Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Soothing the Savage Breast

“What radio station do you listen to?” she asked me. It was a trap, but I didn’t care. I had already been emotionally culled from the faculty herd as an outsider. I told her I listened to the regional classical music station. She glanced at her companion, a glance that said, “See?  I told you she was a pseudo-intellectual.”

As I have previously confessed, I began listening to classical music in a futile attempt to become more sophisticated. But I discovered no style was better background when I was writing term papers or studying for exams. I wouldn’t be tempted to sing along. And I liked it. For example, I thought Scheherazade suited the melodramatic mood that accompanied being trapped writing papers on a beautiful spring day. I concluded classical music had been given a bad reputation for no reason.

Fickle technology has largely separated me from my classical vinyl, and I don’t like the selections forced on me by the video music service that comes with our TV channels. So I set aside my affection for classical pieces in favor of other styles that were more accessible. And then, as an anniversary present, our daughter gave my husband and me tickets to a Mozart Clarinet Concerto by Sergei Vassiliev, accompanied by an ensemble from the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, since the only clarinet solos I could recall had been performed by Benny Goodman in old movies. Vassiliev wanted to showcase the range of his instrument, so he included preludes by George Gershwin (who can hate George Gershwin?), a rhapsody by Claude Debussy, an experimental piece for a trio by Heitor Villa-Lobos, and an emotional piece reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roof by Béla Kovács (my favorite). Finally, of course, Vassiliev and the ensemble played three pieces by Mozart. I was entranced. I had almost forgotten the magic of beautiful music performed beautifully in front of an appreciative audience. (Live performances are difficult to attend when you live as rurally as I do.)

Vassiliev was recruited from Soviet Ukraine to study at Interlocken Music Academy in Michigan when he was young and has thrived here professionally ever since. His relationships with the music along with his natural charm and teaching ability made his performances intimate and personal as well as highly skilled. He is the tenured principal clarinetist with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and is an adjunct instructor of clarinet at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He wore a handmade traditional needlework shirt from the Ukraine—a perfect personal touch.

I am writing about this experience to humbly admit I am ignorant about fine music, but it still dances on my soul, seducing me into forgetting my daily cares. No artificial reproduction can approach the spell of a live rendition. I know most people rave about concerts that involve pyrotechnics and speakers that bulge with enormous sound, but I reserve a special affection for the emotional and intimate. I need music right now to remind me of the joys of being human and the heart of the human community. Thank you to Mr. Vassiliev and our daughter.

2 comments on “Soothing the Savage Breast

  1. France Sullivan
    March 30, 2019

    On the contrary, my dear friend, you are ignorant of nothing! One person’s ‘fine’ is another’s poor. Music is meant to calm, to ruffle, to soothe, and invigorate but even the ‘finest’ score is wasted unless performed with passion. In truth, as a wall-flower musician myself, all music has inspired and helped me feel into me. But it, like all the arts, is simply another vehicle we can travel on. And that journey can come about by listening to Bach or the Beatles, or, by reading something by Susan Adair Harris. Have you heard of her? Marvelous writer, just marvelous. I’ll bet she’s a hell-raising goddess type, too. 😉

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