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A piece of 'American Pie' at Old Town Theatre in Temecula

“A long, long time ago…” Upon hearing these words, the audience at the 371-seat Old Town Community Theatre in Temecula roared with delight as legendary singer/songwriter Don McLean sang his enduring 1971 hit, “American Pie.” He played his acoustic guitar, which he called his “rocket ship” which got him to where he wanted to go. McLean entertained with several other songs he penned including “Vincent,” “And I Love You So” and “Castles in the Air.” The performance was outstanding and McLean, at 63, still has impressive vocal abilities.

On Saturday, October 4, as part of their third anniversary celebration, the Old Town Community Theatre presented the McLean concert as well as a pre-concert reception with entertainment by the jazz ensemble Spirit Wind. Guests were greeted by an impressive array of delicacies, including shrimp, gourmet cheeses, hot wings and avocado wraps. The dessert table was brimming with delicate and delicious petit fours, elegant crème puffs and other scrumptious selections.

The foyer of the theatre has a cosmopolitan look that one would expect to find in San Francisco with its brick walls adorned with original paintings.

General Manager Bruce Beers is pleased with the community’s acceptance of the theatre. “It has been embraced by the community unlike no other theatre,” he commented.

“American Pie” was a Number 1 hit single and the lyrics to the song have been analyzed over and over since the song was first released. In fact, it is probably one of the most analyzed songs in modern music history. According to the Web site, the song, “initially inspired by [McLean’s] memories of the death of Buddy Holly in 1959…is autobiographical…” Also on the Web site McLean comments about the lyrics, “They’re beyond analysis. They’re poetry.”

If “American Pie” is compelling and thought-provoking, in my opinion, “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night),” which was released in 1972 and also made it to a top spot, is even more compelling. I have been listening to the song since it was first released and it still brings tears to my eyes. The lyrics about the life and art of Vincent van Gogh, while not as obscure as “American Pie,” are definitely moving and the music is haunting.

This tune was circulating in my mind as I viewed the “Starry Night” masterpiece at a Van Gogh exibition in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Private collectors and museums from all over the world had loaned paintings to the Rijksmuseum for this awe-inspiring 1990 exhibit, which marked the 100th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death.

According to the McLean Web site, the Van Gogh Museum, also in Amsterdam, buried a copy of the “Vincent” sheet music in a time capsule along with some of Van Gogh’s paint brushes.

For someone who has heard this song innumerable times, I was not disappointed in McLean’s rendition on Saturday night. In fact, one guest commented that she thought this performance of “Vincent” was even better than the recording. I agree. No matter how good a recording is it cannot replace the emotion and spirit of a quality stage performance; and Don McLean lent both emotion and spirit to his inspiring Temecula concert.

The next theater show will be a dance series by the Limon Dance Company on October 10 and 11.

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Old Town Temecula Community Theater

42051 Main Street, Temecula

Tickets: (866) 653-8696 or


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