I'm writing this from a bus (yes, it's the bus again, saves time in these busy times) on the way back from a brief and very successful weekend the BSO had in the great New York City, performing Honegger's Joanne of Arc at the Stake with our Music Director, Marin Alsop and a big cast of singers, actors and no less than three choirs.
The ride there was blissfully uneventful, and, after dropping stuff backstage at Carnegie Hall, I took a short, but very sweet, walk to Central Park. It was one of those perfect Fall days, with warm sunshine shining down from deep blue skies threaded with contrails upon throngs of people that had come out to enjoy it in every way possible. The active ones, ranging from pick-up soccer games, Frisbee throwers, joggers, rollerbladers, kids frolicking in piles of fallen leaves and on playgrounds, to the passive ones, strolling along and occasionally stopping to watch one of the many performance artists, taking in the sun on the grass at Sheep Meadow, sitting on one of the walls and just observing the people passing by (and speaking many of the world's languages), or enjoying a ride on a horse drawn carriage, feeling and looking romantic all the while trying to ignore the fact that they are, indeed, only feet away from a big animal whose bathroom habits are as controlled and mannered as those of a baby.
And, speaking of performance artists, that's where Central Park really stands out. Not only are they as varied here as anywhere, they also are the cream of the crop. If you can attract the crowds here, where they always have a choice of walking a hundred yards further to hear and see something that is more interesting, or moving, or just plain crazy, then you can make it anywhere! From the always-present caricature artists, to oversize bubble makers, and bicycle and rollerblade tricksters, to the many musicians of all kinds, there's definitely something for everyone.
One particular musician caught my ear as I was descending the steps towards the Mall and the beautiful pond.
He was seated on the wall that surrounds the now dry fountain, playing movements of solo suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. His sound was beautiful, his intonation impeccable, his style just right. Yet there he was, in not so ideal conditions (were the cool temperatures a reason he was holding his bow the way a lot of bass players do-German style?), surrounded by masses of people speaking many languages all at once, with competition from other musicians nearby, minding his own business of making beautiful music. His open cello case, lying by his feet, the top leaning on the wall of the fountain, was full, and getting fuller by the minute, of one dollar bills. An elderly Grandmother, a young German couple, a little girl clenching the doll she took for a walk in the park, were all moved and felt like they had to contribute something to this classiest of street artists. As a colleague, I contributed more, and started walking briskly back to Carnegie Hall, so I could make it back in time for my rehearsal. But, there was another wonderful distraction waiting for me. A couple had stopped on a path and was quietly looking up at something. On a low branch on one of the golden-yellow linden trees, near the children's carousel, stood a large peregrine falcon. His head moved left and right, as his small but sharp eyes, separated by his razor-sharp beak, surveyed the park, probably looking for a snack. After a couple of minutes, his body stiffened, his head perked up, and he lifted his large wings to get what had caught his attention.
At that point, pressed for time, I had concluded that I'd had enough inspiration for one day, and it was time to go make some beautiful music.