I don’t remember much at all about the concert I saw at the National Arts Centre on April 28th, 2016 but really, I don’t have to. It was a Pops concert and I’ve been to enough of these things to be able to describe the show quite accurately without the use of any memories whatsoever. Watch as I pull a rabbit out of my hat:
A packed house filled the newly renovated Southam Hall and gave the guest conductor a warm welcome when he appeared onstage in his almost-garish white tuxedo and tails. With a small bow and a large smile, he turned to the greatest collection of classical musicians in the country and with a wave of his small baton the maestro ushered in the opening notes of a classic Duke Ellington number.
(Okay, it could have been Cab Calloway or another of Duke’s big-band jazz contemporaries – like he had any real contemporaries – but given that this concert featured the music of New York City’s legendary Cotton Club, well, clearly they must have opened with an Ellington number. And probably followed with one, and doubtlessly closed with a few more. Duke was the king.)
And so ensued an evening of brilliantly played easy-listening ultra-familiar nuggets of nostalgia accompanied by an obligatory string of talented singers that would simply tear it up were they to appear on The Voice or some such program (but no, they are too deeply entrenched in the lucrative art of mimicry to have to stoop so low). Then of course there were the extra pop musicians, added to punch up the sixty-piece symphonic orchestra with flashy electric guitar solos and under-bearing drum fills delivered on a glittering Gretsch trap kit.
Overall it was another great night of music that still made me wonder why I always come to these things. For all the greatness of the Pop’s series I really should go to more of the more sombre, serious NAC concerts; they would be much, much harder to criticize…I mean, “describe”. I guess I just like being able to sing along?