their own just before intermission. A brass ensemble composed of both Community students and alumni played during intermission and during the pre-concert period.
I’m proud to say that all three of our public high schools have great band programs. My own alma mater, Cascade High School, didn’t have band when I was a student, but they won a statewide award last year. We rotate among the three high schools, and it will be Cascade’s turn in 2014, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.
As I said, our crowd was down a little, but everyone who did attend seemed to have a really good time. I heard lots and lots of positive comments, and the crowd’s energetic applause made it clear they were having a good time. I am tired – I ran up higher numbers on my Fitbit today than I have in some time – but happy. What a wonderful night.