Saturday, July 19, 2014

brilliance on the street

Today's surreal moment: out doing errands on Parliament Street, I heard glorious violin music coming from somewhere - Johann Sebastian Bach, played by a master. I thought of the YouTube video of James Ehnes, one of the world's great violinists, playing Bach in the Boston subway with almost no one paying the attention, and wondered if the same thing was happening.

But the violinist was no James Ehnes. He was a crack addict, speeding, barefoot, nearly toothless. And yet a brilliantly accomplished player who must have studied for many years. How is that possible? It made me, of course, weep to hear and see him.

I stood listening as close as I dared because he was moving wildly around, playing with such force that his bow had strings hanging loose. But on he played. And some people did respond; it was hardly possible not to, the music was so powerful and haunting. I gave him $20.

Oh the blessing not only to have a gift, but to be able to use and sustain it. What a waste of an enormous gift. Oh what a noble mind is here overthrown, as Ophelia said.

I had just come from Shopper's with my new osteoporosis medicine which cost $430 - for one dose. Which will last 6 months. So - $860 a year to try to save my bones. How lucky I am to afford that. But how I wish I could play a musical instrument a tenth as well as this guy.


  1. Unless two famous violinists did the same subway experiment, you might be referring to the first famous violinist to do as you write, it was Joshua Bell in Washington, D.C. to whom you refer (not James Ehnes).

  2. You're right, it was Joshua Bell, thank you my buddy.