I am pleased to report that we had a great success yesterday–the real deal, not just a rosy blog report. Something quite astounding happened in the hall, the thing I most wanted but was aftraid to hope for. No, I was not surprised that the concert went well, nor that the hall was full. I knew we had class-A singers and wonderful songs, and that we’d gotten to capacity on pre-sale and reservations. And the cast was on fire yesterday, everyone at his/her peak (and beyond). But there was a kind of electricity in the place that I don’t always feel even when performances are going like gangbusters. The public’s receptivity to the music was palpable to me, as was their excitement at hearing such beautiful voices in their town—up close and personal. They were a dream audience, making every connection, grooving out on the words and music, and gorging themselves on the artistic smorgasbord. I feared the inevitable comparisons with past programs I’d done here, but the consistent comment was, “What a great group! But you always have the best singers.”
When I play in big metropolitan concert halls, especially in New York, I often feel I am trying to feed people who are already sated. I’ve got to give them the equivalent of a truffle-asiago-crab stuffed gnocchi doused with saffron-infused olive oil, or I don’t even get their attention. Years of playing in the Big Apple have forced me to up the ante year by year, so I habitually aim pretty high and am rough on myself when I feel I have not quite grabbed the gold ring.
But this audience, many of who are actually Manhattanites during the cold months, received the music in a way I have not experienced in some time. At the intermission, a friend came up to me and said, “This is hitting me so hard. I’m just so moved by the music, I’ve been crying—and laughing—and I feel as if I need to go home now just to recover.” “But….you won’t do that, will you? I mean, you’d miss the Cuban songs,” I stammered. “No, of course I’m staying! What I mean is…I needed this music, and I had no idea how deeply I needed it.”
I too had felt that Orient “needed” music, but I didn’t realize how much. It turns out that the people in this town are starving for concerts. On the way home, a woman saw me driving down the street in my wheelchair and said, “WAIT! Stay there—I’ll be RIGHT back!” She went back into her house and came out with a chilled bottle of champagne. She tore across the street and gave me the gift. Then she got quite emotional. “I want you to have this. The thing is…you’re the reason people want to be alive.”