Saturday, July 4, 2009

One of My Heroes

Tonight, if you watch "A Capitol Fourth" from Washington, D.C. you will see one of my heroes, conductor Erich Kunzel. He has been the conductor of the Cincinnati Pops since 1965. In 2006, he won the National Medal of Arts, which is the highest honor given to artists and art patrons. In 2008, he led the Cincinnati Pops at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in China. He is also known for his exuberant personality and his sense of humor; one person who interviewed him said it was easy to see why recordings by the Cincinnati Pops sound so lively and joyful.

The first time I saw him in action was back in the 70s at Cincinnati Music Hall. At Christmas time we went to see "The Nutcracker". Somehow, we had ended up with tickets in the very first row. We weren't sure if that was a good idea or a bad idea, as the view from the first row can be a bit overwhelming. As it turned out, I was mesmerized by watching Erich Kunzel. He was so animated and expressive. It was a joy to watch him. I especially remember when the snowflakes were dancing in the enchanted forest, the Land of Snow. The scene was magical, with sparkling snowflakes all around, and the dancers in their luminous costumes, and the lovely lyrical music. In the background, the chorus is singing softly, "ah, ah, ah, ah" and we could here Erich Kunzel singing right along with them, his voice strong and joyful. It was clear that he was enjoying it. That was when he became my hero. His love of what he was doing was infectious. There are moments that you never forget. That was one of mine.

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