ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT (w/VIDEO): A night of show-stoppers at New York City’s Town Hall closed with a “moving” finale to the 9/11 Police Memorial benefit concert: a march up Sixth Avenue, as New Yorkers, Bostonians, Canadians, and New Jerseyans with pipes and drums all fell together, playing in sync behind the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band.
It wasn’t the Stones on a flatbed, but it came pretty close. Talk about a flash mob….
This was a special night, one that featured roof-raising rockers from both Garden State squads: the Police Pipes & Drums of Bergen County and the New Jersey State Police Pipes & Drums of the Blue and Gold.
There were also spirited renditions of American standards by singers and musicians from Ireland to Boston to Cleveland, a couple of Irish dance numbers — and a raucous audience that sang along every chance it got.
The concert, sponsored by the NYPD Emerald Society, also saw the triumphant New York City return of Ronan Tynan, whose selections brought some to tears.
Tynan was a fixture at important Yankee games, a human good-luck charm who sang “God Bless America” during the 7th-innning stretch. But the team cancelled his appearance at the 2009 American League Championship series after he made an off-hand remark about two snooty Jewish women who’d come to look at his apartment. The ADL said his apology was more than enough, given all the good work that Tynan has done throughout his life.
New York welcomed him warmly tonight, and he didn’t disappoint.
Moving nimbly on an artificial leg, Tynan acknowledged all the wonderful performances that had preceded him at the benefit for the NYPD Widows And Children’s Fund and The Armed Forces Family Scholarship/Assistance Fund.
There was the peerless N.Y.P.D. Pipes & Drums, who set the tone for the evening by asking veterans of America’s military branches to stand as a verse of each’s fight song was played.
Sgt. Randy Snider of the Whitehall, Ohio police department somehow turned Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” from hokey to inspiring.
A marvelous Scottish choir lifted the crowd not only with beautiful voices but through genuine empathy and compassion. They came here to represent their country this weekend, to stand by us in solidarity (which is why they chose “Lean on Me” as their opener) – a touching gesture, indeed.
Some of the female singers grinned broadly while others cried. All reached a mighty crescendo at the end of a mind-bending combination of “Amazing Grace” and “The Star Spangled Banner” – yes, into ONE song.
Boston’s Gaelic Column — which has played behind, among others, the Dropkick Murphys — stirred deep sentiments with “A Nation Once Again” before getting a raspberry chorus from the house for putting the logos up on the big screen of its four major sports teams.
The band then won folks back (OK, sort of) with a touching rendition of the Gaelic traditional “Auld Lang Syne,” led by the band Devri and featuring guest singer Pauline Wells, a Cambridge police lieutenant. Wells, whose rich voice is uncannily similar to that of Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins, spoke of the relationship between the two cities:
“For Boston and New York, there has always been a great sports rivalry. The reality is, there (are) no two cities that could be closer,” she said, to sustained applause.
“Auld Lang Syne” is “a song of friendship, friendship for those who are no longer with us — but more importantly, for those of us here this evening,” Wells added. “The heartbreaking loss of 9/11 has created friendships for today, for tomorrow and forever.”
Not needing an introduction, the United States Marines swept in and brought it all back home with a lusty version of “New York, New York.” Before they were through, the bandleader conducted the AUDIENCE through a mighty version of “God Bless America.”
Speaking of mighty, perhaps the most powerful of Bruce Springsteen’s songs is one I consider akin to the “Ave Maria.” Fitting, then, that a tenor such as Ronan Tynan would be so moved by “Into the Fire” that he recorded the song and now performs it at his shows.
Tynan wrung every drop of emotion from the number, as he did with Leonard Cohen’s brilliant “Hallelujah.” And even though the Marines (and the audience) had already done “God Bless America,” no one argued when Tynan closed with it. They stood and sang — again. As his “special” number, he chose “Over the Rainbow,” another song of hope and faith.
On Friday, the Bergen and NJ State Police pipes and drums corps marched in a parade from Battery Park to Ground Zero. They were both back again for the Town Hall show – only this time the Bergen contingent brought power chords and a guitarist whose strap mimicked crime-scene tape.
And they rocked the house.
Ed Carr, who impressed the crowd with his guitar chops, is the brother of one of the band members, Bergenfield Police Capt. Mike Carr.
Bergen Piper George Kellinger — who can be found playing the blues at open mic nights at Mexicali Live — strapped on the bass. Bandmate Capt. Carr played acoustic guitar, with Mike Morelli on drums and Loren Daniels on keyboards.
Cady Finlayson, a vituoso, played an impassioned violin.
Both pipes and drums corps not only did New Jersey proud – they kicked it up. And although the troopers had to split after their set, Bergen’s best had plenty left in the tank to take it to the streets.
The Marine unit went first, with an assemblage behind of the Bergen, NYPD and Boston bands, among others. A quartet of Canadian Mounties marched, as well, as they had on Friday.
It was a Mardi Gras parade military-style. Bystanders drew their cellphones and began either marching alongside or behind the contingent as it headed up Sixth Avenue, past Rockefeller Center and Radio City, before turning west toward the concert after-party.
This weekend’s remembrances have been solemn for the most part, as well they should. But they are in no way funeral reruns. If anything, we have become more resolute in our own abilities. We have come to unite for common good. We have taken strength from those who were courageous enough to do things many of us could never imagine – running up into the fire or, in what remains for me the most heartbreaking images, choosing to take their own lives by jumping rather than letting the terrorists win.
We remember you all. And you can make book on this: We will never forget.
“May your strength give us strength,
May your faith give us faith,
May your hope bring us hope,
May your love bring us love.”