Category Archives: Celebrity

Star Power

It’s not often that one gets to share a space with a living legend, but on Thursday night last week I was in a room full of them. 

  
The Berlin Philharmonic is one of the greatest symphonic orchestras of the world, and is most certainly the most well-known. Their history is interwoven with pride and disappointments, but there is no doubt that they have managed to make themselves the golden standard by which nearly every orchestra measures themselves. 

I had heard the Berlin Phil once before at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. How cool would it be, I had thought, if one day I could see them on their home turf? 

   

One of the first things I planned to do when I knew I was coming to Berlin was to go see a performance. However, tickets tend to go fast, especially when you have well-known conductors thrown into the mix. 

Gustavo Dudamel, another living legend (and quite a young one, for that matter), was going to conduct this amazing ensemble in a performance of W.A. Mozart’s Serenade for Posthorn and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Dudamel is especially known for his remarkable interpretations of works by Mahler, so I’m pretty sure that everyone in town who cares about classical music (which is actually quite a lot of people here) knew and planned to attend. 

The performance was completely sold out, but I was able to purchase a standing room only ticket for €10 by waiting in line for about an hour and half just before the concert. There were plenty of others with me, too, hoping that they would have a spot for the concert. 

  
Never in the States have I ever heard of people scrambling to get a ticket to attend a classical concert. Do we even have standing room only options available? Of the entire Philharmonie Großer Saal, which holds 2,440 people, I saw 4 empty seats. Even those were filled in the second half by those who had originally been standing. I am pretty sure that the major orchestras in the area where I live – the National Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony – would love to have that kind of ticket available if the demand was high enough.  

Anyways, there I was at the very back of the hall, standing. The first musicians began to appear and the audience began to clap. They just showed up and they were being praised! This city truly loves their orchestra. 

I also was able to make out that the first flute player was Emmanuel Pahud, a brilliant performer and one of my musical role models. I totally fan-girled. I think the other people around me must have been wondering if there was something wrong with me. His playing was so beautiful, so effortless… There is definitely a reason why he is the principal flute of this renowned ensemble. 

Then Dudamel appeared. For a few seconds, I wondered if I was in a rock concert instead. This young conductor has nearly single handedly changed the perception of what classical music can be and every one loves him for it. 

First, the Mozart. It was instantly recognizable as a work of Wolfgang from it’s style and almost happy-go-lucky sound. Dudamel seemed to be barely doing anything, so as not to distract for the glorious work the orchestra was producing. The players seemed to me to work as one giant instrument – even from where I was standing, I could see that everyone moved together and even breathed together. The Posthorn soloist appeared only for one movement of the work, and did a great job at showcasing this unusual, and I am sure rather difficult, instrument. Overall, the entire work sounded like velvet to my ears. Smooth,comfortable, approachable. At the end, a great applause erupted – and it was only intermission!

The Mahler was absolutely glorious. Once again, Dudamel seemed to be doing as little as possible (which was a surprise, I expected him to be a bit more showy…) but was pulling amazing sound and emotion from the orchestra. It had been a long time since I had felt so moved and elevated by a live performance, but there was no way that anyone could not have felt something. Each movement was more wonderful than the last and the different sections all had a chance to be showcased throughout the work. 

Pahud sounded amazing (How I would love to play like him…) and his teamwork with the principal oboe player to make what we call the “floboe” sound was true perfection. Honestly, the whole orchestra was the sound of perfection. 

When the last sounds of Mahler faded away, the packed hall burst into cheers, whistles, applause, and shouts of “Bravo!” This lasted for at least 7-8 minutes. Dudamel had to appear three times (the last with the orchestra already off the stage) before people would subside and start making their way out of the hall. 
  
When a long-held dream of yours finally comes true, things can seem a little surreal. But it was true – I had seen the Berlin Philharmonic at their resident performance hall, with their principal flutist in the ensemble, performing amazing works, and being conducted by one of the greatest conductors of our time. Living legends with a ridiculous amount of star power – and I was there. 

I can actually say I was there…

What an amazing night!

Do you have a have an experience of encountering a living legend or another influential figure? I’d love to hear about it. 

Until next time – happy travels.

-Wandering Minstrelette

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Thankfulness

When I wrote my piece about Robin Williams back in August, I had no idea what kind of impact it would have.

It has become the most read and most commented on post of my blog. My mother, being her proud motherly self, decided to print out the post and share it with someone at my church. This gentleman happened to work for Adventist World, a major Seventh-day Adventist Church magazine. He asked if he could publish my writing and I, flabbergasted, said, “Of course!”

The October issue featured my article in the North American Division perspective. It was all very exciting, but that wasn’t the end of it.

People at church approached me to thank me for speaking up about the stigma held against those who have committed suicide and their families. The article was shared on Facebook. I got phone calls to my house! And the comments some of you have left on the post itself have left me breathless.

I am overwhelmed by how God has used my writing, originally (essentially) a rant on the need for us, as God’s people, to change our perspective on those who are hurting, to touch the lives of people across the United States and possibly even beyond. Hearing the stories of those who have contacted me has been emotional but also uplifting. I am humbled, honored, and blessed.

