In the US, joy and inspiration has been taken away from us allmain
The pianist Wu Han has been playing this week to audiences of 1,500 in Taiwan. She writes:
My eyes welled up with tears, and the music was blurry in front of me. I have been on concert stages since I was 11 years old, but the pandemic has taken all the opportunities away. Last night in Taipei, Taiwan, the National Concert Hall was the scene of the first live, public concert for me in eight months. Joining me were six fabulous musicians from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) and more than 1,500 people who showed up to celebrate culture and to feed their souls with chamber music. There was no agenda other than the common purpose of being inspired by what music can offer.
I could see the smiles between the movements of the Beethoven quartet on the faces of both the musicians and the audience. I could have heard a pin drop during the silences of the Smetana trio, a tragic work composed just after his daughter’s death. I felt the intense concentration for the exciting Tchaikovsky sextet “Souvenir of Florence” that transported us to a magical world.
Our audience burst into applause, shouted bravos, and demanded two encores: Mark O’Connor’s “F.C.’s Jig” and the jubilant scherzo of the “American” string quintet of Dvorak. The magic of this live event unfolded in front of us, and I felt truly fulfilled to know that at least last night, there in front of a tightly-packed, masked audience, we were all alive, healthy, and able to deeply appreciate being musicians.
To make this happen during the pandemic took heroic efforts from so many extraordinary people. First, I need to mention the Taiwanese government’s successful effort of managing the pandemic. There have been no COVID cases for more than 250 days now on this Island, but still, everyone has to wear masks. Contact tracing is rigorous, with case workers checking in on us twice daily by phone during our required 14-day quarantine period. Now that we are out, they check on us by text for another seven days, and we report our temperatures and whereabouts. The commitment of Taiwan and its citizens to protect each other is an envy for all of us coming from the USA. With this intense determination to fight the virus, one actually feels safe and relaxed, knowing that everyone is doing their part to beat this invisible enemy….
photo: Tay Tat Keng
In the U.S. right now, that joy and inspiration has been taken away from all of us. But I do know that when we are able to be back on stage to play for our beloved audiences, we will play our hearts out just like last night. That joy and appreciation of music will come back with an intensity that we never experienced before.