It’s that time of year again. Tonight Maya and I are headed to that cathedral of great music, Carnegie Hall. There is a scene in the movie “Music of the Heart” where Meryl Streep’s character is welcomed to Carnegie Hall by Isaac Stern. He tells her that if you stand on the stage and listen closely, you can hear Tchaikovsky – who played at the very first concert held in the Hall- as well as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Leonard Bernstein and Jascha Heifetz. He tells her they are all there, in the walls, to welcome each and every person who comes to play at Carnegie.
Carnegie Hall may be synonymous with great classical performances, but it welcomes all genres of music. Some of the best concerts I’ve ever seen, from the amazing Sweet Honey in the Rock to Gordon Lightfoot, have taken place at Carnegie. None of them, however, can hold a candle to Arlo and his family, who take the stage with no introduction or fanfare, as though walking in to a very large, ornate family room; their family room, to which they have invited several thousand friends for an evening of storytelling and song. And, just like in families, some of the stories are familiar, repeated every year to the delight of those who look forward to the re-telling. Most of the songs are familiar, too, and there is something both inspiring and haunting about several thousand voices singing along.
Arlo always says he loves it when families sing together. The great thing about the Carnegie concert is that for a couple of hours, you get the feeling the Guthrie family has expanded to include everyone in the building.