Happy Birthday, Joshua Bell!

Today, Thursday, December 9, 2010: Joshua Bell is 43 today! I hope he found an enjoyable way to mark the occasion.

I have his Voice of the Violin CD, and his version of The Four Seasons so far. The Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields joins him on that one. You can’t go wrong with either artist.

I have never seen Joshua Bell in concert–something I would still love to do. Strathmore and the Kennedy Center are so close, and yet so far away, even though I’ve been to both places many times over the years. The tickets sell out so quickly! Classical WETA rebroadcasts his concerts sometimes, and I do keep up with PBS’s Great Performances, just in case he is on. Fritz Kriesler is his favorite composer, so I’ll have to research Kriesler more. Bell recorded Kriesler’s material in 1996.

I recently read parts of Gene Weingarten’s book, The Fiddler on the Subway. Wisely, this essay written for The Washington Post Magazine in April 2007 was last in the book. In it, Joshua Bell pretended to be a street violinist at L’Enfant Plaza Metro. The question was whether anyone would recognize him or his playing. (I don’t think anyone did.) Bell doesn’t like to be remembered only for that, but it must have been a fun thing to do. If I had been there, it would have been fun to listen for a while, and maybe to ask for his autograph if I had seen his face, which was obscured by a baseball cap.

After rereading this essay, I was reminded of all the street musicians I’ve met or enjoyed over the years. There was the flute player at Farragut West every morning when I first started working. I tried to give him something as often as I could. He was always cheerful and never failed to say, “Good morning.” The Andean music ensemble was also very good. I bought one of their tapes once. At Metro Center, a man with an eye patch played a really cool, bouncy, bluesy harmonica (along with singing) every evening. Every once in a while, the guy who liked to play keyboards at the main Metro Center entrance would say hi. Every Christmas he would wear a Santa hat. Sadly, I read where he passed away of pneumonia a few years ago, but I can still see his face. And there were more than a few great guitar players at various places.

Speaking of street music, I thought the Korean woman who sold purses and jewelry had a beautiful voice as she sang folk songs. The Ethiopian food cart vendor would tell me about music from her country. And every Tuesday at noon at the Church of the Epiphany, there were lunchtime concerts–classical, jazz, bluegrass, a cappella gospel, and more. And there were the bells chiming the hour, half hour, and quarter hours. I remember the late rector, Edgar D. Romig, saying in one of his concert intros: “Great music comes in many forms.”

I hope the church still has these free events. I’d love to go back sometime. There’s no need to be in the area now. The church is situated between two large buildings. In the spring and summer I kept an eye out for the roses in their garden. It is a nice little island within Washington, D.C. My only unhappy memory was trying to get there for a Washington Bach Consort performance, and the ramps were blocked. I should have fought harder for people to move their cars, but it doesn’t matter now.

Anyway, here is video from The Washington Post–Joshua Bell’s subway day from April 10, 2007:

And because it’s getting to be Christmas, here’s Joshua playing Ave Maria, backed by the St. Luke’s Orchestra. It’s from December 31, 2007. Enjoy!



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