Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday Night Music

Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990)


  1. The first time I went to a real concert I was 14. My music teacher had asked my mother to let me subscribe to Les Matinées Symphoniques pour la Jeunesse. The concerts were given on Saturday afternoon, at a high school auditorium, Le Plateau Mont-Royal. It was very near the Public Library. On that day (Fall 1943) I rushed to get my usual 8-books-week-supply, and ran to the hall, just a few minutes before 3 pm. The place was crowded with noisy children, half hanging on folding wood chairs. I guess all the Montreal Music Teachers had sent their students to that concert. And none of us really wanted to be there on a Saturday afternoon. It was so nice in the Park, so foul smelling in that room. At one moment, a big gong cut across the noise, the curtains on the stage opened on the orchestra. A young man, his back turned, gestured with a baton. And we heard the Overture of Beethoven Fifth. Just a few measures, and they stopped. It was phantasmagorical! We all clapped hands, yelling and laughing. We all knew that tune. We heard it all the time on the radio. We sang it, played it, whistled it in all our games. Many of us had brothers, uncles, cousins, older friends fighting the war across the sea. We didn't know Beethoven. But we certainly knew the Victory tune of World War 2.
    A big gong rang again and reduced us to silence. And the young man said, in French, with an accent of course, "I'm Leonard Bernstein.I'm the leader. And we're going to learn together from where the sounds of the 5th Symphony come, and how to listen to the great Beethoven." Then, one after another, he introduced the instruments by name and directed the musicians to play 2-3 pages of their part. Then he intermingled them. He kept the percussion for the end. He asked his musicians "May I have the joy to play the drums?" They laughed and yelled, "YES!" Then, once more, the gong sounded. Leonard said, "Now let's quiet down and be ready to hear the great voice of Beethoven."
    We all stopped moving. The room was totally silent. Then Leonard lifted his baton and the First Movement of the Fifth Symphony filled the room with magic and conquered our young hearts forever. That afternoon, in Montreal, I fell in love with Beethoven, with Music, and with Leonard Bernstein.
    This would have been better said in French. Although it's impossible to describe that radiant moment in any language. Except music.

    1. Ah, how wonderful. Thank you for that, Claude. De tout coeur.

    2. That was indeed a beautiful story, Claude. You've overwhelmed my imagination this evening.
      Merci Beaucoup :)