You may remember that, last winter, I went on and on about “safe zones” — zones free of politics. I was concentrating on concert halls, where anti-Bush and pro-Obama comments were being made all the time. I mean, from the stage. Concert halls were some of the least safe zones in America — at least as I experienced them, here in New York.
Anyway, I have another “safe zone” note, in today’s Impromptus. What happened? I’ll tell it briefly. For their summer concerts, the New York Philharmonic has a conductor named Bramwell Tovey. British. Debonair. Charming. Does a lot of talking from the stage, but you can’t blame him, really, because he is good at it, and these are pops concerts, basically. (The Phil. doesn’t call them that. But they aren’t foolin’ anybody.)
Tovey always presides over the Fourth of July concert. And, as a Brit, he makes some charming remark about how all is forgiven: The colonists can go ahead and have their country. This year — last week — he made an anti-Bush, pro-Obama comment. He did this by implication, but his meaning was unmistakably clear. Naturally, the audience cheered, and so did some members of the orchestra. You’re a real profile in courage, when you make an anti-Bush, pro-Obama comment in Lincoln Center.
So, what did Tovey say, exactly? He said that, with Obama in office, Anglo-American relations are going swimmingly, and “we are very pleased” — that’s Tovey claiming to speak for all Britons. The screwy thing here, of course, is that, since the inauguration, there has been a new awkwardness in Anglo-American relations: beginning with the return of the Churchill bust, continuing with DVD-gate, etc.
And the administration has thrown cold water — strange cold water — on the idea of a “special relationship.”
Anyway, just kvetching. If someone so genial as Bramwell Tovey won’t give you a safe zone — I always refer to him as “your genial host” — you ain’t got none.