Bernstein Today

Totally Immersed in Bernstein: Thank you, London!

January 27, 2018: London

I can say now that I have been totally immersed!

On Saturday, January 27th, I attended a Total Immersion: Leonard Bernstein. Presented by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, in and around London’s Barbican Center, it was a day and evening of top notch performances and some rarely heard LB delights – and every venue was packed!

At Milton Court Concert Hall, immensely talented students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama gave gorgeous renditions of  Arias and Barcarollesthe Clarinet SonataTouches, and a truly thrilling Prelude, Fugue and Riffsconducted by Scott Stroman.

Next, at the Fountain Room, Bernstein expert Edward Seckerson and producer Andrew McGregor shared recorded excerpts of interviews and performances as part of a conversational glimpse into LB the man and the musician.

Then, on to St. Giles’ Church at Cripplegate! What a treat it was to experience the BBC Singers performing HashkivenuMissa Brevis, and Chichester Psalms in that venue. Ragnar Bohlin conducted the singers, percussion, organ and harp with great sensitivity to the acoustics of the church.

Performance at "Total Immersion: Leonard Bernstein" (Credit: Craig Urquhart)
Performance at “Total Immersion: Leonard Bernstein” (Credit: Craig Urquhart)

The Finale: Candide Overture, Serenade, and Songfest

The big closing concert at Barbican Hall was, as we Anglophiles like to say, “smashing.”

The terrific BBC Orchestra, under the direction of David Charles Abell, began with a rousing Candide Overture.

Violinist Vadim Gluzman played Serenade with precision, grace, and love.

Alexander Bernstein and Vadim Gluzman at London's Total Immersion. (Credit: Courtesy of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.)
Alexander Bernstein and Vadim Gluzman at London’s Total Immersion. (Credit: Craig Urquhart / Courtesy of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.)

And, then: Songfest! So rarely performed, due to the need for six singers and full orchestra, this gem of 12 songs, based on the poetry of 13 American poets, came across as the masterpiece it is. The extraordinary singers, Sophia Burgos (no relation to Julia de), J’Nai BridgesFleur BarronNicky SpenceNmon Ford, and Brandon Cedel, were superb and brilliantly led by Maestro Abell.

(Learn more about Songfest)

My godson attended with me all day, and it turned out that his girlfriend had, long ago, bought her father tickets for his birthday; he’d discovered LB and a love of music through the Norton Lectures two years ago, and has been studying piano ever since. Spending the day experiencing this Immersion with him, and through him, was so very moving. Cheers, Ed!

And, finally, thanks to our own Craig Urquhart and to the wonderful Janis Susskind, of Boosey and Hawkes, for always making everything work well.

Thank you, London!

About the author
Jamie Bernstein (right), Alexander Bernstein (seated), and Nina Bernstein Simmons (left). (Photo credit: Steve Sherman/Courtesy of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.)
Jamie Bernstein (right), Alexander Bernstein (seated), and Nina Bernstein Simmons (left). (Photo credit: Steve Sherman/Courtesy of The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.)

Alexander Bernstein is president of Artful Learning, Inc., and founding chairman of The Leonard Bernstein Center For Learning. Prior to his full-time participation in the center, Bernstein taught for five years at the Packer-Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He has studied acting, performed professionally, and worked as a production associate at the ABC News Documentary Unit. Bernstein holds a Master’s degree in English education from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

About this content

Jamie, Alexander, and Nina are taking you around the globe, celebrating their father’s legacy with you and adoring fans at thousands of Bernstein Centennial events. This post, from Alexander Bernstein, hails from a glorious day and evening of Bernstein music in London.

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