May 18, 2012
Thursday, May 10, I entered the grand Davies Symphony Hall my hopes high with anticipation to see the Barbary Coast and Beyond concert. The conductor of Thursday’s concert, Michael Tilson Thomas, has never failed to add flair and magnificence to any music he conducts. With such a broad range of genres, I was impressed by how well the San Francisco Symphony could perform. And what I witnessed left me in awe.
The production was blessed with about a dozen guest performers, each with their own unique talents. The narrator was the well-known Val Diamond, whose deep yet piercing voice helped project the gravely and untamed history of San Francisco as a developing city. Each guest artist brought a new element into the production that would emphasize certain genres in the show.
An outstanding and unanticipated portion of the concert was the banjo trio (Bill Evans, Jody Stecher, and Scott Nygaard) that pleased both old symphony veterans and young novices alike. Their yodels and virtuosic fingerpicking were a fantastic addition to the program. Another guest performer who received major kudos from the audience was organist Cameron Carpenter whose flamboyance both in dress and in playing made him a stand-out.
Moving from pleasant banjo ditties to epic Sousa marches, MTT., the San Francisco Symphony, and all the guest artists put on a heartfelt and enjoyable concert. Why was this concert put on? To glorify San Francisco’s rich musical history? Maybe it was just so the symphony could get stars like Cameron Carpenter and Val Diamond to perform. Possibly for all these reasons, but most importantly to put on a production that would satisfy old symphony goers as well as today’s youth, whose awareness of classical music has decreased in recent years. With this show, the symphony did an amazing and memorable job.