Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The show must go on

I've been to about 3.5 million concerts in my life and this has never happened to me before.

My friend and I were at Carnegie Hall tonight, watching the Grieg Piano Concerto with Andre Watts and the Bergen Philharmonic from Norway.  Halfway through the third movement, a loud crash erupted from about 10 rows in front of us.  When I heard it, I thought somebody dropped a pile of books on the floor.  It was so loud that everybody in our vicinity turned their heads and looked; musicians on stage craned their necks to see what happened.

An old man was left slumped in his chair.  His companion quickly leaned over to him and tried to revive him while everyone watched.  We were terror-stricken -- given what I saw, I was pretty sure he either just had a heart attack or stroke right in the middle of Isaac Stern Auditorium and might have been dead.

Thirty seconds later, a man from another row got up and briskly walked outside, summoning some ushers.  Within minutes, several Carnegie Hall personnel were at his seat, checking him out.  For the first time, I remembered that Andre Watts and the orchestra never stopped playing.  I wondered who was even listening.

To make a short story shorter, the man was indeed alive and twitching.  His companion and one of the Carnegie personnel carefully escorted him out as the music played on.  When the ordeal had passed, I noticed that outside of the loud crash, the commotion barely caused a sound.  I couldn't believe how polite we all were, even the people at the center of attention.

When the dust settled, the piece was 10 minutes from il fine, but I don't remember anything about the second half of the movement.  I'm not sure if I was fully conscious.  All I could think about was, why didn't I get up and help?  It reminded me of that horrible news story a few months ago when a bystander filmed thugs beating up a 91-year-old man while onlookers did nothing.  Why did I sit there like a deer in headlights?  Why did we all watch?  Why did only one person get up to help?  The one man who did got up in 30 seconds, which sounds like no time at all, but if you imagine a loud crash and count to 30, you'll see that it's an eternity.  Maybe on some level, we all wanted the show to go on.

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