“Music is the fastest way to get from one heart to another” remarked Stéphane Denève, the French Guest Conductor for the Philadelphia Orchestra.
It had been a very hot day during the month of July, and now a storm was blowing. Cool rain drops poured on the glass walls and on the high ceiling of the Kimmel Center. We were glad to be inside after having got caught in the rain.
More than twelve miles of glass encase the Kimmel Center. This building is an architectural marvel and it took quite some time to build this into the famous center city landmark it is today.
Thousands of people sitting inside the Verizon Hall its largest hall, applauded as Stéphane the Conductor of the Orchestra taught a five year old girl to play a lookalike of the Liberty bell on stage.
Meanwhile the hall had filled up almost completely. The orchestra began playing Jennifer Higdon’s “Blue Cathedral”. The background to this piece is that Jennifer’s younger brother had an untimely death. This had inspired her to create this sorrowful composition. She pours her grief, anger and frustration into this mysterious yet magical piece of work. She also tries to communicate through her music - the eternal peace after death.
Suddenly a solo flute emerged soaring high above the sound of the orchestra. Then the clarinet followed right next to that in sequence. As if the older sibling played first with the flute and then the younger one played melodiously along - right after her.
An imaginary musical conversation between brother and sister!
This continues as a recurring sequence throughout the entire 12 minute piece. Next this beautiful conversation between flute and clarinet becomes loud and forceful. Stéphane the Conductor is shaking his entire tall frame so vigorously that one would imagine he was going to fall off any minute. The entire orchestra follows his every motion, and every cue flawlessly. The audience is soaking in every moment. Even the little infant sitting one row behind us who was otherwise creating a terrible racket, seems to be lulled in a trance.
The French horns and violins have taken over. Then the music subsides all of a sudden. The marimba plays next. We sat there stunned - as if hypnotized by the magical melody around us. And I wondered how deep the emotions were for the composer to create such a magnificently touching and heart wrenching piece of work.
Stéphane is shaking his locks of hair violently but rhythmically in the air. I noticed the French horn players making a delicate sound by running a finger around the rim of a wine glass. Then they create these strange sounds by gently striking small blue bells held in their hands! It is hard to see from far, but these are Chinese reflex balls.
A sorrowful sounding English horn speaks. Then a mysterious sounding combination of xylophone and harp give a clear and sharp answer. Next the strings and percussion take over like the blowing of winds. The trombones deliver a steely statement.
The music fades away slowly. The hall is quiet.
A storm has just passed by.
It feels peaceful.