I have continued to go to the free weekly music concerts at a church in downtown Sacramento. The overall quality and variety of the series is exceptional. Yesterday a group of accomplished music students from a nearby university performed in duets.

The first three musicians played the cello. There is something in the vibrato of the cello (I also feel it in the French horn) that evokes a feeling of deep medieval forests, stags at bay and lonely young women looking out of castle turrets. The sound of either instrument can quickly bring me close to tears. After the cellists came the piano player.

He was a young Asian boy/man with a new suit and bright red tie. His performance of a Tchaikovsky concerto was a special treat in that he was accompanied by a second baby grand. Very impressive to me was the fact that he played the entire piece – about 20 minutes worth – without any sheet music. We were to later learn he was preparing for a competition and this was his entry.

To me Tchaikovsky is irresistible with his grand gestures, dramatic passages and sweet melodies and this young man had all of the gusto, power and drama to do the piece justice. At times the baby grand shook with the vigor of his playing. I watched his fingers dance up and down the keyboard, his passion and love of the music evident in his touch.

About mid-way through his performance the unexpected and the unthinkable happened. He hesitated, hands held above the keyboard, and froze. Had he forgotten what came next, I wondered. That’s what comes of not have a score in front of you, I tsked in my mind.

He motioned with his head to the accompanist who re-started the passage a few bars earlier. A sigh of relief went through the audience. Then, despair – as the pianist stopped at the same point as before, like a balky horse in front of hurdle. Oh, no, I thought, imagining the panic and embarrassment I would have felt in a similar circumstance.

Once again he nodded to the accompanist who re-started the passage. I held my breath. This time he sailed through it and I sat back in my chair. I could not tell whether he had mastered the difficult passage or merely forged through it, but I, like the rest of the audience was relieved as he continued to dazzle his way through the concerto.

The first time the pianist had erred, I felt the dismay and sympathy of the audience. At the second time, I felt its communal intent and encouragement. And when he had cleared the hurdle, the audience was relieved and congratulatory.

The human fallibility of the musician resonated with the audience. Even the most professional and experienced can make mistakes and missteps. When this happens, the hero does not lie down and bemoan his fate or wallow in self-centered embarrassment, but gets up and tries again, and again, and again, if necessary.

Through those tense moments the audience was 100% behind the young musician, lending their psychic and emotional support. They were not, as some would have us believe, ready to criticize or ridicule. In fact, when the concerto came to a resounding conclusion, the audience rose as one to applaud with many shouts of “Bravo!”

The musician for a few moments became Everyman, for who among us does not falter and fail many times in the spotlight of our life. In continuing to play he showed that he was a professional – someone who doesn’t quit. And by continuing, he showed the proper spirit and behavior and became the young hero.

The experience was a reminder to me that in life many people in our personal audiences are there to support us, even if silently; that life is not an adversarial relationship. That for every carping commentator there are dozens of others who are willing us to follow our dreams, to take risks, to reach out for our personal stars, and who are waiting to be inspired by our example.

“Do not be afraid to demand great things of yourself. Powers which you never dreamed you possessed will leap to your assistance.” Orison S. Marden


2 thoughts on “CON BRIO

  1. this is a really nice piece. i love the cello as well, but even better is your story of the pianist. it’s wonderful how supportive the audience was, it seems all too frequently we revel in such missteps, it’s a shame. in a live performance, however, such minor mistakes often become the highlight of the show. It’s nice to remember that the people on the stage are humans as well. wonderful piece, a nice read for my morning cup of tea


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