This morning Mom and I got up and drove downtown for an open rehearsal of my local symphony. I love downtown, and I love the symphony, and I love Dvorak. (And I love my mom.) I’d never seen professional musicians rehearse, only perform, and I was excited to see the sort of rough version of the polished symphonies I always go to see. Of course I know that massive amounts of work go into performing, but seeing the orchestra work together and handle critiques and tackle problems as a whole was something I was really looking forward to.
It was so cool to see. I’m used to going to the symphony in fancy-dress, with a million other people (who have an average age of eighty-three), and all the musicians are wearing black and white tie and the lights are low, and there’s an air of excitement and togetherness and evening. At rehearsal, all the musicians are in normal day clothes, chatting, drinking coffee on stage, and making funny faces at each other during pieces. You can see (if not hear) when they mess up because of their scowls and their hasty comments to their stand partners. The conductor shouts over the music and you see the object of his critique nodding and setting aside his instrument to mark his part while the rest of the orchestra plays on.
The music was still great—I adore Dvorak (as I’ve said a million times), and it still sounded wonderful to my ears—but something about the fact that it was a rehearsal made it so much better. It felt more intimate, somehow. Maybe it was the fact that I was one of very few people watching. Maybe it was because I got to see their mistakes. Maybe because it all felt so very human, I felt connected with the symphony on a personal level. The clothes, the critiques, the conversation, the coffee, all of these things just drove home the fact that no matter how skilled, how amazing these musicians are, they are people. They make mistakes, they still have to practice, they’re far from perfect, but they come together and they make this mindblowingly spectacular music that just comes alive, that finds your soul and holds it in its hands and says we are all human, we all feel things so deeply, we can all relate to each other in our emotions, in our passions, in our longings, in that which we strive for. We all love and are loved, we all have things we care about, things we miss, things that move us, things we can’t stand—we all feel, and in this music, in this joint effort of everyday, imperfect people, in this expression of the massive, incredible masterpiece of human emotion, I can see that so clearly.
After the rehearsal, I had the opportunity to speak with the maestro, and I asked what he thought the greatest thing about Dvorak is. He looked over the stage as he spoke, like the spirit of Dvorak still lingered in the air where his music had just been played with such fervor. He told me that he thinks the greatest thing about Dvorak is that he never lost his folk influences. Even after coming to America, even with his work being shaped by masters and becoming more and more sophisticated, even in his fame and high circles of society, he never lost the earthiness, the realness of the folk, bohemian songs of his home in Prague. Maestro joked, “You know Czechoslovakians, they go ten miles outside of Prague and they’re homesick!” The incredible thing about Dvorak is the same thing I loved about seeing the symphony rehearse: he preserves in all his music the feeling of humanity, the roughness of real life. The simple, unassuming folk music that pervades and influences his work reminds you of his home, his people, and that the most longed for things in life aren’t the most sophisticated or the most urbane, but the most real, the things that make us feel loved and alive and human.
What I love the most about Dvorak is his ability to relate to you on a deeply, personal, intimate level—and that if you can break from your trance, you realize that his music touches the hearts of everyone who really cares and really listens, and it reminds you that at our core, we are all but men, longing to be loved and to belong. Despite our differences, every person deserves respect and kindness, to be accepted and treated as one would treat oneself, because all people share a bond of humanity, the brotherhood of being a member of mankind; crazy, beautiful, wonderful, individual, but still deeply, deeply familial mankind.
Also, I really loved this sign.