I want to tell you a story.
Last weekend I fulfilled a long-standing ambition, and went to see my favourite violinist play. There are other brilliant violinists out there, but for me no-one brings the same level of joy and exuberance to the music as Maxim Vengerov. And I think we all need joy and exuberance in our lives.
So, the time is Sunday evening, the place is Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK, four rows back from the stage, aisle seat. I had a VERY good view.
I watched him walking on, and engaging with the crowd. I watched him conducting (in between the bits where he played). His movement is amazingly graceful, although I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on his shoulder blades. Professionally speaking, of course.
But when he really gets into some of the meaty emotional bits – the classical equivalent of that last big chorus with full band and extra backing singers – he moves around a lot. He nods his head, he sways, he leans backwards a long way, he turns to the other side of the auditorium.
The crowd love it. There’s nothing like it to create an atmosphere of drama and draw the audience in. But Vengerov is playing some of the fastest, highest, most technically difficult music ever written for the violin. Which set me wondering – how can he move around like that, and still play this stuff?
So I watched. Carefully.
And what I saw is that no matter how much the rest of his body moved, his shoulders, arms and hands made a calm centre. And that’s where playing the violin happened. Don’t get me wrong, his arms, hands and fingers were moving extremely quickly. But there was not a shred of unnecessary effort going into them. Every movement was smooth, precise and efficient. Bizarrely, it created a sense of stillness. I can’t work out how that happened, I’m just the storyteller. But I do know that however much he rocked and swayed and nodded, nothing disturbed the poise and equilibrium of those arms and hands.
And the music was awesome.