May 18, 2012
The May 10th performance of Barbary Coast and Beyond drew in crowds of all ages to Davies Symphony Hall. Michael Tilson Thomas, the conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, started off the night with an enjoyable, brief introduction about the history of San Francisco.
The hall was beautiful. It was filled with velvet chairs and glass panels dangling from the ceiling. Val Diamond from Beach Blanket Babylon couldn’t have been a better choice as narrator. Her loud, melodious voice traveled through the hall wonderfully, and she’s a great San Francisco icon who has an amazing stage presence. She came onstage in a sparkling, sequined shirt, which was almost as stunning as the music. She spoke about a wide variety of San Francisco’s historical figures, including Lola Montez, a showgirl. Laura Claycomb, an incredibly gifted soprano with an outstanding range, paid tribute to Lola in her first appearance on stage. Laura Claycomb entered wearing a gorgeous red gown that I would wear any day, and she impressed both the audience and me. She not only sang gorgeously but had loads of personality and attitude. Laura Claycomb reappeared throughout the evening, with lots more costume changes.
The program was filled with well-known songs played with a twist, like The Stars and Stripes Forever, which was played on organ by Cameron Carpenter. He wore a sparkling suit and had spiky hair. He played enthusiastically and moved all over the organ, pressing and stomping on keys, buttons, and pedals, and I thought the Stars and Stripes had never sounded better. The show ended with a standing bow, but the applause tonight was not just for the performance, but for one hundred years of the Symphony.