Evan Ho: Respite

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With cheerful moments in short supply, Evan Ho finds respite in a middle school concert.

The excitement in the school gym was palpable. There was a din of chatter among parents who hadn’t seen one another for almost two years, and playful laughter among middle school kids smartly‐dressed and assembled in their musical groups – the string orchestra, jazz band, and concert band. Visible were sparkles in everyone’s eyes and you could surely ‘see’ the smiles under their masks. The school’s annual winter concert had returned.

Festively dressed in a long, red blazer was the school principal, who warmly welcomed the audience with a few words. Over the past few weeks, she said, when she needed a lift to her spirits she would wander over to the music room to listen to the students rehearse. Now it was the parents’ turn to have their spirits raised to the rafters in the bright, spacious gym.

Under the versatile leadership of the conductor, the string orchestra musicians swept and whisked their bows across their violins, cellos, and double basses in their set that included an allegro from an opera and a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Next, the jazz band got feet tapping and heads bobbing to a four‐piece set featuring Nutcracker Swing and the crowd‐pleasing Brazil, with solo efforts by sax, piano, and trumpet players, each of whom were showered with exuberant applause after their individual efforts.

The jazz band was then fortified by more wind, brass and percussion for the concert band segment that filled the space with such a richly‐satisfying harmony that the discordant world outside the doors of the gym ceased to exist.

When the band concluded their final flourish the audience sprang to their feet and clapped with unbridled enthusiasm, even catharsis. Proud parents hugged their talented kids and the sweet sounds of friendly chatter and hearty laughter again suffused the gym.

There hasn’t been a lot to cheer about since the pandemic began, but for 90 minutes at that suburban middle school there was plenty of cheer. The maxim of ‘cherish the moment’ could not have been more appropriate last night. What will next month bring? Next year? Who knows, but in these times of uncertainty, I am certain that when given a happy moment like this, I am going to cherish it.

With a Perspective, this is Evan Ho.

Evan Ho works in the business school at UC Berkeley. He lives in Orinda.

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