A reflection on the power of live performance
Who hears music, feels his solitude
Peopled at once.
Robert Browning, The complete poetical works of Browning
Thanks to the pandemic, like many people I went a long time between attendance at live concerts. Two recent experiences reminded me what a joy they can be, and how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to attend them.
The first of the concerts was a baroque music presentation in a 19th century cathedral.
The audience was still and attentive. The performers were intensely focused on their art, wielding ancient instruments in historically informed performances.
The experience was transporting — and even the intrusive sounds of emergency vehicle sirens outside couldn’t pierce the magic of the moment.
Harpsichord, violin, recorder, viola de gamba, lute — instruments familiar and archaic blended together in a seamless, intense harmony that resonated in the cathedral’s vaulted space.
The audience was full of grey hairs, including mine, and apart from a bit of shifting on the uncomfortable pews, completely engaged in the musical magic. Spiritual or secular, they reveled in the talents on display — both the 16th and 17th century composers and the 21st century performers.
I came away marveling at how this music — and this kind of performance — has endured over centuries, thanks to the dedication of the players. Their love for the art form was evident on their faces, and they were clearly enjoying the appreciation of the audience. Their pleasure was in the doing, but also in the sharing.
The second concert experience was a folk music show in a de-consecrated 20th century church. It was a group I’d seen perform there almost 30 years earlier, back together in a reunion concert after more than a decade of other projects and diverse careers.
The audience was full of grey hairs, including mine, but it wasn’t long before the foot-tapping music prompted the more energetic…