In the back of my mind, Fourth of July is a little bit like Halloween: a day for kids to be at liberty and away from oppressive parental eyes. Yes, I do know this is no longer true – but it’s up to us to create the next best thing – and Shoreline at Mountain View isn’t a bad artificial environment when it comes to being able to let your kid wander within limits on the Fourth. In some ways, it’s like a temporary gated community, with a little bit of something for everyone: games for little kids, saccharine rock bands that appeal to early adolescents, SF Symphony for adults… and enforced vacation for adults as well.
Friends ask why I persist in returning to Shoreline these past years – and the truth I rarely admit is that I’m really paying for the privilege of doing nothing for five hours. If you ignore the two years I spent trying to brief legal cases while sprawled on the lawn, this is one of the few times I glory in doing absolutely nothing. This year I toted a biography of Beethoven that had been on my bookshelf for years, ported in the chicken, shrimp biryani and salad, and waited for friends to fall by our blanket on the lawn. Could I have done this at home? Absolutely. Would I have done this at home? No.
The SF Symphony graces Shoreline every Fourth. This is obviously not the time to listen to the Symphony, but it comes as a blessed relief. Just when you can’t take any more reminders that this event is brought to you by Radio Disney, it’s time for the symphony, and something reasonably adult. Programming is uniformly excellent and connected at least in some vague way to the holiday. American composers are usually favored (this year, Rachmaninoff became American), as are familiar compositions. This year was typical in that it drew heavily theater and movie tunes – arranged in representative decades from 1910 to the present. No surprises here – but then on a holiday, there really shouldn’t be.
As usual, was all very enjoyable – especially the rendition of the theme from 2001 (Strauss’s Sunrise from Also sprach Zarathustra). Conductor Donato Cabrera had just the right touch, introducing each piece and explaining why it was included and make the arc connecting Rachmaninoff’s Theme from Symphony No 2 to Bill Conti’s Theme from Rocky appear seamless.
Next year, somehow I’ll manage to be watching fireworks from the roof of the Walker Bldg. at MIT with someone’s boom box blaring the Boston Pops in the background. There’ll be no more $5.00 cokes or $10.00 beers and absolutely no Radio Disney. Some over-eager student will invariably be telling me about pyrotechnics and I’ll listen with three quarters of an ear in case there’s something I haven’t heard in past years. Until we get back to Boston, however, SF Symphony at Shoreline just might be the next best thing – at least at this end of the peninsula. Happy Fourth.