On August 23, 1964, the Beatles played at the Hollywood Bowl—a landmark outdoor amphitheater in Los Angeles—to a sold-out-and-then-some crowd of 18,000 frenzied fans. One of the ecstatic teenagers who made up the bulk of the audience, and whose crazed shrieking doubtless overwhelmed the amplification technology of the day, was my mother, age 14. Though my mom has since been to countless concerts at the Bowl, this is her first memory of the place, the experience that established her relationship with it, and the one she giddily recounted to me every time we went there together when I was growing up.
That foundational Beatles concert imparted some magic to the Bowl for my mom, and its afterglow was surely in some part responsible for her deciding to spend so many more evenings there—many of them with me, once I was around—taking in performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who made the Bowl their summer home. Due in no small measure to these desert nights spent listening to live performances of works by Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, and Beethoven, I grew up so loyal to these composers that when some of my fifth-grade classmates said that they were going to come to school the next day with mohawks, I retorted that I would come wearing a powdered wig. And so, two generations of love for classical music, my mother's and my own, can be traced back to the Beatles at the Bowl—a pops concert at the symphony.
It is therefore only natural that I should be heartened that the merry, brass-playing pranksters of Portland's own MarchFourth Marching Band—fresh from a cross-country tour, and with a new live album to peddle—will begin a three-day stint sharing a bill with the Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on Saturday, November 24. I can think of no local ensemble more populist and eminently likeable than MarchFourth who, with their funkadelic sound, stilt-walking, unorthodox facial hair, and Pied Piper appeal, sell out all-ages matinees as consistently as all-night bacchanals. Ideally, their multigenerational legion of fans, younger than the usual symphony-going set, be they diaper-wearing or diaper-changing, will come to the Schnitz to see MarchFourth, and stick around to watch the Symphony live-score the classic Harold Lloyd silent film Safety Last. And with any luck, some of these toddlers, teens, and twentysomethings will take to the symphony and come back for more. By holding cross-genre concerts at the Schnitz, the Oregon Symphony is not slumming, as critics might claim, but rather embracing Portland's pop riches to attract a new audience—an imperative for the institution, which, like most of America's orchestras, has been plagued in recent years by mounting expenses, massive debt, and dwindling attendance. Now, give us our orchestral Decemberists concert!