When I was at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on Saturday, I noticed that the NY Philharmonic was playing a free concert at the Cathedral on Memorial Day. On Memorial Day I ventured up there around 7pm and was shocked at the line that wound all the way down 110th street to the East as far as I could see. The Cathedral's big, but it's not that big so I cut my losses and headed for the sculpture garden where I could sit in the grass, take off my shoes, read my book for an hour, and enjoy the music as the sun set.
I was one of the first people to arrive in the sculpture garden, though it filled up quickly. I looked around to see that everything I love about New York was on that lawn with me: the diversity of color, race, creed, age, social-economic level, and orientation. Men and women, families, friends, and single people, several languages all rising at once as we all waited for the main event. Though we couldn't see the show, we were well aware when David Robertson, the conductor for the evening, took the stage. The applause was thunderous.
I marveled that I should be so lucky to be in a city where this kind of event was free, practically held in my own backyard. It was comforting to see the cares of the world melt from people's faces, to see them lay down in the grass, staring up at the stars that started gathering, focusing all of their attention on the music. For that hour that the Philharmonic played, I couldn't think about anything except each note as it whizzed by me with so much emotion and passion. It has been a long time since I stopped thinking about any cares and worries - I was grateful for the break.
The concert reminded me of how much we need art and music in our lives - how critical it is to our happiness, health, and well-being. I used to make my living working in the arts, and on occasion I miss it. I miss being part of something that takes us to another world. Thankfully, there are organizations like the Philharmonic that can transport us all away from our lives, even for just a little while. The only requirement is that we show up and listen with an open mind and open heart.
The image above features Maestro Lorin Maazel as he conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in September 2006 in New York. (Stephen Chernin/Associated Press)