In my culture, our generation grew up in a time when our moms made their kids take piano lessons or karate . It was the “thing” back then. More specifically, any parent who had kids under 12 made their daughters take up either ballet or piano, and the sons had to endure weekends of karate or judo classes.
My mom put me in both ballet and piano. I took ballet classes on and off from 3rd to 6th grade. That lasted significantly longer than the piano lessons. My piano teacher came to our house on Saturdays. But maybe my piano teacher saw early on that I lacked any talent for tinkling the ivories, because my piano lessons were unceremoniously cut just a few weeks into it. Or maybe it was my mom’s decision, not deeming it worthy to waste money on an art form that I clearly had no skills for. Either way, any delusions I had of becoming a concert pianist was crushed and vaporized into thin air in just a few weeks. Pfffft…..
Despite having my piano lessons cut, over the years I did grow to appreciate the beauty of classical music. Where I grew up, as a way to bring classical music to the masses, the cultural arm of the government sponsored concerts at the park. In a third world country, there was only one decent park back then and this is where the national philharmonic orchestra would play classical music. Some people had no clue who Beethoven or Bach was, but nonetheless they congregated in the park to listen to free concerts as a means of escaping the harsh realities in their lives. This was my introduction to classical music, my dad packing us into our car on a Sunday for that long trek from the suburbs to the one and only national park. It was at this park, where balloon vendors and vendors selling peanuts walked around pausing for a few minutes to get lost in the symphony’s rendition of Mozart’s music, before milling about in the crowd once more to sell their wares. Classical music wafted in the air and transfixed us on the lyrical notes of the symphony.
Fast forward to my teenaged years when I would rather die than be seen watching free classical music performances with my dad. Like any teenaged girl of my generation I listened to Duran Duran, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, the Go-go’s.
Like anyone who loves music, over the years our taste in music evolves. Mine ranged from pop music to indie rock, pop rock, reggae, alternative, garage band and classic rock. But somewhere between these genres I always yearned to re-visit those days when listening to classical music was a source of delight.
So last night I finally went and relived those memories. A continent away and many decades later after my free concert at the park days with dad, me and a friend trekked from the suburbs on a chilly January winter night all the way to the Lincoln Center in Manhattan to watch the NY Philharmonic Orchestra.
And what a breath-taking night of music it was! The conductor for the night’s performance was Lorin Maazel. The orchestra performed Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, Lutoslawski’s Chain 2 and Shoshtakovich’s Symphony No. 5.
We had great vantage point, perched on the first tier orchestra box, seats 2 and 4. We couldn’t have been closer to the stage and orchestra unless we were right on stage with them. We were so close that we could see the grain on the polished wood of the violins. We were so close that we could see the lint on the violinists tuxedo. We were so close we could see the glimmer of the ring on the violin soloists wedding band even though he was 5 rows in from stage left. More importantly we were so close to the stage that every nuance, every change of expression on the individual performers faces made us feel the myriad of emotions going through them and into their instruments creating a symphonic masterpiece.
The acoustics in the hall were so pristine that you would’ve heard a pin drop. No one dared to let out a cough or a sniffle for fear of breaking the hypnotic trance we shared as an audience.
I know, I know, seeing a single performance will not make me a classical music expert. However what I can say with conviction is, listening to and watching the NY Philharmonic Orchestra was like sneaking into the halls of the divine and hearing the music of the gods. It transported me to places in my heart, mind and soul that I never knew existed. Listening to classical music and watching a philharmonic orchestra perform at an age where you’ve gone through many life experiences was vastly different from those free concert at the park days with my dad. And to be perfectly honest, walking into the Avery Fisher hall of Lincoln Center I thought to myself, this is going to be a long night and psyched myself into not falling asleep. But when the conductor raised his baton signifying the last note of the night I found myself longing for more and was quite surprised at how quickly the night just went.
Now it all makes sense to me on a more profound and deeper level. Now it clicks, now I understand why my dad used to take us to the concerts at the park. Music, particularly classical music is truly the opium of the masses. It will awaken your senses as if you are experiencing a drug-induced euphoria. It will stir emotions that were dormant. Classical music will make you feel alive. And the New York Philharmonic long touted as one of the best classical performers in the world delivered in spades and lived up to their stellar reputation.
So, thanks dad, for sharing another one of your passions with me. I may not have known then what a profound impact those afternoons at the park meant but I am truly cognizant now. I wish you were still around so I could personally thank you. But from my place here on earth, to your space up there in heaven, thanks dad for giving me the love for classical music. And thank you NY Philharmonic, for whetting my appetite for more.
For anyone who wishes to catch a night with the NY Philharmonic check out their link for a schedule of performances:
P.S. when I started writing this piece I thought I was writing about classical music and the NY Philharmonic Orchestra. Instead it turned out I was writing a thank you letter to my dad.