I keep thinking about Saturday's Anchorage Symphony Orchestra concert, which was preceded by a musical "tribute" and moment of silence for the late Senator Ted Stevens. That tribute followed a similar honor for long-time ASO cellist Art Braendel.
The playing of Bach's "Air on the G String" has become customary for departed members of the symphony as more performers from the early days pass away. But this was the first time I recalled such a thing for a non-player.
Admittedly, Stevens had a strong interest in the arts. The statement from the stage that "he and a handful of other senators saved the National Endowment on the Arts" was a bit hyperbolic; last I looked it takes a majority of 51 senators - or ten handfuls plus Stevens - to enact anything. But the U.S. Senate is a mysterious place. And, if your soloist showed up with his or her violin still quarantined by customs - or vice versa - well Ted was exactly the person you wanted to call to straighten things out immediately.
But it strikes me as odd that I don't recall any similar tribute when Jay Hammond died. Or for Walter Hickel - though admittedly his contribution to the arts was primarily in the form of architecture. Or for George Sullivan, who was more directly responsible for the existence of Atwood Concert Hall, where the concert was taking place, than any other individual. Did I miss something?
Well, we're not going back to play funereal fanfares for all departed politicians, but I'd be interested in the thoughts of readers.
I posted Mike's question in its entirety for three reasons:
1). Mike left out part of Maestro Randy Fleischer's explanation about the honor, which included reminiscences of Fleischer's dealings with Stevens, when Fleischer was Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, and the very important fact that Sen. Stevens saved the National Endowment for the Arts on more than one occasion.
2). Sen. Stevens' support, along with both his first wife, Anne, and his widow, Catherine, of many Alaska artists, Native and non-Native over decades. He supported me more than once, and I dedicated a song cycle, Wild Critters, to Catherine and Libby, to thank him for his support.
3). And I'm posting his question here, because more people might read it here than at the ADN arts niche at which it is posted.
The fact that Sen. Stevens' career end was humiliating is widely known, but shouldn't trump his earnest deeds on behalf of the arts and humanities. His efforts in support of the arts went way beyond those of Wally Hickel (who attempted to end the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and did cut the size and range of its programs), or Jay Hammond, whose administration didn't have much money for the arts anyway, until his last two years in office. George Sullivan? - Hah!
And, of course, Sen. Stevens' famous remarks about the internet, inspired artists all over the country to create videos, hip hop songs, digitized images and poems.
Hundreds of them.