Neil Sedaka in Bethel Woods
Most of the entries in the Favorite Concerts page are classical music concerts, but last night at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts was a different kind of “classical” music. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra was conducted by our own Jerry Steichen, music director of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra. The rendezvous of my brother and his wife and my wife and I was to be via our motorcycles, but the weather did not cooperate. With probability at 50% we go, but when it is 70% with large hail and severe winds, we opt out and go in the cage. Not that we are afraid of getting wet, as we have many times, but going to a concert and sitting there soaked to the bone is no fun. We made the right call as it did in fact rain quite a bit. After Jerry conducted a number of piceces, he lead the excellent orchestra in playing the legendary singer and songwriter, Neil Sedaka, who launched his official foray into classical music with Joie de Vivre, Sedaka’s first symphony. He also performed his new piano concerto, “Manhattan Intermezzo”. Sedaka composed a lot of music, some of which he performed, but much of which he composed for others. Connie Francis recorded his “Stupid Cupid.” and “Where the Boys Are”, which would be her biggest hit. Sedaka recorded chart toppers “The Diary,” “Oh! Carol,” ” Stairway to Heaven,” “Calendar Girl,” “Little Devil,” “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen,” “Next Door To An Angel,” and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is said to be comprised of some of the country’s finest musicians, but accompanying pop songs from fifty years go may have been a first for them. As for Neil Sedaka– he was amazing. A spring in his step, the enthusiasm of someone less than half his age, and a voice showing no signs of age. His diversity in genre was impressive. Having sold 40 million albums and an abundance of royalty inflow from his creative efforts, he surely is not engaging in a dozen performances per year for the money. He is inspired by the excitement of entertaining others. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is a first class venu. Bethel Woods is in Bethel, New York, became famous in 1969 when nearly 500,000 people gathered at Max Yasgur’s Farm for “Three Days of Peace and Music”. If you enter the Center for the Arts address of 200 Hurd Road, Bethel, NY, in your mapping software or GPS, there is a good chance it will direct you to the hamlet of Bethel which is actually part of Pine Plains, NY. The “other” Bethel is the “town” of Bethel which is actually in the unincorporated hamlet of White Lake, NY. By the way, Woodstock, where the concert was helf is 43 miles from the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, where the Woodstock Museum is. If you dig a little deeper, you will find there is also another White Lake in upstate New York. It was a great trip and we learned a lot we didn’t know: Neil Sedaka wrote a symphony and played a concerto. We also learned there are two Bethels and two White Lakes.