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100 cheers for Symphony Hall

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When your next-door neighbor is celebrating 100 great years, you've got to go and join in the cheering.

Boston's Symphony Hall is best known to Americans as the backdrop for the PBS series "Evening at Pops," an hour of light classical music and guest artists featuring conductor Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

But it's also just across Massachusetts Avenue from the offices of this newspaper. So to me it's an old friend, home not only to the Pops and the Boston Symphony Orchestra but to a parade of outstanding performing artists who come through Boston and use the hall's world-renowned acoustics to showcase their talents.

The four-day celebration of the hall's 100th anniversary last weekend had its share of celebrity performances - folk singer James Taylor, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, actor-singer Mandy Patinkin, hosted by Diana Rigg - as well as selections by the two orchestras and other special guests, including a soul-stirring appearance by the Boys Choir of Harlem.

For those who couldn't pack into the 2,500-seat hall, a giant video screen set up on the Christian Science Center Plaza let everyone take part in the festivities.

As I slipped into my ancient leather balcony seat Saturday night, I found myself joining in the communal sense of awe. It's not a really opulent or grand hall, despite its Victorian statues and scrollwork: It's almost intimate. I realize I'm sitting inside a serious instrument for making music.

The orchestra digs into Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis in D," just as it did on the opening night, Oct. 15, 1900. The chorus responds with "Kyrie eleison" ("Lord, have mercy upon us!"). Once again, the venerable walls resound with glorious music.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society


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