In reflecting on the magnificent performance rendered by David Jalbert last Friday evening, there is so much that could be described with superlatives, but my mind keeps returning to one brief moment—the encore.
I expect this will go down as one that lives on in my memory. I have experienced several encores that were memorable for different reasons.
At a performance by the Roger Wagner Chorale in Saskatoon in the early 1970’s, the audience was rewarded for its appreciative applause with an encore. More applause and another encore. And another. And another, each one catchier than the last until after the seventh, Wagner turned around and asked the audience, “Don’t you people have homes to go to?
In the spring of 2014, I had the rare opportunity to hear an encore at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Encores had been banned at the Met since the 1920s. Luciano Pavarotti was the first to encore an aria from Tosca in 1994. Juan-Diego Florez gave encores twice, in 2008 and 2012. Two years later I attended a performance of La Cenerentola in which an ailing Florez was replaced by the Mexican tenor Javier Camarena. He became the third performer to receive an encore in the modern era at the Met.
It was an experience quite unlike anything I have had at a concert. Everyone knew it was coming because it had happened in the performance given earlier that week. The buzz in the building was palpable. The decision to permit it came from the General Manager of the Met, and the actual moment was highly choreographed under the supervision of the conductor and the staff. But it was effective. I found tears trickling down my cheeks at the end of it.
Another encore was most definitely not choreographed. The wonderful Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud had just played a Mozart concerto with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He took his bows, left the stage, came back for another bow, and left the stage again. He was on the verge of coming back a third time and had taken one step past the curtain when he realized the applause was dying down. He quickly backed out of view, but by then he had been seen and the audience politely resumed its applause. He reappeared and performed a solo composition of his own. I am glad that he did. The moment was awkward, but I discovered a wonderful new recording of his music and made a determined effort to hear him again when he came back to town.
There is controversy about encores. Are they a generous act of reciprocity from a performer thanking an appreciative audience? Have they become just another expected formality at the close of a concert? Is there a phoniness to the choreographed encore at the Met? Are they a sign of low-brow culture, one reason for their banning at the Met and their popularity at rock concerts?
David Jalbert’s encore was memorable for me for an entirely different reason. After an evening of incredible musical artistry, after the dramatic and utterly virtuosic finale to the Prokofiev sonata, after the enthusiastic applause from a delighted audience, he sat, and a hush came over the room. A single note introduced the meditative Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations. It brought us back to the music of Bach which had opened the concert. It brought us back to ourselves after having been transported with amazement. It wasn’t a random add-on. It belonged. It was perfect.
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A sincere thank you to the Van Noort Bulb Co. for their generous donation of the lovely tulips that were distributed at the Reception for Volunteers, Sponsors, and Members.
John Wiebe - President
The Valley Concert Society