I went to a concert tonight – 25 musicians playing classical music brilliantly in an old church with a wraparound balcony. Up until a few months ago, these folks were the core of Orchestra London. Then city council cut their funding and now the orchestra is virtually bankrupt. How sad that our city of 350,000 no longer has funded classical music.
These players have a motto: “We Play On.” And they most certainly do. When we gave them a prolonged standing ovation at the end of the evening, there were tears in my eyes, and in those of several musicians. Plus smiles all around. We lightened their hearts, I do believe.
I sat in the third row, right in the centre, and I saw wondrous things. The concertmaster (that is the violinist who sits close to the conductor and plays lots of solos) was a ball of passion. He rocked forward and back. He closed his eyes. His notes, full of vibrato, were wondrous to behold. At times, it looked like he was kissing someone. At others, he seemed to be making love to his instrument. The flautist was just as expressive. Her head would dip and sway as she played her solo line. And her long silver flute, usually held horizontally, would dip and sway as well. It was all a dance.
The violinist closest to me had the most expressive eyes. I was behind her and to the left so I could see her eyelashes move. She would glance at her music, and then her eyelashes would rise as she looked at the conductor, keeping to the beat of his baton. It was lovely to see.
I played cello from Grade 6 till Grade 13. Why, oh why, did I give it up? Tonight I watched the cello section intently. When the cellist dips and sways, it’s a big instrument that moves around.
All these heads in motion. All these eyes closing and opening again. I couldn’t think of another profession where such expression is normal. The average teacher doesn’t move like that. Nor doctors, executives or plumbers. It must be so cool.
We heard pieces from Mozart (composed when he was 17!), Wagner, Bartok and Haydn – different styles but the passion remained. At one point, one of the musicians spoke to the audience. She talked about classical music being “transformational”, beyond words. Yes. I was transported tonight to a land of tone and movement. I’m glad I was there.