Monday, December 7, 2009

Live Music

Sometimes you're in the presence of greatness. You know it going in and you're not disappointed during the performance. There's a general sense of smile in the audience and everyone is in his seat or has established position on the floor in front of the stage well before the lights go down. The intermission is a buzz of cheery wonder, and no one is complaining about the long line for the women's room or the price of the cold drinks in the lobby. We're all just happy to be there.

I've felt it at Grateful Dead concerts and hearing Colin Powell speak and it happened again last night.

TBG and I went to The Music Hall to hear the Tucson Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven's Fifth before intermission and after perform Dvorzak's Concerto in B Minor for Violoncello and Orchestra, Op.104 ..... with Yo Yo Ma as the soloist.

Yes, Yo Yo Ma was in Tucson. Every time I begin to worry that I'm buried alive here in the desert something wonderful like this happens. And believe me, it was wonderful.

I'd scored 8th row center tickets from a friend who's in China right now. Serious music goers surrounded us. They knew the names of the musicians and were happy to share insights into their style and technique. The short middle schooler in the row in front of us had a booster cushion so that she could see over the taller heads in front of her; this was a crowd which had been here before.

The conductor didn't use a score for the Beethoven which was surprising but not as memorable as were his gesticulations his gyrations his splendiferous enthusiasms on the round riser upon which he perched. TBG noticed the guard rail behind him.... a conductor with a fall-prevention-device...... the guy was into it. The first violinist's hair was an active participant and the cellists were bending and bowing in delicious synchronicity and it was just lovely. 30 minutes of familiar music, difficult to perform music, music that the WWII radioman next to me associated with V for Victory and which is stuck in my head even now. It was lovely..... and greatness was on its way.

Yo Yo Ma has been performing since he was 5 years old. I wonder how his parents kept him off the stage for that long. It seemed that he could hardly wait to carry his gorgeous cello onto the stage. His smile was genuine and gigantic and he flashed it to the audience and the orchestra and the conductor and the audience and the first violinist and his hair and the cellists who were glowing and the violinists on the other side of the stage and then the audience again and then he sat down. It was a joy fest before a note was played.

And what notes they were. There was no disconnect between the man and his instrument, between the curve of his wrist on the bow and the delicious sounds which filled the hall. When he wasn't playing, he was smiling at those who were, or leaning into his instrument as they felt the music together. It was the fastest 41 minutes of my life. I can't remember the last time I had a bigger grin on my face.

We applauded and applauded and he bowed alone and with everyone and anyone on the stage and then alone and then with others and it went on and on and then he came back for a lagniappe. Just a little something to send us on our way.

And it occurred to me, as I basked in the fabulousness that was the night, that between the Orchestra Trustee's plea for financial help to stave off disaster and Yo Yo Ma's post script that it had been an incredible privilege to play in Tucson, no words had been spoken. People came and left the stage. Hands were clapped and silence was observed and seats were retaken and no words were spoken. We all had our parts and we did them well.

And some of us did them as well as it is possible to be done.

I hope she's having a good time in China..... we certainly had a good time here.

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