Monday, February 2, 2004

The Song Goes On.  Bravo!

A break from the timely to the timeless.  I spent last Sunday afternoon at the 10th Annual Marilyn Horne Foundation Concert at Carnegie Hall.  I've missed only one of these.  I love music and no instrument more than the human voice.  To paraphrase George Orwell, "all voices are unique, but some voices (very, very few) are more unique than others."  Marilyn Horne has one of those voices, the kind that stop you dead.  Regardless of the clutter around it – often very beautiful clutter – it consistently stands out as unmistakably her own.  It is widely accepted that she is one of the great singers of all time, some believe the greatest of her generation.  While she sang only briefly, and then in a duo with Barbara Cook, those tones, ever rich and powerful, broke through and I enjoyed even the glimpse of them.

But Jackie, as she is known to her friends, is so much more than the vessel of an astounding musical instrument.  When she turned 60 a decade ago and looked ahead toward a less active performing career, she decided it was give-back time.  Thus the Foundation devoted to preserving and encouraging vocal music, nurturing upcoming artists and bringing the recital to places around the country where it was heretofore unavailable.  And still at its active center ten years later is Jackie, with her generous spirit teaching and promoting these young talents with the kind of dedication and warmth all those who know her understand are the essence of her natural force.

It's a honor to among her friends, but what strikes me every time I attend one of these concerts and dinners to follow is how many of us there are.  I've known her now for about 30 years, but many of her friendships reach much further back to every part of her life.  There are friends from Pennsylvania, from California, from New Jersey; all can depend on her loyalty and caring.  Perhaps symptomatic of this capacity for friendship was the enduring relationship she maintained with her former husband the gifted conductor Henry Lewis, a man with both razor sharp mind and integrity.  And it wasn't simply because they shared and loved a wonderful daughter Angela, now a mother herself.  In the initial years of these concerts Henry was always there, but that ended with his untimely death midstream.  He is sorely missed by all of us who knew and loved him, no more than by the enduring Jackie herself, which says it all. 

So the song goes on, and it continues to be a very good song.  God knows, we need a good song in these often dark days.  Brava, Jackie.

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