The Chicago Symphony Orchestra kicked off its Keys to the City Piano Festival this week, and the first night included the works of Gershwin, Mozart, and Ravel, and featured pianists Cyrus Chestnut and Orli Shaham. Some of the most talented musicians in the world accompanied each other on stage to share the common language of gorgeous music.
To begin the evening, the CSO played a powerful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. While the National Anthem is certainly no stranger to public events, I had never before heard or seen it performed by a world-renowned orchestra, and it was very much the opposite of the patriotic song at a sporting event with hot dogs and nachos kind of feel.
As the entire concert hall stood and broke into song, I was overwhelmed with a sense of unity and hope that perhaps this nation may be able to heal from various racial, economic, and political wounds. As musicians from all over the world played the anthem of the free world, I was keenly aware that just moments before we had all walked passed remnants of flair from the NATO summit meeting held here earlier this week. And I couldn’t help but think about just how small the world is becoming as I thought of the number of dignitaries, political officials, and protestors who had walked the Magnificent Mile this week.
As we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend, may we remember and be grateful for the sacrifices of the brave who ensure that our land may be free. And may we work together in unexpected harmony, like a violin and a snare drum, a cello and cymbal, and musicians from all across the globe to ensure all people have freedom and a place to call home.
It is my hope that as the power of music transcends all time, space, and creed, we might transcend all that divides us politically, culturally, racially, and economically. I hope we will greet each new early light of dawn with gratitude and conviction for what we must do with the gift of living in the land of the free. May bravery of conscience outshine political agendas in every twilight.