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A CurtainUp BerkshiresBerkshire Review
Mixing Musical Genres For a More Mixed Audience
by Elyse Sommer
The Porches Inn

James Taylor

James Taylor
As theaters struggle to attract new audience, so, of course do musical organizations. The long good-bye celebration for the Boston Symphony's long-reigning Seiji Ozawa included luminaries from all walks of the entertainment world. On Wednesday night (July 17th), with the weather once again cooperating with balmy, picnic-perfect weather, Tanglewood made something of a crossover move by pairing John Williams, conductor laureate of the popular Boston Pops with folk singer James Taylor. The enduring folk music icon who, since his marriage to one of BSO's most valued executives, Caroline (Kim) Smedvig (now Caroline Taylor) has had a more intimate relationship with the Tanglewood Festival.

If the huge audience which blanketed every blade of the well-kept lawn and filled every seat in the shed is any indication, this pops-folk crossover was a huge success. What's more the predominant hair color was not white as is usual with many Boston Symphony concerts. A large number of the Shed's seats were occupied by kids from the many neighboring camps -- the audience of tomorrow everyone in the theater and musical world wants so desperately to attract. The largest audience segment seemed in their twenties, thirties and forties. And yes, there were plenty of old-timers!.

Williams being one of the country's premier composers of film music (directing and composing music for an incredible 80 films), not surprisingly provided listeners with some of his movie music-- the Suite from J.F.K. -- Theme--Motorcade--Arlington. Since Williams has spent much of his working life in the world of close-ups, it was most apt to have this one of several concerts with video screens to give the lawn audience a chance to see as well as hear the music emanating from the Shed stage. Taylor, appeared in the first half of the program as narrator for excerpts from Aaron Copeland's stirring A Lincoln Portrait. Except for a rather superfluous Overture from State Fair the post intermission part of the evening was folk music not pops, with Taylor trotting out several new songs from an upcoming album. He was accompanied by Larry Goldings on the piano, John Pizzarelli on the guitar, James Johnson on the electric bass and Gress Bissonette on drums.

his experiment in marrying Boston Pops and a favorite Tanglewood guest from a different musical genre, in this case, folk music, was generally most successful. The intermission discussion by a small group professional musicians who sat near me focused on the cross-over aspects of the concerts. One thought she would have preferred seeing Taylor paired with the Boston Symphony. Well, as Scarlett O'Hara would famously say, "tomorrow is another day" and Taylor, who now lives in the neighborhood is likely to be a more and more regular presence at Tanglewood.

As for the Pops generally, I'd like to see them retire safe and instantly recognizable excerpts from so-called classic musicals, like The Carousel Waltz and the State Fair for music with more currency and sizzle. Stephen Sondheim, like Richard Rodgers also had a big birthday this year, and his music more than any other living musical composer's straddles classical and musical theater. The new, young creators of the musical Urinetown also deserve the Pops treatment. The appearance of Marvin Hamlish on the Pops podium in Boston to give the score of the short-lived Broadway version of The Sweet Smell of Success a different hearing is a worthy step in that direction.

For more about James Taylor, check out his website--website. For links to the websites of other Tanglewood 2002 guest artists go to our Berkshire 2002 Seasonal Index.

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