#1149 – Dick Bernard: The Maestro gives a Shout-out

My plan a few days ago was to watch the Republican Convention on TV… (continued after “shout-out”)
The Shout-out.
Two weeks ago, Saturday July 9, we took Don, our neighbor across the street, to Sommerfest at Orchestra Hall.
The hall this particular evening seemed packed, even though the featured soloist on piano, Andre Watts, had to cancel due to a back injury. Conductor and long-time Sommerfest Artistic Director Andrew Litton, did his expected magic; and substitute pianist Zhang Zuo was wonderful with Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1 in C major for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 15.
After intermission came a full hour of Rachmaninoff’s “Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Opus 27”.
Sommerfest tends to be more a casual than formal event, though the quality of music is always the same: first rate.
Before beginning, Maestro Litton, gave us an impromptu recollection from his own life.
He began with piano at age 5, he said, and at age 15, in 9th grade, in 1975, something happened in class that triggered a response from his teacher. (We’ve all been teenagers…we can imagine….)
The next day the teacher brought Andrew a vinyl recording of the Rachmaninoff symphony and suggested the youngster listen to the third movement, which became the basis of the popular song “Full Moon and Empty Arms” (many renditions are on YouTube); and which Litton has conducted many times in his career.
Quietly and offhandedly, Andrew Litton made two points for us that stuck with me: the teachers class was 9th graders; and the teacher was African-American.
Neither sub-point was necessary or dramatized, but in a short phrase Andrew Litton spoke volumes to all of us: The African-American teacher made a big difference in his life.
The single quiet encounter in a real sense helped inform his life to follow.
But there was more:
For myself, listening, I thought of the ongoing tensions related to shootings and race. Indeed, just a few short walking blocks from Orchestra Hall, some protestors were gathering in a continuing response to the Philando Castile shooting 3 days earlier in nearby Falcon Heights, his apparent crime, “driving while black”.
Castile was a highly respected cafeteria worker in the St. Paul public schools. As any teacher would attest, school employees like Castile are teachers of children in all senses.
Andrew Litton, before turning to the Orchestra to raise his baton, was, I think, saying “thank you” to a teacher, an African-American teacher, from his youth.
And perhaps causing more than just myself to think about who we are, really, people together, here to occupy the same space for a short amount of time. Included, not excluded, or singled out….
Thank you, maestro. More on Castile et al after the following on the RNC.
The Republican National Convention (continued)
…I didn’t have the stomach for watching the RNC. The speakers and particularly the delegates I saw were angry at, terrified of, and despise people like me. (I am sure that there were delegates in that hall who felt extremely uncomfortable with the actions of the speakers and the people around them, but who would have the courage to say anything, either at the time, or publicly afterwards.) For the time being, it is the Trump Party, not the Republican Party, that is holding sway.
I wrote once about the Convention, “The First Night of the RNC”, Jul 19.
Since, I have chosen to read about each day through my favorite blogger. Here’s my choice, if you wish, for your weekend:
“The One Man” (Jul 21);
“Another Opening, Another Show” (Jul 18);
“Closing the Deal” (Jul 19);
“The Cruz Missile” (Jul 20).
I highly recommend this blog. Mostly, I recommend getting on the political court in the numerous ways available to each and every citizen.
Nobody, even his worshipers, deserves Donald Trump as President of the United States.
The 2016 RNC was no usual “political cheerleading”. Most of the delegates were willing participants in what was a hatefest.
We are better than this; and our country stands to be much worse off should he succeed, and his main victims will be the dispossessed who support him and who think he’ll make THEIR OWN LIVES “great again”, when the opposite will more likely be true.
Which brings me back to Castile and “Black Lives Matter”
Much is made of the protests in the wake of the tragedies of recent weeks, including those in support of Philandro Castile.
It is a difficult issue to talk about, across racial bounds. But the efforts are important.
I have noticed some things:
I was 27, teaching in suburban Blaine MN, when the 1967 Minneapolis North Side riots occurred; I drove through part of Washington DC after the 1968 riots there. I watched, with most everyone else the 1992 Los Angeles riots after Rodney King was beaten.
What has truly struck me in the recent events is that the African-American community has, with very few individual exceptions, avoided the violence of the past.
Even the most horrific circumstances, like the killing of the nine South Carolinians in a church by a white man, did not bring an explosion of vengeance.
There is a change of tone by the body politic at large, that is very refreshing, a sign to me of hope that there is progress. While there is a very long way to go, and we’ll probably never truly get there – we are, after all, a slave nation to our roots, and we can never deny that – in individual and group ways we seem to be turning a corner – which some find very uncomfortable. Violence, after all, sells.
(The night that maestro Litton gave his little talk from the stage at Orchestra Hall, a demonstration was gathering a few blocks away at Loring Park. I wondered if it would wander our way to make a point. It did not.)
Change is happening.
But nothing is easy.
Except for occasional disastrous happenings, we live in relatively peaceful and, in America, prosperous times.
The current and continuing disaster in the Middle East was largely created by ourselves (through the Iraq War). That will never be admitted. That same war caused the near collapse of our economy, which at this moment, eight years later, is robust. Eight years ago I could not have imagined how thoroughly we have recovered.
We would be further along had not the Republicans chosen to make sure President Obama would not succeed.
There have always been and there will always be disasters, and people to exploit them. Now we hear about them instantly, and endlessly, and they stoke our most dire imagination of what they might mean to ourselves.
Recently, it is France that has borne the brunt, it seems, of the ad hoc killings: the disasters in Paris; and most recently the horrific carnage on Bastille Day in Nice come to mind.
There are nearly 70,000,000 people in France. No, France is not going up in flames.
In mid May a plane enroute from France to Egypt went down in the Meditterranean Sea, and the suspicion immediately was terrorism, though no one has taken credit for such. The cause of the crash remains unknown. The black box has been recovered, and to my knowledge there has been no report, still, on what happened aboard that plane.
In our own country (which is more violent than most), an apparently lone wolf vigilante from Kansas City killed policemen in Baton Rouge; similarly, another lone wolf gunned down policemen in Dallas. In some quarters, race was made to be a matter in both.
We will never rid ourselves of these probably planned but still random acts of violence.
We cannot govern our lives by these kinds of possibilities.
Now comes the Democrats National Convention, and Hillary Clinton
I have long been a very public supporter of Hillary Clinton. In 2008 I thought she was the best person for the job of president. She is far more qualified now, than she was then.
She has been the subject of demonization by her enemies for over 20 years. None of us could survive such personal attacks as she has had to endure. It is bullying and character assassination on steroids, masquerading under the guise of “just politics”.
I will have more to say about her, and that, after her expected nomination.
Thank you for reading. I welcome comments at dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. This screen will be dark until July 30.

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