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MUSIC REVIEW

Pops deliver a thank you note

Taylor, orchestra play grand finale at UMass

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry knows how to stare down an obstacle, a skill he's going to need. Last night the free "Pops on the Bay" concert with James Taylor, that Kerry wanted so much to give to the city of Boston, finally took place. Even the weather decided to cooperate and the moon hung clear in the sky.

Right at 9:30 John Williams appeared on stage to lead the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in the national anthem. Baritone Robert Honeysucker delivered the patriotic sentiment of Williams's "America, the Dream Goes On" with conviction, and hurled out the high notes. The rest of the set featured Williams in heroic mode and looking to the past with the themes from "Indiana Jones" and "Star Wars," and "Call of the Champions."

At this point there was an intermission in the music so that the crowd of more than 20,000 could watch and listen to Kerry's acceptance speech on the giant screen. After the outdoor crowd gave the televised Kerry a standing ovation, it was time for James Taylor's set.

"I was born in Boston and brought up in North Carolina," he said. "So this ticket is right up my alley." He offered a six-song set of old favorites, including a beautiful new version of "Sweet Baby James," orchestrated only last week by Williams who cradled it in strings.

Pops pianist Brad Hatfield filled in for Taylor's regular keyboardist in just a day's notice when the concert was postponed on Wednesday and he played as if he had been there all along. Taylor's voice remains as American as a blueberry and it has the grain, honesty, and integrity of a Shaker chair.

After he had left the stage, the Pops vamped with a few extra selections and then Taylor returned and joined them in "America the Beautiful" until Kerry and Edwards arrived. Kerry was dermined to arrive to the strains of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," and he did shortly after midnight.

Planning for last night's concert began last March, when John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry took their first vacation after locking up the nomination and went to Sun Valley.

Among the old friends they met there were Taylor and the singer's wife, Caroline, who is senior advisor to the managing director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Both Taylor and his wife knew Kerry before they knew each other.

Already Kerry knew he wanted to put on a concert by the Boston Pops during the convention. "He wanted to show the world what Boston is all about," Caroline Taylor says, "and he is very proud about the cultural institutions of the city. Right then calls were placed to Symphony Hall and to John Williams, who was in London recording the score to the new `Harry Potter' movie. Since then there have been a lot of problems with timing and the venue, but his determination to put on this concert has never wavered."

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