I am a culture addict, so neither opened bars nor restaurants; certainly not shopping malls and sports centers gave me the feeling that we are going back to life, but the open cultural institutions. I missed listening to live music, seeing an orchestra on a stage, actors in theaters and movies screened in a real cinema. I missed it all like the oxygen or, to quote the words of the song of ‘Everything but the Girl’: Like the Desert Misses the Rain.
So when on the 4th of March, following the opening of an art exhibition, I went to my first live concert in over a year, I suddenly came back to life. I was excited like a puppy dog seeing for the very first snow (at least my dog was). Obviously, it was not a ‘normal’ concert experience. As I wrote in my blog on the 1st of July, we keep experiencing ‘surnormality.’ Everyone had to show, besides a ticket, an ID and the vaccination certificate; during the entire concert we were sitting in masks and after it, we were let out from the hall of Merkaz Einav LeTarbut in groups, like pupils in the first grade of an elementary school.
All of that, personally it gave me some level of safety (not discrimination as some in Israel claim). It also didn’t take away the joy of listening to the concert of the Israeli band ‘Girafot’ and singing along their songs, even if under the mask. I said to my friend sitting next to me: I am alive!
Three days later, as the culture addict, I finally went to The Israeli Philharmonic. To remember this moment, I made a note: “In less than two hours I will listen to the first live concert of The Israel Philharmonic! I waited for it for over the year, since the 29th of February, 2020 – when for the last time I heard a live concert [vide: my blog from 18th of March, 2020: Art & culture ‘corona free’].” I wrote this and I went to the concert – excited beyond any words!
The concert hall was half empty, but as a glass can be half empty or half full, in fact, it was actually half full. Over this year I spoke to some musicians (in private conversations, and also in my interviews) and actors, that they were afraid that the audience will not come back, getting to learn they can enjoy culture also online. Each time I was saying: no, we – the audience – will come back; hungry of culture in its pure unrepeatable form. Because even though theater plays are repeated many times, concerts have the same programs for few evenings, what makes it special, what gives the chills and thrills, is that each time the performance is slightly different and unique.
So there I was. I sat down at the IPO auditorium. In the first piece (Ives: The Unanswered Question), I was still overwhelmed by the fact of being at the Philharmonic. I could not believe that I am back there and that it took me a moment to engage in the music. But slowly and smoothly I entered the meditative character of Ives ’music. I closed my eyes for a moment; I was listening to the concert feeling vibrations of the sound. Something that cannot be experienced online.
As well listening to Halil by Bernstein, with six percussionists in the orchestra, at home would completely different feeling. With the music of Bernstein, in my perception, it is always a form of dance. In the case of Halil — very dramatic, but still a dance. So from the meditation of Ives, through the dance of Bernstein, the orchestra took me to the world of Brahms. His Symphony no. 1 was to me like poetry. Three fantastic pieces, evoking so many emotions.
Due to the coronavirus regulations, the concert was without any intermission. Some of the musicians were playing in masks, what I can imagine is not easy, but the dedication of artists is bigger than obstacles. Kudos to IPO and its Music Director Lahav Shani for surviving this difficult year and coming back in such a beautiful style.
I was walking home that night thinking how lucky I am to need music in my life, how rich I am to desire different shades of art, and how grateful I am to my dear Mum, Tamara Monko — Ejgenberg, for exposing me to culture from the moment I could walk. She took me to the opera (for the first act of Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky) and to the cinema (a morning screening for children) both when I was only three years old; she was taking me to The Warsaw Philharmonic for series of concerts for children (sort of what Bernstein used to do in the US) and each year for The Warsaw Autumn – the largest international festival of contemporary music in Poland, and for many years also in Central Europe. We went to the Hermitage Museum when traveling from Poland was almost as impossible as from Israel during this year… The Philharmonic, the Opera, theaters, museums were always the natural extensions of my home. It helps me to be, in my adult life.
Last night, I was walking on Dizengoff Street, one of the main party Tel Aviv paths, looking at bars packed with people, like this past year has never happened.
I was both happy seeing them, and concerned that they are not vaccinated (many among young people in Tel Aviv are against vaccinations) and don’t keep any distance. But putting aside my anxieties, let’s assume there are enough immunized people in the Israeli society and those gatherings will not have a negative impact on our lives; let’s also assume that the big opening in Israel is not just a part of the political campaign, and will not be over the day after the elections…, it was really nice to see again Tel Aviv, as it used to be. The city of happy people.
We all went through the war last year, and unfortunately, this is not over yet. Coronavirus with its various mutations is still fighting with us. We won a battle, but not the war. By acting responsibly and having the spiritual reinforcement, we should win the war, at some point. After long months of isolation, for some people eating out or having drinks with friends gives that strength to fight for life. In my case, as a cultural addict, concerts made me feel alive. I am charging my batteries for the next battles.