An Evening with Judy Collins and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra

Date and Venue April 22 | Tucson Music Hall, Tucson, Arizona

Reviewer Patricia Cassidy

Judy Collins’ music has been part of the background of my life (she is 6 years older)-- listening to her in the 60’s (wearing velvet bell bottoms, fringe vests and love beads) throughout the years to the present day - 50 years later. A piano prodigy at 13, her fabulous body of work embraces folk, rock, jazz, country, pop standards, show tunes, original songs and stunning, memorable renditions of some of the greatest songs from Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Stephen Sondheim.

I was thus thrilled to spend an evening with Judy Collins and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra last Friday at the Tucson Music Hall. The Symphony donated their services for this benefit concert to raise funds for their work in Tucson, and communities in need, throughout Southern Arizona. Ms. Collins' concert was the first with the Tucson Symphony since 1992 and Scott O’Neil was the conductor and Musical Director Russell Walden accompanied Ms. Collins on piano.  Looking sparkling, glittery, and fit - in white, Ms. Collins still has that beautiful voice – delicate and pitch perfect and as a performer she was very engaging. 

Ms. Collins took the stage and warmed us up immediately with old favorites like “Both Sides Now”, “Someday Soon” (with some great horn and piano accompaniment) followed by a Gershwin Trilogy and a lovely rendition of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. In between songs she entertained us with vignettes of her life, and her self-depreciating humor, quips and anecdotes were fun - a Bob Dylan memory reference here, a Leonard Cohen or Joan Rivers there. But her tone was always entertaining, not gossipy, just a shared walk down memory lane of some of her long time, musical life and artistic travels.  I enjoyed the element of storytelling she brought to the concert: the social activism activities, the humor, her work with UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador – a very fleshed out life.

After the intermission (now clad in black with fabulous leather boots) a John Denver tribute and a “Song for Sarajevo” written by her re her UNICEF for children’s activities in that then war torn zone. I learnt that Ms. Collins spent a few months in Tucson years ago healing from tuberculosis. She sang a touching Arizona song full of warm, desert themed images and followed that with “Blizzard” about snowy Colorado – nice musical bookends.  

Ms. Collins sat at the piano for a couple of songs but came back center stage to sing her last song of the evening, which needed no introduction - “Send In The Clowns”. Always wonderful to hear that winning combination of words and music and sang to perfection by her that night  –  dreamy, poetic a great end to a great evening of music and fund raising for the community.

© 2016 Patricia Cassidy