Yesterday I was touched by beauty. This was unexpected as I could barely manage to get dressed and leave the house. My husband convinced me to go to a harp and viola concert which I thought would be a very proper recital with a few nice pieces. I imagined a cold environment where the audience would arrive, politely appreciate the music, fidget in their chairs, cough or clear their throats at the wrong moments and hope it would be finished at the end of 45 minutes. Of course, there would be a woman sitting behind me who would take out a piece of hard candy wrapped in plastic paper and spend about 2 minutes inconspicuously opening it while I would anticipate the dreaded sucking and crunching noises. Then we would all get up, leave and move on with our existences, or at most, eat a few finger sandwiches.
I couldn’t have been more mistaken. The atmosphere was warm and inviting. There were people of all ages, nationalities, races, languages. They seemed to know each other and smiled and chatted with each other before the concert, not recital, began. We even came across some friends and acquaintances from the schools where we work. I must admit I was feeling quite depressed and tense because I was worried about my son and was hoping noone would notice.
There was a large screen. The musicians were off to the side of it. They played soundtracks of classic and famous movies in chronological order. In many ways it felt like the soundtrack of my childhood and it took me back to a place and time that are far from me now. We could see images of each film as they played the music to it. They started with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and we admired the iconic Audrey Hepburn in her best years. Next we heard ragtime with The Entertainer while reminiscing a much younger Robert Redford and Paul Newman in The Sting. One of the highlights was seeing Meryl Streep and Robert Redford flying over the mountains and fields of Kenya and I wondered if that landscape and wildlife would look the same today as it did in 1985. “I once had a farm in Africa.” You can probably hear Streep’s voice, too. Until this point in the concert, I could keep the tears in the my eyes, but the combination of the music, the images and the nostalgia of my innocent years was overwhelming. Pathetically, what made me cry the most was when the musicians were playing Unchained Melody while Patrick Swayze’s ghost moved a penny from above Demi Moore’s head and slid it down into her hand. The mere idea that she could feel his presence as she grasped the penny in her hand got me really choked up. We also watched a “blind” Al Pacino capably dance the tango and Jeremy Irons playing the flute in the jungle in The Mission with the accompanying viola and harp.
For the next scene, there was only an image of Schubert. The musicians asked us to imagine our own scenes. Ave Maria, one of the most melancholic and beautiful melodies ever written. For me, this song conjures up an image of a suffering Christ and a mother who won’t leave his side. I see her wiping his face and kneeling at the cross. I see her accompany his suffering and death so that he knows he is not alone. I see her holding his body in her arms when he is taken down from the cross. I see Michelangelo’s Pieta. I do not have the audacity to compare her suffering to my own. But I can feel it and I know that she can feel mine. As the piece reached its end, I could feel that she was holding me. And I was touched by the beauty of it all.
*I’d like to thank the couple who invited us to their concert and into their hearts.