Musicmaker for the masses

The Hollywood Bowl inducts two pop icons into its new hall of fame

Very few summers in recent years have passed without the music of composer John Williams soaring through the nation's movie multiplexes.

His latest effort will be heard accompanying one of this season's anticipated blockbusters, the Mel Gibson vehicle "The Patriot." (The first peek director George Lucas gave exhibitors of his latest "Star Wars" film in the spring of 1999 included a command performance by Mr. Williams himself, introducing the movie's theme music.)

If you ask the man-on-the-street who represents the heart of American music today, odds are good country crooner Garth Brooks will top the list.

Now, to underline the accomplishments of both these American icons, they will be honored by yet another national institution, the Hollywood Bowl, as it kicks off its very own Hall of Fame June 23. Its purpose is to honor artists whose work embodies the spirit of an institution known around the world.

"The Hollywood Bowl is a uniquely American icon," says Deborah Borda, managing director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Bowl's parent organization. "It is simply part of the national cultural lexicon."

Both movie and country music are also "uniquely American," she adds, making the two inductees natural choices.

Williams has had a longstanding relationship with the Bowl, conducting in the vast outdoor amphitheater nearly every season since his debut there in 1979. The most Oscar-nominated man alive (he has received 38 nominations, most recently for "Angela's Ashes"), Williams has been honored with four British Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, and 17 Grammys, along with numerous gold and platinum recordings. He's also written numerous symphonies and concertos.

"Williams's greatness is in his ability to establish a relationship with a new audience for classical music," says the Hollywood Bowl principal conductor, John Mauceri. The storytelling power of his music brings a new generation to classical music in a way that traditional symphonies have tried with less success, he adds. Audiences "find it to be a sort of contemporary music they can relate to," he says.

The addition of Mr. Brooks to the debut awards ceremony signals the Bowl's intention to reach out to as broad an audience as possible. "We want to make it a national institution," Ms. Borda says. With a national reputation for both popular and classical music since 1922, the Bowl can play an important role in broadening audiences for both, she adds.

For many music fans, this 18,000-seat outdoor facility set in the Santa Monica mountains, and first opened in 1922, is the closest they may ever get to classical music.

Families arrive hours early with picnics. "The Hollywood Bowl holds a special place in people's imaginations," Mr. Mauceri says. "For those who don't ever tap into any other part of the city's cultural life, this may be their only contact."

The stage, designed by Lloyd Wright, son of the famous architect, and later enhanced with large white globes designed by Frank Gehry, is the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, which plays lighter fare.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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