I stumbled upon the following e-mail that surfaced on the Internet that immensely touched my heart. I post it here instead of the other thread created by Frank because this is my favorite 'corner'. It's not about piano or piano music. It did, however, mentioned two pianistic greats...
Yesterday I had probably the most incredible and moving experience of my life. Julliard organized a quartet to go play at the Armory. The Armory is a huge military building where families of people missing from Tuesday's
disaster go to wait for news of their loved ones. Entering the building was very difficult emotionally, because the entire building (the size of a city
block) was covered with missing posters. Thousands of posters, spread out up to eight feet above the ground, each featuring a different, smiling, face. I made my way into the huge central room and found my Julliard buddies.
For two hours we sight-read quartets (with only three people!), and I don't
think I will soon forget the grief counselor from the Connecticut State Police who listened the entire time, or the woman who listened only to
"Memory" from Cats, crying the whole time. At 7, the other two players had to
leave; they had been playing at the Armory since 1 and simply couldn't play any
more. I volunteered to stay and play solo, since I had just got there. I soon
realized that the evening had just begun for me: a man in fatigues who
introduced himself as Sergeant Major asked me if I'd mind playing for his
soldiers as they came back from digging through the rubble at Ground Zero.
Masseuses had volunteered to give his men massages, he said, and he didn't
think anything would be more soothing than getting a massage and listening
to violin music at the same time. So at 9:00 p.m., I headed up to the second
floor as the first men were arriving. From then until 11:30, I played
everything I could do for memory: Bach B Minor Partita, Tchaik. Concerto,
Dvorak Concerto, Paganini Caprices 1 and 17, Vivaldi Winter and Spring,
Theme from Schindler's List, Tchaik. Melodie, Meditation from Thais,Amazing
Grace, My Country 'Tis of Thee, Turkey in the Straw, Bile Them Cabbages Down. Never have I played for a more grateful
audience. Somehow it didn't
matter that by the end, my intonation was shot and I had no bow control. I would have lost any competition I was playing in, but it didn't
matter. The men would come up the stairs in full gear, remove their helmets,look
at me, and smile. At 11:20, I was introduced to Col. Slack, head of the division. After thanking me, he said to his
friends, "Boy, today was the
toughest day yet. I made the mistake of going back into the pit, and I'll never do
that again." Eager to hear a first-hand account, I asked, "What did you see?" He stopped, swallowed hard, and
said, "What you'd expect to see."
The Colonel stood there as I played a lengthy rendition of
Amazing Grace which he
claimed was the best he'd ever heard. By this time it was 11:30, and I
didn't think I could play anymore. I asked Sergeant Major if it would be
appropriate if I played the National Anthem. He shouted above the chaos of
the milling soldiers to call them to attention, and I played the National Anthem as the 300 men of the 69th
Division saluted an invisible flag.
After shaking a few hands and packing up, I was prepared to
leave when one of the
privates accosted me and told me the Colonel wanted to see me again. He took me down to the War Room, but we couldn't
find the Colonel, so he gave
me a tour of the War Room. It turns out that the division I played for is the Famous Fighting Sixty-Ninth, the most
decorated division in the U.S.
Army. He pointed out a letter from Abraham Lincoln offering his condolences after the Battle of Antietam...the 69th
suffered the most casualties of any
division at that historic battle. Finally, we located the Colonel. After
thanking me again, he presented me with the coin of the regiment. "We only give these to someone who's done something special for the 69th," he
informed me. He called over the division's historian to tell me the significance of all the symbols on the coin.
As I rode the taxi back to Julliard...free, of course, since taxi service
is free in New York right now...I was numb. Not only was this evening the proudest I've ever felt to be an American,
it was my most meaningful as a
musician and a person as well. At Julliard, kids are hypercritical of each other and very competitive. The
teachers expect, and in most cases get,
technical perfection. But this wasn't about that. The soldiers didn't care that I had so many memory slips I lost
count. They didn't care that when I
forgot how the second movement of the Tchaik. went, I had to come up with my
own insipid improvisation until I somehow (and I still don't know how) got
to a cadence. I've never seen a more appreciative audience, and I've never understood so fully what it means to
communicate music to other people.
And how did it change me as a person? Let's just say that, next time I want to get into a petty argument about whether
Richter or Horowitz was better,
I'll remember that when I asked the Colonel to describe the pit formed by the tumbling of the Towers, he couldn't.
Words only go so far, and even music can only go a little further from there.