Posted by: jevcat | December 9, 2010

Showered in Chopin or On the Whole, I’d Rather Not Be in Philadelphia

Thanks to a dear friend, I spent this evening awash in the melodies of Frederic Chopin.  Her husband having been called to a conference in Philadelphia, she thought of me for the extra ticket.  It was a logical choice:  Chopin is the reason we became friends.

Chopin at 25

We go back to college days together, she and I.  We were both History majors and shared a couple of classes.  At the time, I was something of a wallflower and, while I certainly had opinions, unless riled I tended to keep them to myself.  She, on the other hand, was (and still is), assertive, opinionated, and unafraid of expressing those opinions.  I disliked her immediately.

Senior year, we were both selected for Phi Alpha Theta, the History honor society, an honor everyone wanted but no one wanted to do anything about, with the result that the chapter was on the verge of being disbanded until four of us, she and I among them, allowed ourselves to be manipulated into serving as officers to save it.

We graduated, got our first real jobs, but a sense of responsibility (read “guilt”) led us to return to meet with Phi Alpha Theta’s faculty advisor to try to pass the torch and keep the chapter going for the next class – I guess you could say we stayed together for the sake of the kids.

Somewhere over stuffing envelopes with recruiting letters and angst-ing over whether we had done enough to justify cutting loose, the subject of Chopin came up (were you wondering when we’d get to him?).  It turned out she and I had both seen Song to Remember, the 40s bio-pic on the composer, at an impressionable age, leaving us with temporary crushes on Cornel Wilde and a life-long passion for Chopin’s music, especially the Polonaise in A Flat Major.  She knew no one else who cared for Chopin and asked if I would be interested in going to a concert with her.  I said “yes” and a friendship was born.

All of which led inexorably, a few decades later, to this evening, listening together once again to Chopin, this time from Garrick Ohlsson at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.  Present worries forgotten, I smiled for two hours straight, including intermission, encores, and, in fact, I am still smiling.

There are greater composers, composers more prolific and powerful, but was there ever a composer who understood the potential liquidity of music as Chopin did?  I know some people like to watch the musician playing, but I just closed my eyes and let the music inundate me:  dreamlike wisps of mist, drops, rivulets, streams, eddies, cascades, rivers, rapids rampaging, tempests, torrents, and thundering waves of sound, carrying me off on their tide.  With some effort, I managed to keep myself from reverting to childhood and spinning, flailing, wheeling with the music, although there was rarely a moment when a foot or finger wasn’t moving with the flow (something for which I am notorious but try to keep in check on the now-rare occasions I get to a concert hall).

The last piece on the program was what my friend and I have come to think of as “Our” Polonaise in A Flat Major.  In the pause before it began, we looked at each other and grinned – yeah! – before turning back to the stage.  And now I think I need to go and set up a Chopin channel for myself on Pandora before I go to bed …


  1. During my ballet days, Chopin was one of my favorite composers for dancing. I understand the “reverting to childhood” bit and am glad you had the opportunity to be transported in that way.

  2. And I STILL think Mr. Wilde looks great in those 1940’s stretch pants!!

    • That he does, although I’m sure I was too young to understand why way back then 🙂

  3. Very good as usual. I am glad you had the chance to enjoy yourself. Happy Holidays to you and yours and may the new year bring you many more happy events.

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