Above all, I am thankful to have been used by God as an instrument of peace, encouragement, and hope to those who came across my writing. May God choose to use me again to bring you blessings.

To those who contacted me, you are in my prayers. For those who have read, but haven’t written, I would love to hear your story. And if you have a story of when God has used you or you’ve learned a lesson in thankfulness, I’d love to hear that, too.

It is the season, after all, to remind ourselves what it means to be filled with thankfulness.

-Wandering Minstrelette

I am Pagliacci

Robin Williams

“Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, ‘Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says, ‘But doctor… I am Pagliacci.’ ”

My mind is still swirling with disconnected and confused thoughts. The loss of Robin Williams has had an unexpectedly heavy impact on me. How can you miss someone you never met? Its hard describe the feeling of loss of someone that since my childhood just always seemed to be there, ready to share a smile and lift the spirits of any feeling down. What could have caused someone who was always wanting to make others happy so terribly, terribly sad?

I think one of the things that has been hurting me the most since Williams’ death on Monday is the struggle to understand the spiritual implications of his actions. Most of my life I had been lead to believe that suicide was an unpardonable sin; that taking your own life meant you were no longer granted admission into heaven. Yet, as I’ve grown older and have encountered individuals who have struggled with suicidal thoughts, I began to question this understanding. Suicide can happen for a host of reasons and not everyone who commits suicide is the same or has the same sort of events leading up to the action. I was confused, unsure how to balance what many seemed to believe and what I didn’t feel was quite right. Its not necessarily a topic that the church speaks about freely or often, normally because no one seems to know what to say. I didn’t know where to look or who to ask.

After the news on Monday, the issue of suicide was brought to the forefront of my mind and of hundreds of thousands of others. After the initial shock, I decided it was time to make a position on this and I am so thankful for a friend who posted this status on Facebook:

“Robin Williams’ death has started a much needed conversation. I beseech you brothers and sisters, let us stop believing and spreading the belief that suicide is the unpardonable sin, it is not. The Adventist church does not believe or teach (individuals do not speak for the church) that the one who commits suicide is lost for eternity. God does not judge a person on one act of desperation. It is not up to us to weigh people, decide their worth, or judge what God will decide. Let us not assume the things of God we simply do not know. Samson’s death shows us that God cannot be put in a box, so let’s stop trying to put Him in one. God understands our frailty, He knows our human frame, and is loving in our times of desperate need. There are many children of God in the Bible who struggled with depression, loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness. God did not cast them away, it is not His character to do so. If we feel sadness and compassion for someone who felt so desperate as to take their own life, how much more must God, who sacrificed His own life for their life, feel towards them.”

God loves His children and wills that none should be lost. It is not my place to judge the eternal implications of someone’s choice to commit suicide. It IS my place to show love to those who are hurting, hopefully to prevent such desperate actions or to comfort those who have lost a loved one. Let us LOVE one another, as Christ loves us, for this is one of our greatest duties on earth.

I mention that I have met individuals who have had suicidal thoughts. Some have been close to me, others mere acquaintances. They have been people struggling for years or people that by all accounts are happy-go-lucky and free. I have not experienced losing someone in such a manner, but I know people who have. I myself have never had such thoughts, although I’m sure there were moments when they could have been entertained. The point I’m trying to make is that this is something that can happen to anyone, it is a condition that does not discriminate. Although not the only cause that leads to suicide, a condition that commonly precedes suicidal thoughts and actions is depression.

Depression, my friends, is no joke. It’s not fake, it’s not simple. You can’t just “get over it.” You can’t just “move on.” It’s something that has to dealt with carefully and over time with the help of a professional psychologist, close friends and family, and sometimes medication.  There are thousands of people today that suffer and struggle from clinical depression, and most of them are probably not getting the help they need.  Part of this might have to do with the fact that most people struggling with depression tend to isolate themselves, not wanting to be a burden to others. This shuts them off from the very sources of care and love that would be able to help them through these extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous times.

If someone expresses thoughts of depression or suicide to you – LISTEN. Be present, show you care. Your persistent choice of showing them love might make all the difference.

If you are depressed – TELL SOMEONE. You are not a burden, you’re a treasure. You are worth cherishing, worth loving. Maybe no one does understand what you’re going through, but they understand that you are special and loved and deserve not only to live, but to live abundantly. Please, seek the help you need.

To continue the Facebook status from my friend:

“If you are feeling desperation, sadness, loneliness, or have thoughts of hurting yourself know that God is with you in the mire. You are not alone and there is help. There are people who understand, will listen, and who can help.”

We are here to help each other. If you or know someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  Your call is free and confidential, and will be answered be a trained counselor at a local crisis center.

Robin Williams was truly a man loved by the world. He touched the lives of thousands through his own, unique spark and now the world is a little duller because he’s gone. Zelda Williams, Robin’s daughter, wrote a heartbreaking letter after her father’s passing with a small note of thanks to his fans saying, “While I’ll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, theres minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn’t help the pain, but at least its a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load.”

To Zelda and the rest of Williams’ close family and friends, our thoughts and prayers go out to you. May the Lord wrap His arms of comfort around you and grant you peace.

-Wandering Minstrelette