"We have plenty of them and they sound like diesel engines," said Catherine Shouse last night at the 16th annual Wolf Trap gala. She was referring to the plentitude of cicadas, which, like the afternoon raindrops, had disappeared, yielding the evening's spotlight to an abundance of music.
The evening's program, designed as a salute to ASCAP, was called "A Celebration of American Music." It ran the gamut from Stephen Foster to Stephen Sondheim, from Broadway to the blues.
For some, the evening began with the spreading of plastic sheets and blankets on the wet lawn, the opening of picnic hampers and ice coolers, and the occasional glimpse of an Oak Ridge Boy. For others -- those who had spent $250 and up for tickets -- it began with trays of mushroom caps filled with crab meat, a receiving line, a press of black-tie humanity and, eventually, a dinner of six-lilies soup, filet of veal and fudge truffle terrine. The gala was expected to raise $300,000.
One of the few stars of the evening's festivities to appear at the reception was composer Henry Mancini., "I don't have that much to do" in the show, Mancini explained. That left him free to express his concern about the TV music "source licensing" bills currently before Congress -- legislation that would drastically change the way songwriters are paid for their work -- which currently occupies the attention of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and other music-licensing organizations. "We're talking about my kids there -- my family," Mancini said, referring to the copyrights to his music. "They're taking something away from me that I've worked hard for."
Mancini noticed Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her husband John moving down the receiving line and remarked, "Oh, I didn't know that they ever had any fun." He greeted the couple and repeated his comment. "Well, sure they do," the justice retorted. "And something like this sounds likes a great evening."
Attorney General Edwin Meese was also counting on a great evening. Asked whether he wouldn't rather stay clear of crowds and clamor, Meese said, "Generally that's true ... it's nice to have an evening at home, but the opening night of Wolf Trap is one we always try to make."
Other in attendance were Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.), Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) and Stephen Klein, executive director of the National Symphony Orchestra.
"The unique thing about tonight," said ASCAP President Morton Gould, "is that it's bigger than any specific issue. But we'll hopefully draw attention to what is threatened," he said, referring to the source licensing debate. "What you are going to hear tonight is the result of a licensing system that has worked and is threatened with erosion."
The program was a parade of ASCAP talent, including Andy Williams, Ashford and Simpson, Marian McPartland, Tony Bennett, Bernadette Peters, Roberta Flack, Patti Austin, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bobby McFerrin, The Oak Ridge Boys and Judy Collins.
"I'm very excited about hearing Judy Collins," said Beverly Sills, a longtime member of the Wolf Trap board. "And I love country music."
An audience of almost 800 Wolf Trap enthusiasts found themselves singing verses of "Blowin' in the Wind" with Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. They also watched with delight as the stage upon which the U.S. Marine Band was assembled began a slow descent into the underworld of the orchestra pit.
In all, nobody seemed to miss the cicadas.