Former Shrewsbury Mayor Don Burden and his wife Mary Leigh are music lovers. Classical music lovers. Both are fond of, and knowledgeable of so many cultures, so much art from so many different cultures and renowned artists, and so much music that has been written over the centuries.
They are also world travelers, and come home with fascinating stories about the places they've seen, the people they met, the things that have happened. But this week, it was right here in New York, between Times Square and Penn Station, that they were caught up in the shock, pain and grief of so many of us in the wake of the Putin....and it isn't really a Russian....invasion of the Ukraine.
Don likened this vivid experience to how he felt and what he will always remember about great memorable moments in history....when we landed on the moon, when Kennedy was Assassinated. when the World Trade Center was attacked. But this evening of culture, which started out with the thrill of anticipation, the joy of hearing a concert., the magnificence of watching and listening to the Vienna Philharmonic, was something so striking Don said he will remember it precisely as he has remembered those great moments in history.
For him, it was a blend of pain and anguish for what the people of the Ukraine are suffering to the awe and surprise of an audience who had started an evening with joy in their hearts and ended it., like the crowds in these street, in sorrow and an evening that will forever be embedded in their hearts.
Here's how Don told it.
For weeks, I had anticipated the concert of the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in a performance conducted by Valery Gergiev. Just hours before the concert, his scheduled appearance was cancelled due to his relationship with Putin. The management of Carnegie Hall elected to cancel fearing there would be an uproar of protests should he appear on stage. Fortunately, Yannick Nezet-Sequin, the conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, stepped in for a rousing performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony # 6, the Pathetique. Prior to Orchestra beginning to play, Yannick addressed the audience to ask that at the end of the performance, he would ask that everyone remain silent for a moment of support for those in Ukraine. Now if you know Tchaikovsky's #6, the third movement ends in a dramatic fashion and many assume it is the end of the work and rush to applause. This time, it didn't happen. Yannick transitioned to the fourth movement without any interruption. At the end of the Fourth movement, the end of the work, Carnegie Hall fell absolutely astonishing deafening in a moment of silence for those in Ukraine. With a sold out audience, respectfully everyone complied. There was not even a clearing of a throat, a cough, or the unraveling of a Ricola cough drop wrapper. It was absolute SILENCE. Then an outburst of applause for the Orchester the likes of which I've never heard, even at The Met. A cycle of six rounds of applause to acknowledge the performance but also a tribute of support for Ukraine. It was a moving few moments that brought goose bumps and I must admit a couple of tears. When I finally got out of Carnegie Hall, I walked down through Times Square to Penn Station to find myself in the midst of sympathetic supporters crowding Times Square in support of the Ukraine cause. Young and old, some in strollers and some in wheelchairs--all united in a protest of Putin and support of Ukraine. Even some NYC police in full uniform waving small Ukrainian flags. A moment, a few moments that I will always remember.