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The Louisville Orchestra at the Louisville Zoo
With Special Guest Gary Morris
By Jean Metcalfe
By Jean Metcalfe
Sunday, July 16, was a perfect evening for an outdoor concert at the Louisville Zoo. Yes, you heard right -- the Louisville Zoo! I'm not talking about "Donkey Serenade," "Talk to the Animals" or anything akin to that -- I'm speaking of "The Louisville Orchestra at the Louisville Zoo" concert. Add to those ideal conditions one Louisville Orchestra and one Gary Morris and you have perfection. (Well, a front-row seat would have helped, but it was kinda fun sitting on a blanket in the grass.)
As usual, our city's excellent orchestra was, well ... excellent. And that was true from the opening selection, "Liberty Fanfare," composed for the 100th birthday celebration of the Statue of Liberty, right through the finale. Other selections included "Sounds of Simon and Garfunkel," a medley of three songs from the sound track of "The Graduate" -- "Scarborough Fair," "Sounds of Silence" and "Mrs. Robinson."
With katydids "singing" along, the orchestra did several other selections, including the very stirring "Buglers' Holiday."
The air was filled with electricity when Morris came on stage for the bottom half of the evening's entertainment. He had the crowd's loving attention from the first song through the last. Every song was first-rate, as was his performance of them. He graciously complimented the orchestra -- "Behind me is one of the finest bunch of musicians anywhere" -- then elicited a laugh by adding, "They're on break now."
Morris enchanted the audience with several of his best-known numbers -- "Plain Brown Wrapper," "Baby Bye Bye," "The Love She Found In Me" and "Velvet Chains," the latter of which he asked the fans to sing along on.
"The whole album is about love," Morris said of his current LP -- Stones -- before singing the very nice title cut from it. He also sang his "favorite song on the album," which he co-wrote with "a guy from way, way, way down under -- New Zealand."
"I'm gonna tell you what you mean to me," he sang, then musically enumerated the things he would give up for the object of his affection:
Take the magic from children's hearts,
Take the sounds of laughter,
Just leave me bread and water and you."
As the song progresses the singer says,
Take the shirt off my back,
But don't take the bread and water nor you.
In the end he declares,
I'd give it all, it's true, even bread and water ...
Morris spoke of having had "the really, really honor to go to New York" to play the lead in "Les Miserables," and puckishly said, "I played Les." He mentioned that his character -- Jean Valjean -- went from "being 30 to being 70 in the course of three hours" during the six-month run of the Broadway hit. Then he sang the aging Valjean's prayer "Bring Him Home," which was beautiful beyond description. (I was fortunate to hear it again on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show just four nights later, and I was not the only one who was moved by the beauty of the song and Morris' singing of it.) What emotion! What talent!
After explaining that "I did not write the song," (the local newspaper review of the Saturday performance had credited him), he sang the award-winning "Wind Beneath My Wings," and the crowd went wild -- how could they not?
There was no way Morris could avoid an encore, and he came back to further whip up the concert-goers with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" He walked freely among the fans, encouraging them to sing along, and it was a very happy bunch of fans who were able to touch and be touched by him.
Morris left the stage after the one encore number, and when the cheering crowd finally realized that Morris had departed in a waiting automobile, they gathered up their blankets and lawn chairs and left the zoo to the animals. If animals enjoy good music, then they went to bed extremely happy that evening.