Saturday brings a surprise

The music of Elton John at the Van Wezel is juxtaposed against the powerful rhythms of women’s marches

Sir Elton John in 2011. Photo by David Shinbone via Wikimedia Commons

Elton John: I knew the name, and knew he played the piano and sang; but when I saw a notice that a Sarasota Orchestra Pops Concert would feature his music, it was time to know more.

I bought a ticket for the Saturday, Jan. 21, matinee performance. At the time, I had no way of knowing that that day would become a turning point in time as women all across the United States and around the world joined forces in marches for equal rights and justice.

Inside the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, there was no reference to the women who were marching across the Ringling Bridge. Instead, it was the usual matinee, complete with a pre-recorded voice reminding everyone at the outset not to record the music and to turn off cell phones.

The orchestra began to play, and as the noise level spiraled, and the music bounced off the walls, I quickly realized that I had bought a ticket to a rock and roll concert. Elton John was a rock and roll musician. It was embarrassing to admit that I had not known that — though it did occur to me, as I saw titles such as Philadelphia Freedom and I’m Still Standing listed in the program, there was an irony to the fact that rock and roll as popular music reflected another era of marches and dissent.

Soon, I tabled thoughts of the world outside the purple walls of the Van Wezel and tapped my foot along with the powerful sound of the orchestra. The driving rhythms were infectious, reaching right into my muscles; but, I did have a problem understanding the lyrics.

I did have to admire Michael Cavanaugh, the young charismatic, talented performer whose talent and energy carried the afternoon’s performance. In addition to his vocals as a “piano man,” he had brought his own band — three guitar players and a drummer — that smoothly blended with the large sound of the Sarasota Orchestra.

After two hours immersed in an environment of high energy and powerful rhythm, I left the theater feeling oddly refreshed. At home, I turned on the television and watched as women from diverse backgrounds stood peacefully together against bigotry … and I thought — yes, keep that energy going with the zest of those rock and roll rhythms heralding a new future.

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