A recent musical experience served as a reminder of why we play and listen to music, and its power to bring us together and uplift us. At a difficult time, when we are so divided and there is so much fear and anger, a small audience in Somerville gathered last week to share in the beauty of music and the comfort of hearing it together.
The Somerville Public Library has been kind enough to host a second season of Invitation to Bach and Ysaye, a community lecture recital series. These concerts are particularly meaningful because they are an opportunity to really interact with audiences – not only performing the music in intimate venues, but also sharing in conversation during the lecture component of the recital and at a friendly reception afterwords. With stories about the composers and their music, and some personal stories of my own, I try to bring people deeply into the experience of hearing the pieces performed live. It is wonderful, also, to hear people’s thoughts and feelings about music after the performance.
Last Thursday, a small but enthusiastic audience gathered at the East Branch – people from various backgrounds, united in their interest in classical music.
There was a young violin student – a girl, about eight years old – who had just started taking violin lessons at school. She was so excited to hear a violin concert, that she wanted to get dressed up and take her instrument with her to show me! (Meghan Forsell, the amazingly talented and committed children’s librarian, had been sure to call her mother to remind them about the concert.)
A young couple was also in the audience, who said they were looking forward to telling a brother back home about the music. The brother is a violin student, living in Iran, who is eager to learn about classical music in the West.
Other people spoke very movingly about the beauty of the music and how much they love the violin, were amazed to discover Ysaye’s writing, had once played the violin as a student years ago, etc.
The performance was short and the audience relatively small, but this felt like one of the most meaningful concerts I’ve played in a while. Music does have the power to bring us together as a community, to move us deeply, and to bring meaning and beauty to our lives.
Rick Saunders, the Music Director of the Somerville Public Schools, relentlessly talks about the necessity of having music as a core subject in public schools, and the value of music for music’s sake. While it is absolutely true that studying music brings students a host of benefits, ranging from improved study skills and grit to teamwork and a healthy sense of accomplishment, the most important reason we need music to survive and thrive is immediately understood by anyone who opens the heart to a beautiful song.
The concert last Thursday was possible because Somerville has a wonderful library system, which decided it was worth it to host a violin lecture recital. (The Friends’ Group funded the concert, generously making it 100% free to the public.) The young girl came to the concert and is able to pursue her musical interest further because of funding for music in Somerville’s Public School system. The community gathered for the performance because people felt it was worth the effort of going out for a live experience, and because people from all different backgrounds felt safe coming together. I was able to take the time to practice and prepare the program because the library Friends’ Group felt it was worth it to the community to fund the performance.
In other words, we have a lot to be grateful for.
And we have a lot to protect.