Monday, November 16, 2009

Thank you, Joshua Bell

Ok, so I know I've been away from the blog for too long. I still haven't shared any pictures or stories about the vacation and the trip to SAFF. They're coming--we finally got what we needed to be able to upload the pictures from the camera, so I'm partly there. I still need to get a few pics from the husband's computer, so I'll futz with that soon and have something about the fun stuff I did.

Today, though, I have pictures from an wonderful, thrilling, glorious, dazzling event I attended Saturday night. Joshua Bell (the virtuoso violinist, in case you don't know) played with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and I had a seat right smack in the center of the floor, about 6 rows from the stage (and the Hilbert Circle Theater has no orchestra pit, so the musicians are right there in front of you!)

That was beyond excellent--I was so close that I could hear JB breathe as he played. That's not as weird as it sounds. A good musician has to regulate his breathing as he plays, and JB plays passionately and athletically. He was dripping sweat when he was done.

And what he played--oh. my. goodness. First the ISO played some music by Hector Berlioz (and the ISO should get a big mention here because they are a tremendous group of musicians.) Then Joshua came on to play Maurice Ravel's Tzigane, which is a pull-out-all-the-stops piece of fiery virtuosity. That alone was worth the price of admission. But that wasn't all. After the Tzigane got everyone's heart pumping, he played Meditation by Jules Massenet, a gorgeous, haunting melody. He took a break while the Symphony played music by Richard Strauss, then after a short intermission came back for the headliner piece: Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor.

That's one of my favorite, if not the favorite of all the violin concertos I've heard. It has everything a big piece of music should have: power, lovely melody, technical fireworks, all in a harmonious and beautiful setting. Even if you're not a classical music fan, you should take the time to listen to it once or twice because it's gorgeous. (If you scroll to the bottom of the page, JB's album of Bruch, Mendelssohn, and Mozart is the first one listed on my widget. It's worth every penny.)

Not only was the music beautiful just because of what it was, JB played it flawlessly. I know that recordings made in a studio are probably "tweaked" a bit to take out wrong notes or other mistakes, but I'm telling you, he made no mistakes. I can't even come up with the words to describe how wonderful the whole experience was. Hearing it while seeing someone pour his entire being into the playing was...well...I have no words. Sigh. Give me a minute...

Ok, so then, after we all stood and whooped (politely--this was a classical music concert after all) and applauded until I thought my arms would fall off, he came out and performed an encore. It was his rendition of "Yankee Doodle" with just about every virtuoso violin technique you can throw in a piece. That really brought the house down.

AND THEN...he signed autographs after the concert. Sigh again.

It was really funny, because when I got out of the car I grabbed my Bruch CD and stuck it in my purse. I had already made up my mind that I was going to be brave and ask anyone and everyone who worked in the theater if there was any chance I could get him to sign my CD after the show. This guy is the reason I started taking violin lessons in the first place--basically he changed my life--so I was going to try everything I could to at least get to say hello. Once inside the theater, I saw that a CD sales table was already set up with a little note that Joshua would be signing CDs after the show. How cool is that?

And guess who didn't think to bring her camera. The husband squeezed off a couple of shots on my cell phone, so all is not lost:

No, they're not the best, but about as good as you can get when you're in a hurry and using a cell phone camera.

I was ecstatic. He was so nice and smiled and said hello to everyone. He didn't rush anyone through the line, and another lady who was watching told us that he spent a lot of time talking to all the young people who came through, encouraging them if they played an instrument and posing for pictures.

So what do you say when you finally get the chance to speak to someone you admire so much? (And, no, it's not just because he's so darn good-looking!) I can't even tell you what I said--I mumbled something, though I think I remembered to thank him for the autograph. I hope so. There wasn't time to say what I really wanted to say.

I didn't want to tell him how great his performance was--I'm sure he knew that already, based on the standing ovation and cheers at the end. And I'm sure nearly everyone who went through the line said that, and it's not like he can't tell when he's played well. There has to be a feeling of contentment for a job (extremely) well done, and I would think that after all these years, Joshua knows in himself when he's performed brilliantly.

What I really wanted to say was the most heartfelt "Thank you." Not for the autograph, because I think I did say thank you for that, or for that evening's performance, but for the whole gift of his talent. That cannot be an easy life, no matter how much passion you have for your art. It's not just the thousands and thousands of hours of practice, the sacrifice of other interests, the money spent in teachers and schooling, the years dedicated to trying, failing, trying again until you get it as perfect as you can and then maintaining that perfection. It's the responsibility that comes with signing contracts for recordings and performances, constant travel, and fulfilling the expectations of an adoring public whether you feel like it or not. Yes, he gets something out of it, or he wouldn't continue doing it. But what he gives is inestimably more--when he's playing for you, his whole life is in that performance. It's as if all those years of dedication and hard work were for you, the listener. How do you thank someone for a gift that great?

I'm not even able to express what I mean in this post, so I never would have been able to say it when I had the chance Saturday. I would have ended up sounding like some creepy stalker fan or something. I don't know--maybe I did seem like a creepy stalker fan. (Naw, a creepy stalker fan would have asked him to sign her butt or something, right? I definitely did NOT do that.)

So for what it's worth--thank you Joshua Bell. My life is happier because of what you do.


Knit Witch said...

Wow! I love how you now call him JB - haha!!

iggystar said...

What a great post! Having had a couple of encounters with my favorite celebs of my own I got a kick out of your meeting.

I love music, but I don't know much about the classical genre. Funny though, the other day I was looking for two replacement stations (all Christmas music, all day, from November 1 to January 1...nope, see ya!) for my radio pre-sets plus, just being plain tired of what's being offered nowadays. I still hadn't found anything until a friend of mine (also lamenting the radio situation) told me to switch to our local classical station.

I think I'm in love. No talking, rap, bad pop, foul language, just rousing music (or relaxing music), music that evokes emotion without hurting my brain.

...all that to say, I could really feel your love for classical music from your post. (Now I'm off to find a classical music primer.)