By Jeremy Reynolds
Jogging onto the stage of Severance Hall, Liza Grossman wasted no time in launching the barefoot Contemporary Youth Orchestra and Chorus straight into the opening number of their annual “Rock the Orchestra” concert on Friday, June 5. After a slow, somber musical introduction from the students, singer-songwriter and philanthropist Graham Nash walked onstage, serenely and similarly unshod, to a standing ovation from listeners. He began GNASH — a concert celebrating his five-decade musical career — with a spirited rendition of “To the Last Whale” (Nash, David Crosby, 1975).
“What an incredible honor it is for me to be here,” Nash said, warmly embracing Grossman and waving to his audience and fellow musicians. While the performers’ lack of shoes probably referenced the ’60s era of his famous bands, The Hollies, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the singer proved his message still relevant and his voice still strong.
Nash continues to preach antiviolence through his music with politically charged songs like “Burning for the Buddha,” (Nash, James Raymond, 2014) a protest against the recent self-immolation of Tibetan monks against Chinese treatment of Tibetans. He dedicated “Watch Out for the Wind” (Nash and Shane Fontayne, 2014) to the memory of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, and he sang “Soldiers of Peace” (Nash, Craig Doerge, Joe Vitale, 1988) with a zealous intensity, garnering peace-signs from some members of the audience.
Stefan Podell, Linwood Bell, and Mau Quiros provided the orchestrations for the evening, and the Contemporary Youth Orchestra and Chorus alike performed the dramatic arrangements with admirable precision and vivacity. Read the review on ClevelandClassical.com