In The Shawshank Redemption, the unjustly imprisoned Andy Dufresne locks himself in an office and broadcasts the aria “Duettino Sull’aria” from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro throughout the prison. Prisoners milling around in the yard stop, dumbstruck, and look up in awe as though they can feel all the beauty in the world wrought in the soprano’s voice.
The scene came to mind midday Monday as office workers, tourists, runners, construction workers, and a bearded monk in a rope-tied cassock crossed Main Plaza and heard a live concert of works by Johann Sebastian Bach. As part of a program called Bach in the Subways, public concerts are being performed here and in 150 cities in 40 countries March 18-21 in celebration of the famous composer’s birthday, March 21, 1685.
New York cellist Dale Henderson began performing Bach in subways in 2011 as a way to sow seeds to grow future generations of classical music lovers. From his solo concerts, the Bach in the Subways movement was born.
Since San Antonio doesn’t have a subway, Main Plaza next to San Fernando Cathedral seemed like a good alternative, said violinist Erin Rushforth, who organized the first local celebration last year.
About a dozen musicians – including members of the San Antonio Symphony, violin teachers, students, a cellist, a violist, and a trumpet player – performed for two hours. They played beside garbage and recycling bins, competing with sounds not heard in concert halls – squawking grackles, babbling fountains, and the unfortunately timed unloading of equipment on Market Street for the forthcoming taping of American Ninja Warrior. But the beauty and precision of the musicians, who played almost flawlessly despite performing together for the first time, transcended the noise, breeze-blown sheet music, and a dive-bombing bee.
The youngest of the performers was Adrianna Bec, who is 10 and has been playing violin since she was 4.
Is it scary playing with such tall people?
“No, it’s fun!” she said after returning from shedding a layer of clothing as the afternoon grew hot. Back with the group, she counted the beat by tapping her foot as she played, and occasionally smiled up at her instructor, former associate San Antonio Symphony concertmaster Matthew Zerweck, who played next to her.
An even younger music aficionado – not even one year old – waved his arm in time to the music and smiled with delight in the arms of his mother, Nicole Malone. His father, Jon Cliatt, said little Wren has loved music all of his short life.
“When we found out about this concert, we knew he’d love it, so we brought him,” Malone said. The family lives near the Pearl.
Other performers included, SA Symphony violinists Eric Siu, Bassam Nashawati, and Beth Johnson; Symphony violist Amy Pikler, who played the recorder in the Brandenburg Concerto #2; Johnson’s student Florian Love; trumpet player Danny Miller; high school senior and violinist Abigail Dickson; violinist Michael Badillo; cellist Joel Cook; and Symphony violinist Aimee Toomes Lopez, who organized the event.