In the wee hours of Tuesday, February 26, I had the television on so low it was barely audible. I do that sometimes to feed my news-junkie habit. As I busy myself doing other things, I can hear the faint discussions transpiring from the TV. Occasional I turn to glance at it or pause to take in a snippet of news. Rarely is there much else on at three in the morning; in fact, some news outlets, like ABC World News Now, repeat the same news ad nauseam throughout the night.
Tuesday’s post midnight news was dominated by the Clinton vs. Obama debate. I had heard every political pundit and analyst debate who the winner was and had reached a saturation point that made me listen with only half an ear. Then came some huge news—and I’m not talking about the umpteenth snowstorm that was transpiring in Chicago outside my window. In minutes, an announcer said, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra would be performing “Live” from Pyongyan, North Korea. My ears tuned in.
For more than a year, plans were being laid for this concert. It would be the first and largest cultural exchange with North Korea. The announcer called the event historic.” I longed for the music to start and when it did, magic happened. I sat mesmerized, forgetting about the snowstorm, trying to forget about the fact that motorcyclists were out riding on Saturday and now, on Tuesday, we would be digging out from an estimated 5-8 inches of snow.
Lorin Maazel, the conductor, and the orchestra fascinated the audience. The orchestra began by playing the anthems of North Korea and the USA. The orchestra played Gershwin, Dvorak and Wagner. I especially loved Dovorak’s Symphony #9 in A Minor, better known as the New World Symphony. I don’t think I’ve heard it performed better. Gershwin’s “An American In Paris” seemed to have special significance and I couldn’t help but think of the Americans in North Korea. Panning the audience showed the raw emotions evoked by the music. Some faces seemed lost in the music as people listened with their eyes closed, others moved their heads ever so slightly; one person, a woman, dabbed her eyes.
Thunderous applause followed each piece. An effusive audience showed their appreciation with stand ovations, the last one lasted five minutes! The concert ended with the playing of Arirang, a much-loved folk song evidently adored by both North and South Korea. The audience was visibly moved throughout the concert but the finale brought the house down, so to speak. The concert was followed by a discussion with the audience. Watching Maazel interact across cultural lines added true class to the evening. Such cross-cultural exchanges are demystifying, they facilitate a much-needed understanding among humans outside of all the political caterwauling.
North Korea’s best cellist said he yearns to travel and perform abroad and hopes that the successful visit by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s created such opportunities. Music really is a universal language--you could see it on the faces in the audience. I could feel the connection thousands of miles away.
While this blog entry nothing to do with motorcycling, it has a lot to do with traveling to distance lands, which is what appeals to me most about motorcycling. For many reasons, not the least of which is political propaganda (on all sides), individuals and groups must be bridge builders and bridge crossers. As I continue to research places to ‘cycle this riding season, I shall remain mindful of the historic cultural exchange between North Korea and New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Now, if only the riding season were in sight!