There’s no Such thing as Coincidence…

In February of 2001, I brought my friend Stephens to Symphony Hall for one of my regular Thursday, A-Series subscription concerts. That night, the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the U.S. premiere of “La Pasion Segun San Marcos” by the brilliant Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov.

Usually, Symphony Hall looks like this:

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That night, it looked like this:

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There was a berimbau—the Brazilian stringed instrument made from a gourd—tons of Latin percussion, and the text was mostly Spanish, with strong Afro-Caribbean and South American influences, although it ends with the Mourner’s Kaddish (Golijov is Jewish). It was hypnotic and compelling and staggeringly beautiful, and unlike a lot of modern orchestral music, immediately likable. It was one of the most memorable musical performances of my life, and I’ve been spoiled in that regard. There was a wild standing ovation, and Stephens and I were two of the first people out of our seats.

I was so impressed that not long after, I contacted Golijov and arranged to interview him. I went to his apartment, where he greeted me looking pretty much like he does in this picture, groovy glasses and all:

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I sat with him for an hour or so, and I left feeling like I’d been in the presence of a prodigious talent. Maybe a year later, I was walking with my friend Bunny, who lives near Golijov, and we happened to bump into him. I reintroduced myself and then tried to introduce Bunny, who’s extremely knowledgeable about music and knew exactly who he was. She was so excited to meet him that she gushed to the point of having to apologize.

Over the last ten years, my path has crossed with his a few more times—most recently this Fall, when he was at a gala concert featuring Yo-Yo Ma.

Fast-forward to tonight. Sam was out of town on business, and I invited Stephens to join me for Symphony. I hadn’t brought Stephens to a concert for at least five or six years, and I had no idea what was on the program (although I’d meant to look all week). We walked into the hall, and as we made our way down the aisle, I spotted Golijov talking to someone. As I passed, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Osvaldo, I don’t want to interrupt, but I wanted to say hi,” and he smiled warmly and returned the greeting. It was only when I got to my seat and opened the program that I realized we were going to hear “La Pasion segun San Marcos” again. And even more amazing: that I was with Stephens again.

The music was as mesmerizing as I remembered, although I’d forgotten a lot, like the capoeira dancer and the guy dressed as Jesus. Again, everyone leapt to their feet when it was over. And this time, I thought, “I kinda know the guy, and they’re probably going to be playing his music 250 years from now.”

Stephens and I were starving, so we left while the applause was still going strong and went to Stella, a favorite restaurant in the South End. Stephens and I were still raving about the concert when I excused myself to use the men’s room, and as I was relieving myself, I looked up to see this print on the wall:

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The Basilica San Marco in Venice.

Like Golijov, I’m Jewish. But now I know which saint I’ll be praying to if the occasion ever arises.