Celebrating the 4th With the N.Y. Philharmonic, West Point Band and Hellcats

On the Go

By Masha Leon

Published July 11, 2012, issue of July 20, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

“What is someone with my accent doing here?” asked British-born conductor Bramwell Tovey from the stage at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on July 5, where he led an Independence Day concert of classic American music and military marches. Tovey is music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and has led the New York Philharmonic’s Summertime Classics series since it began in 2004. With a twinkle in his eye, the conductor, dressed in a white suit, quipped: “I’m here to apologize for 1776.” He also made a joke about Shirley MacLaine, the American actress who portrays a Jewish mother-in-law on the popular British television series “Downton Abbey.”

After inviting latecomers to “come in, come in,” Tovey conducted three dance episodes from Leonard Bernstein’s score from “On the Town,” the 1944 musical, before settling in at the piano to accompany Canadian coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl’s dazzling rendition of “Glitter and Be Gay,” from Bernstein’s “Candide.” Tovey diplomatically described Cunégonde, the character who sings the piece in the musical, as “a lady of the night with the personality of a Kardashian.” Next, he led the orchestra in a medley of Gershwin songs, including “The Man I Love, “Fascinating Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “A Foggy Day (In London Town).”

Following intermission, the uniformed Hellcats, an ensemble of buglers and rudimental drummers from the West Point Military Academy Band, performed impressive precision routines. Their commander and conductor, Lt. Col. Jim Keene, explained: “The Hellcats predate George Washington and are responsible for performing the 24 notes of ‘Taps’ for 600 veterans annually.” West Point’s Jazz Knights also performed, presenting a medley of 1940s swing and then joining the Hellcats and the Philharmonic to play Philip Egner’s “Official West Point March.” Tovey then led the Philharmonic and the Jazz Knights in John Philip Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell.”

Lt. Col. Keene proclaimed: “Freedom in America is not free. This is a land still worth fighting for.” Then he led the Jazz Knights and the Philharmonic in a U.S. armed forces medley. As the songs — one each for Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — were played, those who had served or are serving in each of the military branches were asked to stand and be acknowledged.

After a joint Philharmonic and Jazz Knights rendition of Sousa’s most famous march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” Tovey mentioned the 60th anniversary of the Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne. He sheepishly suggested: “You can [also] celebrate. We are all friends now…and it’s never too late to come back.”

Remembering Music Industry Dynamo Frances Preston

“This is an amazing woman,” said event-chair singer-songwriter Michael Bolton of Frances Preston, president and CEO of BMI at “A Toast To Frances” luncheon honoring her on June 18, 1996. It was there, at the celebratory event sponsored by the UJA-Federation of New York, that I first met Preston — one of the most gracious people in the rough-and-tumble music world. She died on June 13, 2012, of congestive heart failure at the age of 83.

Frances Preston
karen leon
Frances Preston

Held at the Essex House, that 1996 lunch was a “who’s who” of the music industry. Event emcee Freddy Roman, dean of the Friars Club, let loose with a barrage of jokes — one of which I still remember: “An 80-year old man calls to his 70-year old wife, Sylvia, ‘Come upstairs and let’s make love.’ Sylvia replies: ‘I can’t do both.’” Preston, at the next table, roared. At that lunch, Cy Leslie, founder of Pickwick Records and the MGM/United Artists Home Entertainment Group, said “Tzedaka [charity] is in Frances’s genes.” With Leslie’s nomination, Preston became the first woman to be admitted to the Friars Club.

I encountered Preston at several other music industry events over the years, including the annual Songwriters Hall of Fame award dinners. Accompanied by Clive Davis and Tommy Mattola, Preston was a guest at the Feb. 11, 2003, UJA-Federation of New York Entertainment, Media & Communications Division event at the Regent Wall Street Hotel, where entertainment lawyer Joel Katz was presented with the “Spirit of Music Award.”

A standout was the June 5, 2004 Songwriter Hall of Fame gala where Regis Philbin presented Neil Sedaka with the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. Preston, who was president and CEO of BMI (which represents artists and music publishers) at the time, presented Michael Goldstein, then chairman of Toys “R” Us Children’s Fund and president of the 92nd Street Y, with a “Patron of the Arts” Award.

Preston was always accessible and ever generous with advice. Everyone in the music business is indebted to her for her courageous battle to insure that composers be paid for their music creations, and to advance the idea that a song is a piece of intellectual property. She helped ensure the passage of the Copyright Renewal Act of 1992. Her legacy resonates. Today, BMI represents more than half a million composers, lyricists and publishers, and more than 7.5 million works.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.