Some memories stay with you, allowing you to drift into comforting memories as the chaotic reality swirls around endlessly. Everyone waits impatiently for their guaranteed 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime. I have performed thousands of concerts for many thousands of people – in gymnasiums, school auditoriums, and Carnegie Hall. This already puts me in a category that most people will never realize. I have been lucky in this way for my entire life. I have been a professional musician since age 15.
In 1998, I was hired to play principal oboe for a concert tour of Germany & Austria with the Washington Symphony. The American musicians would travel for a month overseas, combining with musicians of the Zlin Philharmonic and the Czech Symphony Orchestra.
Bulgarian oboist Ilian Velinov, Russian oboist Igor & your’s truly
One particular evening’s events will stay with me forever. It was in the medieval town of Villingen – in the Black Forrest. Our modern hotel was directly across the ‘street’ (no vehicles allowed) from the concert hall. The hall was originally a 14th century cathedral. Breathtaking to enter, let alone perform there. The program included Dvorak’s 7th symphony – a work with exposed and poignant woodwind solo passages. The concert itself was memorable in its ancient surroundings, but the truly chilling memory was yet to come that evening. I prefer to eat after performing, versus before. I have better breath capacity without the weight of a meal adding to the internal mix. My two other fellow musicians whom I spent nearly every second of that month with – clarinetists Wendi Hatton & David Pohl agreed to meet in the lobby after we changed out of our concert attire & walk the streets to find a late post-concert dinner. As luck would have it, there was a restaurant next to the hotel that was still serving dinner. We walked in, and waited to be seated. As the hostess lead us through the already-seated diners toward our table, it was obvious that we were being watched – by everyone. Are we dressed inappropriately for a late-night meal in Bavaria? Is it obvious that we were ‘outsiders’? Suddenly, the restaurant burst into spontaneous applause – for us! The restaurant, situated across from the concert hall, was filled with the evening performace’s audience! They recognized us and continued their enthusiastic applause they had begun in the hall earlier in the evening.
I doubt this would ever occur on this side of the Atlantic anymore. Europeans still honor the beauty & tradition of the classical era. Every small city on their continent has a symphony orchestra and an opera company. Every seat is filled for performances – by young and old alike.
Dvorak’s 9th symphony is nicknamed “The New World Symphony”. That night, his 7th symphony was “The Old World Symphony”.
I’ll take the 7th, thank you.
[in memory of David Pohl, fellow musician, tour roommate and friend – I miss you, Dave]