Friday, November 22, 2013

11/22/13 50 Years

I try to imagine, in my chair for the Boston symphony on a Friday afternoon, without any cell phones, or cable news networks,  or any other attachment to the outside world, if I had driven in and been seated for the 2:00 concert, eastern time, or was a musician with the symphony en route, the complete lack of preparation for such news.

Settling in, expecting a suite from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Le Coq d’Or (The Golden Cockerel), and instead, as Conductor Erich Leinsdorf takes the stage, and says

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a press report over the wireless. We hope that it is unconfirmed, but we have to doubt it. That the president of the United States has been the victim of an assassination. We will play the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony."

Reportedly, the musicians were handed the change in program just minutes before the curtain raised, only then learning the same news.

For fifteen minutes, to let that news wash over and sink in, while the funeral march plays on, seated in the dark or, even more unfathomable, playing through it, unbelieving.

I can't quite get back there. In this age of immediate news and endlessly looping television, radio, and internet coverage, it's very difficult to imagine how shocking the moment must have been, fifty years ago today.


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