And Now, 40 Minutes of Joy

I’m in England at the moment, because it’s probably the cheapest place to buy a round-the-world ticket. (Bangkok was a close rival, last I checked.) While I’m here, I’m doing a bit of paid work but mostly just a lot of driving between various spots I’ve wanted to see for a while. Pics here if I get a minute.

But much more urgently, because time is already running out for you to hear this wonderful thing: two nights ago, I’m driving back to my hotel, and Radio Three starts playing a live broadcast from Albert Hall of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain doing Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3.

The piece was begun in the waning days of World War II, in the wake of some of the darkest hours of the 20th century — and its final version was completed shortly after the Allied victory, with a premiere in 1946.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear frequent echoes of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man — but in the fourth movement, after struggle and sturm und drang and darkness, the Fanfare itself emerges, finally, clear and triumphant. It’s glorious in any rendition.

But something about this particular performance stirred me to tears. Suddenly I’m still driving, but I’m also crying quite hard with joy. Maybe I’m just exhausted from travel (already?), but these kids — these teenagers — somehow seemed to get the whole emotional arc of the piece, most of all Copland’s concluding musical statement of hope for humanity.

Anyhow, it hit me just right, and if there’s any chance some of you guys might feel that, too, I hope you will.

I had to pull the car over, if you must know. And I wasn’t the only one so moved — if you stick around for the end (around the 45 minute mark), the ovation continues for six full minutes — and it’s still going when the BBC finally breaks away.

The BBC will only keep the .ram file of the recording online until Saturday. So between now and then, if you have 45 minutes or so to spare, and you’re curious, get your computer to some quality speakers or at least a decent set of earbuds and listen up.

(btw, there’s about 5 minutes of chit-chat at the start, as the previous program ends and the Albert Hall broadcast ramps up. That’s worth a listen, too, if only to set the mood. So: ears at the ready, start the file, close your eyes, hop into my rented Vauxhall Blindspot as we drive the M26 through a drizzle at dusk… and enjoy.)