A musical magic moment

Magical moments are waiting to be found. You can look for them. You can even arrange for them to happen.

I had a musical magic moment today, one that I arranged to attend. I didn’t even have to pay for it.

One of the little-known musical treasures of the New York metropolitan area is Caramoor: a garden of great music. Indeed, there is even a video, Caramoor: a magical place that they provide so you can learn more about it.

I had the great good fortune to be present at a concert this past Sunday by The Brentano String Quartet and Mitsuko Uchida, piano, that included a performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet.

We each have our favorite pieces of music. While I won’t attempt to pick one piece as the greatest, I do have a personal favorite in the chamber music literature. It is Schumann’s Piano Quintet, to me the summit of chamber music. Or, to use the words you can find in a prior post, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

It was a wonderful performance. Ms. Uchida was extraordinary. Though as an optimist at heart I usually tend to favor the more spirited movements of a piece of music, the centerpiece of the Quintet is the magnificent second movement, the slow movement.

It was not only a wonderful performance, it was a magical performance.

And I didn’t have to pay for it. That’s because I was there as a volunteer, in this case as an usher. In exchange for an hour of time from my wife and myself we were able to hear the concert for free.

That’s also one of the magical aspects of volunteer efforts. By voluntering your time and skills you can be repaid in ways way beyond mere financial gain. You can nourish your soul while helping others. Does it get any better than that?

Volunteer efforts can also provide a way for personal interactions. For example, since I was in the concert room before the performance, I noticed Ms. Uchida practicing. When she took a break, before she went backstage I approached her and said that I was a great fan of hers. I have a copy of here performance of the Mozart Piano Sonatas, and have heard her perform a Mozart Concerto at Caramoor a couple of years ago. I said I was looking forward to the Schumann because it was in my view the summit of chamber music. She smiled and said she enjoyed playing it. Indeed, seeing her delight while playing the piece only increased my delight in watching and hearing the performance.

And even when you aren’t a volunteer, it can always be rewarding to give thanks. I wrote a recent post giving thanks to the folks at Redmonk.

I am also glad that I had the chance to personally thank Ken Thompson and his colleagues for their work on Unix. This was at a lunch at Bell Labs in 1980 or so. [1] I was there because as it happens one of Rob Pike’s first jobs when he joined Bell Labs was to port to Unix some software I had written as part of the SETL project. [2]

Keep looking for those magical moments. You’ll be able to enjoy even more of them if you try to become more open to them.


1. I should be able to identify the exact day with some help from Google. While at lunch, I head mention of an accident on the George Washington bridge. I left the labs around 2PM to return to NYC. While the trip should have taken two hours, I didn’t get home until 8PM, because it turned out the GW Bridge was closed because a tanker had overturned, thus causing total gridlock on the NJ site of the Lincoln Tunnel.

2. I’ll write more about SETL and Rob in future posts.

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