Sherry's Rockapella Trip Report
Rockapella with the Boston Pops
Friday, May 12,2005
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA
Liz and I had never been to Boston before, so we decided that Pella with the Pops would be the perfect excuse to take a trip. Karla decided that she could go, too, so her wonderful brother Jim bought us tickets and we all agreed to meet at her house. Her gracious roommate, Wanda, dropped us off at the airport & also let me have some of her antehistamine for the flight. So thanks to the drugs, I was able to sleep for much of the flight, but not until after I had amused Liz & Karla with my drowsy-speak.
We landed in Boston at sunrise & headed toward the Hampton Inn-Crosstown shuttle. The shuttle diver put Liz's bag onto the van, then completely ignored Karla & me while he went to get the bags of some guy. The guy wondered why the driver was taking his luggage because he needed to go to Embassy Suites. Apparently, since the guy looked like Liz, he was naturally part of Liz's group. So the driver said, "You're not with her? Then who's with her?" to which Karla & I responded with a raise of our hands. I excused him by commenting that it was early.
When we arrived at the hotel, Liz checked in & we were able to get into our room early, which was especially nice because we were also able to get some breakfast & check out the travel guides. We were advised that we could take the Silver Line to the Common, so we walked to the bus stop & took a ride. I decided that I wanted to take a guided tour with one of the costumed guys, so we took a tour. The tour lasted a big longer than we had been told, so we were pretty much starving by the end. At least we had learned a lot of interesting stuff, but we didn't get to see all the esites that we expected. Oh well, it just gives us an excuse to visit Boston agaiin! We ate lunch at Union Oyster House: yummy! I was happy to partake in authentic Boston Clam Chowder, tea, and a chilled lobster salad. I also got to try Liz's order of Boston Baked Beans, which was also good. My meal was excellent, & I only wished that we had a refrigerator in our hotel room so that I could save some of my salad. We shopped around Fanueil Hall afterward, then caught a bus ride back to the hotel.
Exhaustion from our flight had set in, so we all took naps before getting ready for the concert. We took the shuttle to The Shops at Prudential Center. From the shuttle we saw a fire station and Berkelee College building, which we decided to visit the next day. We had to walk a bit from the bus stop, through the Prudential Center, as well as the Christian Science plaza, which was beautiful. We laughed during our walk, remembering that our tour guide advised us that for pedestrians, the signal lights were "just a suggestion."
Symphony Hall is a brick building, like many of the buildings in Boston, with a gorgeous interior consisting of beautiful columns & a marble staircase. The hall itself has very "live" acoustics, with and open floor & 2 tiers of balcony seating around the perimeter. Our seats for the first night were on the first tier, in the back, but the view was still very good, because we could see most of the space in the hall, including the sound board, which made Karla happy.
A large group of ladies from the Red Hat Society ended up sitting in front of us. This was all fine & dandy with us until we realized that they had no concert etiquette. They were confused about their seats at first, which wasn't really their fault but instead the fault of the ushers, whom were noticeably absent when the other ticket holders came in & the Red Hat ladies needed to move down a couple of seats. One of the ladies had a blinking red light on the lapel of her jacket, which didni't get turned off until the 3rd or 4th piece of the concert. This was especially annoying for karla, because it was draped over the lady's seat & Karla could see it in her peripheral vision, but I guess it was in the lady's blind spot. Hey--I'm just happy that they were aware enough to take off their hats! Sure some of them were told to do so when they entered the seating area, but still...
The Boston Pops took the stage & the concertmistress led the tuning of the orchestra. The conductor Keith Lockhart (KL) entered the stage & led the 1st piece, Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries" from the opera "Die Walkure." One of the Red Hat ladies, upon looking at the conductor, said, "That's not John Williams!" No, lady, it's not. Be quiet & read your prgram. The concerts are entitled "Baby Boomer Bash." KL advised that the Valkyries piece probably reminds many Baby Boomers of "Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit," doing an impression of Elmer Fudd from the WB cartoon, "What's Opera, Doc?" All the other classical pieces will remind people of Walt Disney's "Fantasia."
During Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," I did, indeed, think of Chernabog until one of the Red Hat ladies decided to make a phone call. Yes, DURING the song. Apparently, she was calling a friend to see if they could recognize the music. No, she was not quiet. No, she wasn't whispering. Yes, we were irritated. Karla was cringing & ready to punch the lady. If they do this during Rockapella, I'll lose my mind.
During Beethoven's "Pastoral," I was in some kind of heaven with Pegasus flying around with the baby winged horses. I told the gals afterward that being at the symphony always makes me miss my violin, which I played for 9 years. I felt the music pulling me again all weekend.
Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" from La Giaconda evoked both images of dancing hippos for me, as well as memories of the lyrics to "Hello Muddah, Hello, Faddah," which was being sung by the RH ladies in case I had forgotten them.
During intermission, Liz spoke with her neighbor to find out where we could eat nearby after the show. Unfortunately, it was her first time there, too. I decided to snack on the Nutri-Grain bar in my purse, since it seemed that we were allowed to eat in the Hall, what with the people downstairs all being served food & drink throughout the show.
