Baltimore needs its symphony, especially during tough times

On Friday, October 19th, my husband and I attended a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert. It was eight days before a white nationalist would massacre 11 praying congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh (“Pittsburgh shooting was anything but 'unimaginable,'” Oct. 28). Baltimore citizens were murdering each other at a number approaching 264 homicides for the year.

We were depleted from a hectic work week, dispirited by the president's vicious words and sick to death of the nonstop carnage in Baltimore. We have season tickets for the BSO, but that night we almost didn't make it. We were tired and sad. Lucky for us, we overcame our resistance and raced up Calvert Street and arrived just in time.

The program featured a guest conductor and Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Who hasn't heard The Four Seasons countless times? We expected nothing transcendent, and yet, seeing the concertos performed that night was a revelation.

The guest conductor, Nicholas McGegan, was buoyant and joyful, and seemed to levitate off the podium. The four women solo violinists were true virtuosos — not imported from out of town but plucked from our own orchestra.

We thought we were familiar with The Four Seasons. However a segment during "La Primavera” sounded like a love song, as played between the marvelous Boram Kang and two other violinists in the orchestra. The instruments were speaking to one another, a nuanced back and forth one would never have discerned from a recording. Electricity flowed between them. My husband squeezed my hand; tears flowed down our faces.

The fourth of the women violin soloists was Quin Li, playing "L'inverno." How could such a magnificent musician have been hiding in plain sight these past years that we had been regular attendees? I had rarely witnessed the audience so hushed during a performance, nor seen them jump to their feet for a standing ovation so quickly, and so ecstatically. Maestro McGegan was beaming with triumph; the Myerhoff Symphony Hall was aglow with pride. These were our local artists and they were superb.

Now I read that the BSO management and the players are engaged in difficult negotiations that threaten to radically reduce the season, thereby cutting the weeks of employment for the players, and of course cutting their salaries (“BSO moving backward with salary cuts for musicians,” Nov 6). We possess a rare gem of an orchestra in Baltimore, and it is the musicians who make it so. If we lose them in contract negotiations because we are short-sighted and don't pay them enough for them to provide for their families, they will surely move to other cities. They can be replaced with second rate musicians, but then we will have a second rate, regional orchestra -- not the thrilling, world class symphony orchestra we have today.

What is it about music that makes us weep? The unbearable sweetness of the violins' vibrato, harmonizing, rhapsodizing, up and down the scale, until they reach an impossibly high note, then hold it there; it seems to transport us away. And yet, perhaps not so far away. Perhaps we were weeping that night at the symphony for the pain of our world, the souls that would be slaughtered in the days to come; for the pain of our city, our loss of hope some days; and for our country and the hate that at times seems to overrun it.

Music speaks to us when words fail. Baltimore needs our symphony, and its musicians, now — more than ever.

Dr. Robin Weiss, Baltimore

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