Saturday, June 26, 2010

In the Presence of Greatness

This week has been crazy.  In order to stop and take a breath, I blew off work yesterday to attend a piano competition that takes place in my city every four years. The event runs for two weeks, and competitors are selected from all over the world. 

Being a bit of a loner, I like to experience these events apart from the crowd.  Otherwise, I am distracted by thoughts like, 'Didn't you hear the announcer ask everyone to shut off their cell phones?,' or 'Are you going to loudly thumb through your program during the entire performance?' or 'Do you really have to talk to your girlfriend now?'  

In a nutshell, 'Shut the hell up.' 

After finding the perfect spot, away from distractions, I am able to immerse myself into the experience.  I watch as a new Steinway is rolled onto the stage before each performer, as if the piano just played needs a long rest before it is used again.  The piano is quickly tuned, then two people with white gloves wipe the entire thing down with great care.

A few moments later, the competitor is announced and arrives on stage wearing a suit (all of the pianists yesterday were male).   He bows before the audience, then adjusts the bench, up or down,  forward and back, until the position is perfect.  

The audience has been instructed to hold its applause until the end of the performance  (each pianist plays for 50 minutes, which can include three to five numbers).  After each piece, the pianist wipes his brow, his hands and the piano keys. The audience remains silent.  He then sits quietly for a moment, eyes closed, making a mental transition before playing again.  

Dramatic tension is built through the last piece, which showcases the pianist's most brilliant work.  At this point, I am literally transfixed, engaged with the performer, carried away with the music, moved at a level so deep, it's hard to describe in words. When the final piece ends and the pianist's hands dramatically leave the keyboard, I can sit no longer.  The audience jumps to its feet and yells, 'Bravo!' clapping until our hands are red and stinging.

Reliving my day with B-man last night, I am moved to tears as I describe the experience.  Being in the presence of greatness is somehow transcendent.  

My life is ripe for exactly that. 


  1. What an amazing post. The way you describe it makes me feel like I'm watching it too. Sounds incredible.

  2. MPL, thanks for the comment. The event was, indeed, stunning. For me, it was the perfect thing at the perfect time. I love when that happens.



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