What an amazing and completely unexpected night I had last night here in London. My ticket for the BBC Symphony put me in the balcony but when I picked up my ticket I asked if there were any seats left in the “stalls” or what we would call the orchestra level and indeed there was one seat left in Row Q Seat 43. As I was there early, I went to me seat before anyone else was in the row but soon a young gentleman came to sit on my right side and a young lady on my left side. As the orchestra members were filing in, I noticed that my companion to the right was waving at certain members of the orchestra string section and that they were waving back, so I asked him if he had friends in the orchestra and indeed he had. In fact, I learned quickly that he was himself a concert violinist and well, one thing led to another and he asked my profession and a lively discussion ensued comparing notes on our two disparate fields of endeavor but our mutual interest in each other. The first piece played by the orchestra was the Sibelius #4 and after that was scheduled a performance of a new work, Violin Concerto #2 by Anders Hillborg, a contemporary composer and to be performed by Lisa Batiashvili, a 38 year old Georgian born (the county not the state in the US) violin virtuoso with international recognition. To put it mildly, she was terrific! She played with elegance, fire, passion and a gorgeous sound. She received a fantastic applause after the piece and played a beautiful Bach piece for an encore. Intermission was due after her performance and my seat mate, whose name I now knew was Warren, asked me if I would like to go back stage and meet her!! Wow, me a nobody neurosurgeon from the USA, idly attending a performance at the Barbican and all of a sudden going backstage to meet an international violin virtuoso. Along our brief walk to the backstage area Warren introduced me to two of his colleagues always as: “my new friend Ron!” They were all so warm and friendly, I could not believe my luck so backstage we went and to the dressing room of Ms. Batiashvili who graciously come out to meet us and I was introduced and shook hands with her. She is a lovely, person, warm, friendly and very petite but full of energy and charisma. Well, after that exhilaration, we returned to our seats for the second half of the program, at which point the lady to my left asked me how I liked the concert. I then told her that I had met the soloist and my neighbor proceeded to tell me that she worked with Ms. Batiashvili and was a member of her team located in Munich where both were living even though my seat mate was British. So the three of us talked about Ms. Batiashvili and how fantastic her performance was and she proceeded to confirm what a wonderful person she was as well as a fantastic musical artist. In the space of about 90 minutes, I had met three concert violinist new friends, an internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso and finally a member of her team both from Munich!! What amazing luck and coincidence!!
The final part of the program was a performance of the BBC Symphony of the Sibelius #6 after which I figured I would head back to my Airbnb for the night but Warren suggested that I accompany him and his friends to the local pub for a drink and further discussion which I proceeded to do! Totally out of character for me but they were all so friendly and apparently interested in me, as I was in them, that I thought I should give it a try. The Jugged Hare our local but quite spectacular pub, was crowded but we found a table and for the next hour shared all sorts of amazing stories and coincidences. One gentleman had his father in law recently diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer to the brain and Cyber Knife treatment had been considered but not done and we discussed using the Gamma Knife in such situations. Another gentleman had had his picture taken with Ms. Batiashvili and we were all admiring it and I was wishing that I had been a little more bold and had asked for a photos during our backstage visit but bashful that I am I did not do it. He was a huge fan of hers and as my friends were all professional musicians our conversations went from neurosurgery to classical music, to film scores, composers, performers, etc. etc. until finally Warren and I ended up talking about automobile racing, he with an interest in Formula One and me with my past life as drag racer! Yes, many of you will not know that during my late teens and early 20s before I was married by even afterwards during my Air Force days and my first two years as a resident neurosurgeon in Syracuse, Ne York I was heavily involved in drag racing, much to the chagrin on my dear, departed wife Sheila. The conversation with Warren led me to tell him about one of my mentors at Syracuse, Dr. E. Sydney Watkins who had left Syracuse and returned to his native UK to assume the Chairmanship of Neurosurgery at the Royal Hospital, Whitechapel. London but also was the Director of the Race Medical team for Formula One for many years. Warren, of course, new of Syd Watkins and so we had another area of mutual interest. Our conversations were too wide ranging to detail here but suffice it to say that we covered lots of territory!! Well, what a night, huh?? Today, I received an email from Warren inviting me to join him and his wife over the next few days but as I will be departing London on Saturday morning at 5:30 am and as I will be attending the Royal Shakespeare production of Antony and Cleopatra tonight, it might not be possible to make it work but I am now considered a part of Warren Zielinski and his musical colleagues and friends group.. I invite you to listen to Lisa Batiashvili play Shostakovich Violin Concerto #1-truly amazing, sublime, technically superb and beautiful and available on YouTube. Please listen and you will understand how honored I was to meet her in person and shake hands and talk with her, all thanks to my new English friend Warren and his colleagues. It will be a night to be remembered!!