The Orchestra


One day just before the concert started, I heard someone talking. Except for that talking, the concert hall was absolutely silent.  As it turned out, it was the violinist next to me who was talking to himself.  A few heads turned towards him.

Maestro took a few minutes before he gave the command to begin the music. His eyes sent a stern warning; the violinist got the message and stayed silent for the remainder of the concert.

The next day, this violinist did not show up for rehearsal.  No one was sitting in his chair.  This went on for all of the rehearsals during the days that followed, and the incident was soon forgotten.

Much to our surprise, though, just as our next concert was ready to begin, but before Maestro appeared at the podium, the errant violinist appeared, ready to play, wearing, instead of the usual concert formal dress, blue jeans.  He had a strange instrument under his arm, and he glared at everyone in a defiant challenge, then pushed the musician who was replacing him for the concert out of his chair.  The substitute musician left, came back with two policemen who expelled him.  A few minutes later, Maestro arrived at the podium, and the concert started.

It wasn’t over yet.  That violinist appeared at our next concert with a dozen friends, all of whom were dressed as oddly as he was.  They looked like some “tough customers,” not at all like the kind of people even he would have as friends, and seeing them so close intimidated some of the musicians.  No one knew how these tough guys managed to get past the security check.  Even the uniformed security men had difficulty expelling them.

No negotiations ever took place after the conflict, after bare power had replaced talk.  The cause of this violinist’s bizarre behavior was never brought to light; his conversion from acquaintances to friends of so many unlikely thugs also remained a mystery.

Although the orchestra continued to play music with great success, Maestro’s baton stayed focused on that section that had been left with an invisible scar.

That is until the day the concert hall was vandalized and some of the musical instruments were destroyed.  News of the event “spread like wildfire.” All the investigations and security measures did nothing to alleviate the tension experienced by the musicians.  It got so bad that some of them even quit.

Naturally, everyone was curious about how the next concert would fare.  It was well attended, despite the empty chairs in the orchestra.  Maestro worked hard to fill up the gap left by the missing musicians; at the end of the performance, the audience applauded enthusiastically, clearly intending to give encouragement to this bizarre orchestra.

Nevertheless, some musicians remained restless.  They worried about their future in the orchestra.  The orchestra’s board had hired a public relations firm instead raising salaries because it was the cheaper way.  After all, it was an old orchestra, and some members had been members for a long time.

It became harder and harder to keep the orchestra going.  New concerts were scheduled less and less frequently, performances were canceled, and eventually, the orchestra stopped playing altogether. After awhile, few even remembered that the orchestra had ever existed.

Not long after our final concert, I did have a chance to speak with Maestro.  He had retired to a small house near the ocean, living with his son.  He received a few visitors time by time.  I was lucky to be one of them.

The day I visited, a Mozart Sonata was playing from Maestro’s new laptop computer, so I knew his passion for harmony was still there.  His hair might have become thinner, his body might have become less cooperative, but his eyes were brighter than I had remembered them, even during the evenings when the orchestra was making the most glorious music.

He invited me to join him in his study.  After appropriate greetings, my curiosity got the best of me.

“Don’t you miss the orchestra?” I asked.

“I used to be able to control everything,” he answered with a sad smile.  “All of the music coming from our instruments was harmonious.  But after so many years, so many performances, something came in like a cancer, and finally, nothing came out of that concert hall but cacophony.”

“Do you blame us?  Do you blame yourself?” I asked.

“No, no.  It happens to everyone, everything.  Everybody, every organism must die.  There are certain reasons this happens, but mostly, we don’t know.”

“But why should an orchestra die?  Why not hire new musicians? Get new instruments?”

Maestro continued.  “There’s no need.  We’re all part of the Divine Orchestra.  You might say we’re only one organ in a much, much larger organism, larger than any of us can possibly imagine. When one particular orchestra dies, it means nothing.  Our particles become a new orchestra.  That’s it.  The organ-organism relationship starts from forever, goes on forever.  Please think about it.”

With that, Maestro leaned back in his chair, turning away from me, closing his eyes.

I stayed only a few more moments, just long enough to hear the last strains of the Mozart Sonata playing in the background.  When I left, Maestro was still dozing. It was a bright, windy day, and the birds were singing in perfect harmony.