Our family held the 10th Annual Anita Roos Baker Mother's Day Concert in Lexington, Kentucky this past weekend. The concert has been a wonderful way for us to remember our mom each year - and it's a great free concert and reception for music lovers in Lexington. The talent at the University of Kentucky Music School is impressive, to say the least. They got a standing ovation this year, and they played to a full house!
My brother, sister and I take turns giving the opening remarks. It was my turn this year. This is what I said:
Thank you for being here tonight.
I am Gloria Baker Feinstein. Along with my brothers, Mike and Ben, my sister, Bobbie and our 94-year old father, Harold, I’d like to welcome you to the 10th Annual Anita Roos Baker Mother’s Day Concert. We’re calling tonight’s program “A Very Special Evening of Music” because there’s really no better way to describe the program that’s been assembled for us.
In fact, each year we have been treated to a very special evening of music. When we first approached Ben Arnold here at the UK School of Music to talk about putting on the concert, shortly after our mother died, we were greeted with nothing but enthusiastic support. We were so grateful to him - for helping us get this concert started and now to Tedrin Lindsey, who has presented us with impressive programs year after year.
Our mother, Anita, a life-long Lexingtonian, instilled in us an appreciation of good music. (She also instilled in us a love of Cincinnati Reds baseball and UK Wildcat basketball, but that’s another story for another night.) As a family, we attended Broadway musicals, and I can testify that I squirmed my way through more than a few operas. Mom had her own beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. She sang in our Temple choir, at funerals and in several small singing groups here in Lexington over the years. Her car radio was always tuned to classical music, and she played the cello for several years. She always looked happy when she was immersed in good music. Mom did this funny thing with her hand when she was listening to something she really enjoyed. She would raise up her right hand ever so gracefully, her pinky slightly higher than her other fingers, and subconsciously conduct the music. With her eyes closed, her hand aloft and a smile on her face, Anita was truly in her happy place when music was playing.
But tonight isn’t just about my mother. It’s about the talented performers who will grace this stage, and it’s about all of us in this room.
The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said: “music is the universal language of mankind.” He made that statement in the mid-1800’s, and all these years later scientific studies are proving him right. Things like tempo and pitch actually do cause people from different cultures, age groups and life experiences to respond to music in very similar ways. Music can take us as a group to places of joy and sorrow, excitement and calm, fear and safety. Music can cross all borders, time zones, languages and traditions. As a shared experience, it goes back to the days when people chanted as they worked together or when they gathered for any sort of ritual. From our first social bonding as babies to the funerals that mark our passing, music plays an important role in all our lives, and it brings us closer together.
I witnessed this first hand when I took my teenage son, Max, a drummer, to Africa. He quickly discovered that he could communicate all day long with the musicians, dancers and singers he met, some of whom spoke no English, through the universal language of beat, rhythm and musical expression. He talked with and got to know many people, because music was their common language.
Now it’s time to introduce our emcee and pianist extraordinaire, Tedrin Lindsay, who will bring onto the stage Everett and Alicia McCorvey, Benjamin and Margaret Karp, Catherine Clarke Nardolillo, Yoonie Choi and Jonathan Green. On behalf of the Baker family, the Temple Adath Israel Music Fund and the Friends of the UK School of Music, I hope you enjoy tonight’s program. I know my mother would have loved it. I hope she’s listening. If so, one thing’s for sure: her conducting hand will be very busy!