Many folks from the Joslin Diabetes Center were present in the audience, so the orchestra played their official song, "High Hopes," after the intermission. They then played a rockin' rendition of "Birdland," follwed by a Paul Simon medley, which included parts of "The Sound of Silence," "Feelin' Groovy," "Cecilia," "Mrs. Robinson," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Then we saw that Rockapella was in the house! KL introduced them as "amazing, compelling, exciting musicians," whom are working on a new album.
Rockapella walked on stage & took their places in front of the orchestra to sing "Tonight." I went nuts. The rest of the audience wasn't sure what to expect, but after the first song, the reaction was thunderous applause. Scott said that all of their music is supplied by their "voices," their "mouths," their "upper palates." He continued, "We start with the 8th & 9th Wonders of the World: Jeff Thacher's lips," and brought up the chord with the others. Then Scott said that when the group was established, they all agreed, "We're fine without instruments, we don't want to have instruments, so when the Boston Pops called & asked if we'd like to sign with them, we said, "YES!"
The guys then started "Here Comes the Sun" and the orchestra joined them. It was absolutely amazing to hear that the orchestra was playing Scott's arrangement of the song, as I recognized his distinct chords.
They then sang "Shambala," during which the triangle player got a lot of action.
"People Change" was gorgeous. I was very
excited during Scott's little duet with the trumpet because I've always thought
that Scott's voice was just like a trumpet. The ending had the orchestra making
full use of the Pachelbel "Canon in D" chords, upon which the song was
based. Simply beautiful.
"Papa Was A Rolling Stone" was done a cappella, and included what I like to call an "extended VP version," with the whole drum line portion being longer and more spectacular than before.
The orchestra began the next song, "Dance With Me." Even with the limited space, the guys were able to dance, although they toned down the bootie-shaking action quite a bit. George did a little shake, but that's it.
As Scott said, this was an "auspicious occasion." So he and the Boston Pops' arranger, Pat Hollenbeck, wrote an arrangement of the equally auspicious Sonny & Cher hit, "And The Beat Goes On." This was way cool, because the emphasis was, indeed, on the drums and vocal percussion. Jeff & the guy playing the drum kit traded riffs, then George joined in, & soon all of Rockapella was trading VP riffs with the drummer. Oh, YEAH!!!
Scott said that the other songs they sang were part of their regular repertoire. "We do some songs that are made up, some songs that other people made up...here's one that we made up." Ah, "I'll Hear Your Voice," with the orchestra. Scott had a a duet with the concertmistress and I was SOOOOOO wishing that I was her! Jeff was singing, so no VP. It was positively sublime.
They then sang "Rock The Boat," during which George traded riffs with the tuba player, Michael Elliott. Cool, cool, cool!
For the encore, Rockapella sang "Up On The Roof/Wonderful World" off mic. One of the RH ladies yelled out "Use the microphone!" because her idiot friends around her were loud & she couldn't hear. Little does she know, I guess, the beauty of pure, unamplified a cappella.
After Rockapella left the stage with a great ovation, the Pops closed the show with their rendition of "Stars & Stripes Forever." Neato -- my favorite march!
At the meet and greet, the guys were pleasantly surprised to see us. Scott said, "You girls came all the way out here for this?" I said, "Well, yeah -- all 3 shows!" He was happy, I guess, that we'd make full use of our time in Boston. I asked Scott if they were going to do "And the Beat Goes On" for a Rockapella CD or on tour, but he said probably not, since it was a special thing arranged with the Pops. They should record it that way, then. Yeah, like I can tell them what to do. It was nice to see John, Kevin & his family are doing well, and Jeff said, "How sweet!" when he found out that we'd be at all of the weekend shows. I told him that we saw Berkelee, and he said that they would be having a concert there in November, and that we should go. I reminded him that we'd be seeing them in CA in December, & he said, "Yeah, but this isn't a Christmas show like those." Jeff, do NOT encourage this traveling-across-the-country-for-'Pella behavior! I guess he doesn't realize how expensive Boston is for a traveler. The guys all signed my program, and Scott diligently spelled m name correctly, and I subsequently left the program in the lobby when I was looking at other pamphlets. What a nimrod.
We said our goodbyes and walked back to the Prudential Center to eat dinner at Applebee's. Thank you to the policeman whom told us about open restaurants in the area. On the way, Karla called her bro, then I called my sister-in-law when we arrived at the restaurant. She asked if I knew the meaning of Gwen Stefani's "Hollerback Girl," and, since Liz has a teenage daughter, she knew the song & explained the meaning to V. V told me later that it was like talking to me. That's why Liz & I are such good friends -- we pretty much clicked automatically. Mmmm...I love that veggie pizza, and that blondie dessert. I don't know why I didn't have my favorite drink when I was there. Now I want it today.
We took the advice of one of the servers there & hailed a cab outside one of the hotels, and headed home. I realized that the photo on our key card matched the one on our room number placard, and got all excited when I saw that the other rooms didn't have the same picture on their placard. Ours matched! I just HAD to get a picture of it in the morning. As my roommates fell asleep, I talked to Cindy about all the concert happenings, which was even funnier becauase she was tipsy from her margarita at dinner. Yup. Should have had that drink of mine; we would have giggled even more.