I enjoy street performers (or “buskers”) when I travel because they provide a little lagniappe to my visit; a little dollop of smile to my day. The unexpected pleasure of it thrills me, even when I’m perhaps already having a pretty good time in London, Christchurch, Istanbul or even Micanopy, Florida.
That’s why it was such fun to read “Pearls Before Breakfast,” about virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell performing anonymously on his Stradivarius for commuters one busy morning in the L’Enfant Plaza metro station in Washington, DC (free registration may be required to read the piece, which also has an audio and video clip. There’s also a discussion with the article’s author here.)
Hat tip to DJ Jeffrey Blair on public radio station KMFA, Classically Austin 89.5, for talking about the story this morning while I was on the laptop and could immediately go find the link.
The upshot of the story is that nobody really recognized the young guy playing the fabulous music, the “art without a frame” in the words of the article’s author Gene Weingarten, but some passersby did stop and listen and Bell at least made $32.17. Some took the time to appreciate artistry and beauty. Of all the demographics that morning, it was the children who stopped, every time, tried to listen and were shooed along by their harried parents.
I hope I’ve taught my kids to pause and to listen and to enjoy the world around them. I hope I’ve also taught them busker etiquette….that you pay a little something if you stand there and listen or watch their performance, that you clap when the music/act is finished, that you smile and interact with the performer and that’s perfectly OK, even though they are strangers.
Because they aren’t really strangers, those folks I’ve watched in London’s Covent Garden or Key West’s Mallory Square or some nook on the MBTA subway in Boston. If they’re halfway talented, they’re bringing delight and beauty into my travels, and I thank them for that.