Vin Scully on stage with Gustavo Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl
On Thursday night, Hall of Fame former Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully’s voice once again wafted over the summer evening breezes of Southern California. There was no crack of the bat, no mention of deuces being wild, and no radio dial in sight (at least not yet). Instead, Vin Scully, the man, the legend, the voice of Southern California and Brooklyn summers for three score and seven years, stepped out on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl and uttered the immortal words of President Abraham Lincoln. Gustavo Dudamel conducted the LA Phil as Scully lent his dulcet tones to the narration of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. And the crowd went wild.
The next day, I asked him about the experience. And this is what he said. This is what Vin Scully said.
BL: How did this come about?
VS: I was asked to do it and at first, I backed off, thinking it was beyond my ability. But then I read all of the famous people who have done it and I then thought, ‘Gosh, how can you refuse when all those famous people did it?’ I couldn’t possibly turn my back on the invitation. I thought it would be quite a challenge and as the days got closer and closer, I began to have second thoughts about what have I gotten myself into? The best thing that happened was the first moment that I met Gustavo Dudamel. The maestro was going to ask me for my autograph and I had brought sheet music to get his autograph. And that broke us both up. Then he told me what a baseball fan he is and we hit it off immediately.
BL: That’s incredible! Gustavo Dudamel has sort of a “Fernandomania” quality about him in the world of classical music, doesn’t he?
VS: I’ll tell you the truth: Fernando is very reserved, very quiet. I had the feeling that Fernando was always afraid he might make a mistake with the language. In 30 seconds with Gustavo Dudamel, he was my best friend. I mean, he was so delightful, so warm, so engaging, encouraging that all of a sudden, I felt I’m in good hands—I’ll just stay within his hands. And that’s really what got me through.
BL: What does it mean to you to stand on the Hollywood Bowl stage and deliver the words of President Abraham Lincoln?
VS: Well, if I said you’re overwhelmed, it would be an understatement. First, the crowd was so warm and welcoming when I made that walk on stage with Gustavo. And then, his presence gave me some strength. The music absolutely devoured me. It was a giant tidal wave of emotion. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that. And then, the play of the music on the words of Abraham Lincoln just made it one of the most precious moments in my life. I was oblivious of the crowd during the narration. Going out with [Gustavo] to begin it was incredible. And then when the performance ended and the crowd gave us a warm, warm response, we walked off the stage together. Then Gustavo said, “Okay, now we go back!” And I said, “Go back? For what?” And then I realized as he pushed me back on stage, that we were going back for an encore bow, which I never expected. All in all, it was an incredible time.
BL: Well, you’ve always loved the roar of the crowd.
VS: Yes, but this was a different roar. I mean, they were standing and hollering over two men who hadn’t even played catch!
— Hollywood Bowl (@HollywoodBowl) July 14, 2017
BL: Did you listen to classical music growing up? Did you go to any orchestra concerts or anything like that?
VS: Occasionally. I can’t say I was a devotee or anything like that, but I’ve always loved music, especially all of the Broadway shows. They were a lot easier to go to. Occasionally, I dipped a toe into classical music, but with classical music I really couldn’t get a feeling outside of the immensity of the sound. But last night, I really understood how the emotion, how the rhythm of the score had so much to do with making these simple words so much more important. With the orchestra, to me anyway, if words could actually come alive, that’s what happened. It was an awesome feeling. It really was.
BL: That’s so wonderful to hear. I’m looking forward to it. I will be there on Tuesday night.
VS: Oh good, good!
BL: Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you how you are enjoying this summer and if you miss the broadcast booth?
VS: You know, not really. I’m very content. I know that I made the right decision. I have no slight second guess that maybe I should’ve stayed. I don’t feel that way at all. I’ve been doing a few things, speaking here and there, but of course the top of it all was last night and, God willing, I can get by one more time.
BL: Thank you again for your time. It’s a pleasure to speak with you.
VS: Oh, bless your heart. Thanks, Brian, very much.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully narrates Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday, July 18 at 8:00 p.m. Learn more about that performance here. The concert will be broadcast on Classical KUSC on Sunday, July 30 at 7:00 p.m.