Some very dear friends kindly took us to Art Garfunkel’s recent concert at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma, WA. It was a delightful, very rewarding evening. His was the clear tenor voice that made possible the wonderful Simon and Garfunkel music that those of us of a certain age associate with our high school and college years. But this was not simply a series of old songs re-sung; this performance included newer songs with old favorites, interwoven with the artist’s delightful commentary on life, often in poetic form. (He protested applying that high-sounding term, poetry, to his writings, but since the English Department includes free verse under its definition of poetry, we will too.)
There is a spirit of mature melancholy in Garfunkel’s music and musings. Not the adolescent angst we knew so long ago, but the reflective thoughts and feelings of one who has experienced life, known great success and great loss and success returned again. “Artie” lost his voice in 2009 and labored diligently to regain it. He succeeded well. The result is not only a beautiful voice, but the sense of a great artist who is also humble, a rare and wonderful thing in our age of self-promoting demagoguery.
The greater losses, though, were of loved ones lost in death’s dateless night. Here Garfunkel revealed his love of family and friends: his beloved wife and children, also his intermittent relationship with childhood friend and youthful collaborator, Paul Simon. He also revealed his faith in God and devotion to the more important things of life. As a boy he served as a cantor, and included in the concert a too-brief excerpt of Hebrew a cappella. Even without the touch of echo added by the sound engineer, it was heavenly, an angel’s song.
Garfunkel’s concluding number was a rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Waters which he characterized as a “rehearsal” of a work-in-progress. There was no piano; all his accompaniment was by a very fine guitarist. Nevertheless, this adaptation of an old favorite was simply outstanding, very fine. Standing ovations generally are over-done, but in this case, I was happy to join the crowd in standing for a great artist in the humane tradition. Long may he perform.
Here is a link to his website where you may be able to find a performance near you: