Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Night At Carnigie Hall

On the map it looked like an easy straight shot. We would walk from Penn Station down 8th all the way to our hotel on 56th street. Mapquest informed us that it was 1.2 miles, or 23 blocks. But when we emerged from Penn Station out onto 34th street we discovered that it was raining. I say to Pam, “Maybe we should take a cab”, to which she bravely replied, “No, I’m fine.”

Unlike me, she was prepared, her feet fitted with comfortable walking shoes, and her umbrella at the ready. So, we headed uptown.

Forty-five minutes later we stumbled into the lobby of the Wellington Hotel. We should have taken that cab. But, we made it, and now we could check into our spacious room, relax, and rest a little before going out to explore the city. I knew something wasn’t right when as I opened the door to our room it immediately slammed into the closet door. The door on the left opened to a bathroom roughly the size of the shower stalls on cruise ships. When sitting on the toilet, you couldn’t lean forward without slamming your head on the sink. For the first time in our 28 years of marriage we would be sleeping in a full size bed. The good thing was that I could adjust the thermostat on the air conditioner without getting out of bed. “ This room looked so much bigger on the website”, “I offered in way of explanation.

Then we went out and walked our little slice of Manhattan. Though designed and built for a race of pygmies, our hotel could not possibly have been more convenient. Carnegie Hall was literally across the street. We checked out several diners, cafes, and bars where we might meet Patrick for dinner before the show. We chose PJ Carney’s for the sole reason that a review of it appeared on Yelp that could have been written by Patrick himself. It turned out to be a perfect spot. Fish and chips, chicken fingers and ice water without ice, all for the reasonable price of $52.

When it was time for the show, Pam and I left our Lilliputian hotel and walked across the street to the entrance to the grand hall. Our tickets entitled us to the upper balcony view, which required us to walk up five flights of stairs, Pam in high heels. The friendly usher told us to keep walking up stairs until you couldn’t walk anymore and then we would be there. Sure enough, in section J seats 31 and 33, we settled in, and gazed down at the tiny ant like people filling the stage. I felt like I was in a blimp at the Rose Bowl. Patrick’s choir marched in and we could hear the shuffling of their feet. The acoustics in Carnegie are legendary, but you have to be in Balcony J to really appreciate the miracle.

Pam and I are not opera aficionados. Frankly, our exposure to most of classical music is a direct result of our son’s gifts. Add to that the fact that this entire piece is performed in Latin, and well, this had the potential of being a long night. But, as a parent, you discover that you learn to love the things that your kids love. I did my homework before hand. I Googled this Verdi guy, and researched the work, read reviews, so I was semi-educated on the subject. Listening to Patrick before the show at dinner and seeing the passion and excitement on his face helped prepare me.

There were parts of the piece that bored me, to be honest, mostly the parts where the soloists were singing. But whenever the conductor would coil up like a spring and turn the orchestra and the choir loose, well, it was as powerful and moving a thing as I have ever heard. Following along with the English score, the music crackled with emotion and passion. At times I honestly expected the floor to open up releasing the demons of hell into the hall. Watching that conductor was amazing. What a feeling of delicious power it must be to have all that musical energy and talent at your disposal, waiting for your skilled exploitation. An hour and a half later he held his hands up, then hesitated after the final note. They hung there in silence. The sold out crowd hushed in reference. Ten seconds, twenty seconds, an eternity of soundless appreciation. Finally, his hands dropped to his side and the house erupted. Good stuff.

We met Patrick after the show at the Europa Café for tea and cheese cake. He was spent, but thoroughly satisfied with the performance. We walked with him down to the 53rd street subway entrance, hugged him, then watched him disappear down the steps.

No parent can ask anything more from life than to see their kids doing what they were born to do. I am blessed beyond measure.