Brush with greatness

* The Who famed front man Roger Daltrey wows the crowd with selections from the classic rock opera "Tommy" at the Hollywood Bowl. Photo by Mathew Imaging

It was a starry, starry night indeed as the Hollywood Bowl inducted Josh Groban and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa into its legendary Hall of Fame. The evening kicked off with a posh cocktail bash down on the lower patio.

Purple reigned supreme as the primary party color with the place done up in shades of plum, violet and lavender. Gala guests like William Shatner kicked back on modular sofas while others snacked on canapés and sipped chardonnay. The walls were lined with portraits of past honorees. There have been many magical nights over the past decade, with performances by an eclectic mix of famed music makers including Stevie Wonder, The Smothers Brothers, locals John and Bonnie Raitt, Garth Brooks, Sir James Galway, Brian Wilson and even Monty Python. There was the night that B.B. King gave us chills with “The Thrill is Gone,” and the year Carlos Santana wowed us with “Smooth” and Randy Newman banged on the ivories with “I Love L.A.”

But now it was time for some new musical memories. We made our way to our boxes where the tables were done up in purple and topped with tropical orchids. As the sun went down, an army of servers sailed out with wood grilled asparagus, salmon with mustard crust, lemon lime couscous and vine ripe tomatoes. By the time music lovers tucked into their 10th anniversary cupcakes, the show was about to begin.

Country boy Garth Brooks and composer John Williams were on hand to introduce the program.

The gala benefits Music Matters, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music education program. Conductor Thomas Wilkins, who spoke of the importance of keeping music in our schools, said, “When you put music in the mind of a child you are on your way to solving the problems of the world.”

To show how those programs enrich the lives of 120,000 kids every year, a group of 11 first-grade harpists from Lennox Elementary took the stage. They played like angels, accompanied by a band of student drummers. Coming from a neighborhood with 18 active gangs, the school program provides free lunches, musical instruction, instruments and a safe haven from the outside world.

After the heavenly harp number, Trish Yearwood stepped up with a moving rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You.” She was followed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, hitting the high notes with a selection of Puccini and Gershwin. Honoree Josh Groban didn’t disappoint either with his “Canto Alla Vita.”

For some, the highlight came when Roger Daltrey of The Who stepped into the limelight. The microphone-swinging rock-and-roll legend belted out selections from “Tommy,” backed up by the bowl orchestra. His classic “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me” comes on the 40th anniversary of his appearance at the world’s most famous flower power party in upstate New York.

For the aging hippies and Woodstock wannabes in my group, well, it couldn’t get much better than that.

In keeping with tradition, the bowl went out with a bang as a dazzling pyrotechnics display lit up the night sky. The unforgettable evening raised nearly $1 million to keep music alive in local schools, and that’s something to sing about.

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