I have just met one of my heroes. It wasn’t a famous movie star, a writer or a musician but was an experience I will never forget.
A few weeks ago my mother and I were lucky enough to spend 5 days in New York. She was in charge of accommodation and travel and I was in charge of sightseeing.
I had my list of things to do and on top of the list was the Metropolitan Museum. We arrived at the hotel, dropped our bags and marched straight to the Museum.
This Museum is a colossal building full of people eager to see, experience and be awed. Its mission statement reads The Metropolitan Museum of Art collects, studies, conserves, and presents significant works of art across all times and cultures in order to connect people to creativity, knowledge, and ideas. You could literally spend days and days in it and not see everything.
Once there though, I was a woman on a mission. I wasn’t interested in the beautiful art works or the incredible priceless artefacts or seeing significant works from other cultures. Instead I headed straight to the musical instrument section.
This day the instruments did not seem the most sort after exhibition. People wandered through laughing at the huge saxophones, amazing at the Stradivarius violins and the incredibly ornate harpsichords.
As I wandered through, my sense of excitement grew. I hastily read the information about the differences between the Renaissance viols and the Baroque violins, took photos of the early clarinets, the ivory flutes…And then I saw it, all on its own, no one looking at it, no one intoxicated by its beauty or marvelling at its ingenuity. In fact people walked by it without even a glimpse.
It was Bartolomeo Christofori’s original piano. One of only 3 left. Built in about 1720.
Its coffin like box holds the secrets of a man who has been called the Leonardo di Vinci of musical instruments. Christofori took two existing keyboard instruments, the harpsichord which had force but no ability to play dynamics and clavichord which could play dynamics but had no force (also on display in the museum) and created a new keyboard instrument. This unbelievable instrument, on display, which no one was noticing.
Apparently, according to my mother, on seeing this piano, I went pale, then red, and I know I started to cry. I was totally overwhelmed at actually being in its company. For many years now I have been giving classes about the history of the piano. I rave about Christofori and how the piano developed after him; but I don’t know if I ever thought I would actually see one of his masterpieces.
After spending a long time being with it, feeling as if I was with royalty, finally we had to leave. I felt the elation of having experienced something this significant but also the sadness of knowing it would be a very long time before I felt its presence again.
Heroes don’t have to be people. In fact I can’t think of a person who would potentially have this same effect on me…except for maybe Christofori himself….