Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Tale of Two Concerts

This past weekend was one of  two great concerts, and about as contrasting as you can get.

Friday Night: My Christmas present to my husband were tickets to the great Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, at Madison Square Gardens, NYC.

Sunday afternoon: Anna Meyer's wonderful solo flute concert entitled: "Accompanied by Silence", at St. Martins in the Fields, in Chestnut Hill, PA.

Friday: Started with an incredible acoustic set with Eric Clapton, Earl Klugh, BB King, and Vince Gill.  The remarkable thing was the intimacy the audience felt in that set; 20,000 people in MSC and it felt like Clapton was singing to you.  Here is the rest of the roster for the festival.

Every single guitarist was phenomenal, often the most famous were sidemen for lesser known incredible players.  The respect shown for the elder statesmen of the guitar was truly touching.  As BB King was assisted across the stage, the audience clapped him all the way on.  The passion shown by the audience was amazing.  Some people were on their feet for 4 hours.  I didn't make it that long.  The wall of sound was too much for my ears, and so I spent the last 1/3 of the concert listening from the hall way, the sound still disturbingly loud.  As Tim in the shop said, "You didn't wear ear plugs?"  Ooops...

Then it was Sunday, and I found myself in the hushed atmosphere of St. Martin's in the Fields.  The soft colors of light streamed through the amazing stained glass windows, the birds singing in the spring air.  Anna's beautiful sound ringing in the rafters of this Gothic style church as she warmed up. 

I was there to accompany Anna in the premiere performance of "Newtown Variations" by Bruce Roter.  My part was an 8-bar ground, repeated 22 times, over which Anna played 20 variations that represented the 20 children killed in Newtown, CT late last year.  While we played, the 20 lit candles in a circle were put out, one-by-one, at the end of each variation.  It took all my concentration to count each beat, and to not look at those candles.  The audience was stunned at the simple, moving, brilliant music, and then the fade to silence, and darkness.

Other composers represented on this concert were Debussy, Higdon, Piazzolla, Loeb, and Eric Meyer (Anna's husband and organist at St. Martin's.)  This was first rate flute playing. No technique was left out.  The power, beauty, emotion, and technical fluency were dazzling.  Just one player.  No amplification other than what the room naturally supplied. 

And now, as I reflect on the weekend, and the events in Boston two days ago, we witness the horror of more senseless deaths, and I think of the inherent danger of any large gathering.  The MSG concert, with 20,000 could have been a dangerous place to be.  Or, how about the concourse at Penn Station Saturday afternoon, where 10 police and two canines patrolled.  Or what about the train itself? 

Maybe we will all value the smaller venues, the intimate gatherings, events that are moving in other ways than overwhelming.  And maybe one day those who are so ill, angry, desolate, fanatical, will get the help they need before the commit a heinous act of terrible violence.

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