Monday, May 10, 2010

Boston — April 30th

My room at the Hotel Self-Storage, known more commonly as the Huntington Avenue YMCA, proved to be quite hospitable, since it was pleasantly empty. I generally stay here when visiting Boston, because of its perfect location near the things that interest me — 31 minutes on the T to Harvard Square and 15 minutes per pedes to Copley Square or to Museum of Fine Arts, and five minutes to Symphony Hall and two minutes to Jordan Hall. And all for only $50 per night.

I went first to Durgin Park for lunch, walking east from the State House down Beacon St to Quincy Market. This restaurant, my personal favorite anywhere, due largely to the fact that it serves very traditional New England fare, the kind of stuff I grew up with — fresh cornbread with every meal, delicious fish chowder, Boston baked beans, Yankee pot roast, and Indian pudding for dessert. Durgin Park was founded in 1827 and has neither moved nor changed much since. The decor is late 1890’s American proletarian, and the menu is about the same as it was in the 19th century.

In the evening I attended Jim Marvin’s farewell concert at Sanders Theatre. Jim is retiring after 28 years' directing the Harvard choral organizations, most notably the Harvard Glee Club, in my experience the best men’s choir in the country. I’ve been a fan for 50 years. Due in large part to Jim’s commitment to early music performance, the Glee Club has turned into an altogether exceptional performing group and a unique cultural asset.

Prof. Peter Gomes, who seems to have become the University’s toastmaster general, delivered a 15-minute Festrede, and then we were off to the races with two hours or more of the finest choral music imaginable. Ostensibly a concert given to honor its director, it was more like Marvin presenting a showcase of his accomplishments over 30 years, during the course of which he has completely transformed choral music at Harvard. (If you're old enough to remember G. Wallace Woodworth and Archibald Davison, you'll know what I mean.)

You can see a YouTube interview with Jim Marvin here, and a clip of his retirement concert here, albeit it with terrible audio.

Picture of Sanders Theatre/Memorial Hall from Wikipedia, "Annenberg Hall."

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