For fifty years, Art Garfunkel has been producing and creating art to move audiences around the globe. From the five Grammy awards shared with his longtime music partner Paul Simon to his books of prose poetry, to his walks across America and Europe, Garfunkel’s accomplishments embody a lifetime of passion and commitment to inspiring generations. Known for his instantly recognizable and haunting tenor, he remains one of the most unique vocalists in pop culture. In 2010, Garfunkel suffered the loss of his voice to vocal paresis, keeping him from the stage for two years. On March 2 and 3, 2012 he made his first appearances since 2010, teaming up with the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh, North Carolina.

At the second of these concerts, the NC Symphony preceded Garfunkel’s one-hour performance with an opening segment of light classics from composers such as Jacques Offenbach and John Williams. Maestro William Henry Curry led with enthusiasm as the orchestra alternated between silence and unified sound in Ambroise Thomas’ Overture to Raymond, ou Le Secret de la reine, navigated Venetian canals in the Barcarolle from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman, and transported the audience to the daydreams of childhood with John Williams’ triumphant “Flight to Neverland,” from Hook. The highlight of this first part arrived with Concertmaster Brian Reagin’s spellbinding solo violin performance during a compilation of songs from Jerry Bock’s Fiddler on the Roof. Reagin performed with the fire and grace of a musician who inspires a spectator to pick up an instrument and learn to play. Act one concluded with a medley of American Frontier pieces: “Chester,” “Oh Susanna,” “Shenandoah,” and the timeless favorite, “America the Beautiful.”

Art Garfunkel then took the stage. Opening the set with Randy Newman’s brief and poignant “Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father,” Garfunkel’s voice showed the signs of strain from a two year healing process. Nevertheless, Raleigh symphony-goers received him with eager ears, meeting their most favorite Garfunkel tunes with bursts of applause as they recognized the beginnings of “The Boxer,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Scarborough Fair,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Ever humble, Garfunkel absorbed as much of the music as his audience, turning with arms wide to take in the orchestra as it swelled to support him every few songs in the repertoire. He maintained a personal connection with the packed-out Meymandi Concert Hall, a comparatively small audience compared with the crowds numbering in the thousands to which Simon and Garfunkel played in years past. Garfunkel peppered his program with prose poems from his collections and personal anecdotes about his family and years with Paul Simon, praising his former collaborator with fond memories of their work together. At the conclusion of the concert, Garfunkel humbly bowed to the standing ovation, sharing the praise with William Henry Curry and the North Carolina Symphony, leaving the Raleigh audience treasuring the opportunity to be the first to welcome Art Garfunkel back to the stage, where his immense talent marked with rare humility surely belongs.