Tanglewood Pops & Vince Gill

The Boston Symphony Orchestra opened its Tanglewood season this past week, and my wife and I were lucky enough to attend Sunday’s performance by the Pops Orchestra with a special guest, Country music star Vince Gill. We had not been to a concert in the Berkshires for about 20 years, so it was a treat to return. We had seats in the Koussevitzsky Music Shed—good thing, because ten minutes before start time, 2.30 pm, a voice on the loudspeaker blared out a Severe Weather Warning, telling all the lawn people to immediately seek cover. Lightning had been reported in the area. Within minutes it was as if God had unzipped the lining of the sky and let fall a lake of water all at once. From inside the Shed, the rain made a curtain obscuring the broad green lawn. This went on for about 30 minutes, delaying the start of the show. Conductor Keith Lockhart stepped on stage at about 2.50 pm and said he would hold the start because one more band of showers was due, and the Tanglewood folks wanted to give people with lawn tickets a chance to get back in place. At a quarter past three the concert began, a celebration of music of the American west, including themes from classic western movies like “How the West Was Won” and “The Alamo,” as well as pieces by John Williams (“Cowboys” film overture) and Aaron Copland (selections from “Rodeo” ballet). The program was adjusted for the time delay, so Keith cut the Suite from “The Magnificent Seven,” which would have been fun to hear. He moved the performance along, skipping the intermission and bringing out Vince Gill for the second half.

I know almost nothing about Country music other than names of artists, so I didn’t know what to expect with Vince Gill. In the program bio I read that he started with Pure Prairie League and was later asked by Mark Knopfler to join Dire Straits (he declined) before launching a mega-successful performing and recording career as a top-tier Country musician. I can’t tell you the songs he played, but his loyal fans in the audience knew every one from past albums. This was Gill’s second time at Tanglewood, and he name-checked his friend James Taylor, who was in the house up front, because James had invited him the first time. Vince Gill’s guitar-playing is superb; his four-piece backing band meshed nicely with the orchestra, giving everything a big rich sound. He closed with a new lush jazz composition that he said had the blessing of jazz guru Diana Krall.

Established in 1903, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is offering its 132nd season this year. We noticed in the program that one of the trustees is George D. Behrakis, and that he and Mrs. Behrakis are major donors at the Encore (third highest) level in the Society Giving list. Bravo from Lowell for their leadership.

Vince Gill