The Richness of America

As I have not traveled outside of the area since the last Cayman Islands Monetary Authority’s board meeting November 5, my usual excuse for these notes, I would like to share with you a recent twenty minute car trip into town.

November 18

The orchestra for this evening’s concert rose as its young director Gustavo Dudamel walked to the podium. Then, still standing, they broke into The Star Spangled Banner. For a moment this cause some confusion among the Kennedy Center audience, as concerts, plays, movies and other public events in our country do not generally begin with the National Anthem as in many other countries. But we quickly rose to our feet and some even sang along with the orchestra. They played our National Anthem more beautifully than I had ever heard it before and tears actually formed in my eyes. As the music played I quietly reviewed some of America’s many strengths and virtues. I was proud of America again. It had been a while.

Before we could take our seats at the end of the Anthem, the orchestra took up the Hatikvah (the Hope). The haunting, melancholy strains of the Israeli National Anthem kept us standing for a few minutes more. We took our seats and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra began Felix Mendelssonh’s Symphony No. 4, his “Italian” symphony. The young German composer traveled to Italy at the ago of 21 and wrote: “Italy at last. And what I have all my life considered as the greatest possible felicity is now begun, I am basking in it.” He began his Italian symphony during his nine month visit to Italy and premiered it three years later in London at the age of 24. And I was enjoying his symphony and even more Brahm’s (also German) much richer Symphony No 4 that followed it here in Washington DC performed by Israel’s premier orchestra.

The mix of nationalities reminded me of my first full Opera many years ago. Jean and Tom Dusenbery took me to the Berlin Concert Hall to watch Puccini’s Madam Butterfly. These beautify arias about an American in Japan where sung in Italian. I was watching it in West Berlin (my older friends will remember that there was a West Berlin for 28 years as well as a West Germany for about 45 years). For all its problems the world is a better place for most people.

December 24

Last months concert is one of the many experiences of rich cultural diversity that make life here so rich and exciting. It has been a trying and difficult year in many ways, but we do have so much to be thankful for as well and 2009 will be a new and I think exciting year. I wish you the very best for the coming year.