Photograph by Lucas Kloeppel, courtesy of Pexels
“Have you ever been so struck by the beauty of a sunset that just for a moment you lose all sense of time? Everything else just fades away and just for that instant, the only thing that mattered to you in the entire world, was that sunset. It was a moment that transcended the mere passing of seconds. You may even have felt something you could only describe as homesickness.”
Deacon Lawrence Klimecki: “Beauty Is Transcendent” at
The picture above is the front cover of a CD
that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra sold to the public
to commemorate Robert Shaw’s 100th birthday.
It is a recording of a live performance, not a studio production.
As a long time Robert Shaw fan, I was delighted when the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began selling this CD of a live concert in honor of his would-be one hundreth birthday in 2016. I had become aware of the Robert Shaw Chorale while in college and had managed to snag a couple of their vinyl records even during those impecunious years. I was especially impressed that he was a self taught musician and conductor and yet he had already made a dramatic impact on the American cultural scene.
Imagine how delighted I was when he not only “followed” me to Atlanta in 1967, but also immediately proceeded to transform our newly shared music world while also raising funds for and building the Woodruff Arts Center.
Another reason I bought one of the first Commemorative CD’s available was that it was a recording of an ASO performance very similar to one that I had attended in 1984. I will never forget the exultation of the audience at the end of that particular rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth. I remember well how good it felt to clap, and clap, and clap, and clap. I actually wished that I had learned how to whistle because “Bravo” just wasn’t quite enough. And, for the first time I, the ultimate prim and proper introvert, had understood people who jumped onto their chair seats or out into the aisles so they could express their joy more dramatically. I have no idea how long the applause lasted. I just remember that it didn’t end until Mr. Shaw asked the audience to please let them go, “because there’s just nothing more for us to give after this.”
This is the back side of the Commemorative CD. Please note the last entry of content, number 5: eight minutes and 41 seconds of applause recorded at the end of the concert. Remember this audience was composed of staid, dressed-up, classical music lovers that many might consider somewhat stuffy individuals. They were sandwiched together in an auditorium after a laborious bout with Atlanta’s infamous traffic. In other words, they were a stressed out bunch of people as the concert began. It was not a crowd of young people mellowed out after smoking weed and drinking at an all afternoon picnic/concert.
It’s now standard for the classical music audience to rise when applauding at the end of a concert to express gratitude for the evening’s entertainment. But, it’s usually a somewhat dutiful applause, as people quickly begin glancing around the room to decipher just the how soon they can start gathering their things to leave for dinner or after dinner drinks and still be polite.
This eight-plus minute recording of applause also records people shouting “Bravo,” whistling, and demanding yet another curtain call from the conductor. This is a modern example of the Theia Mania we first read about in Plato when a single person or a group has been freed from ordinary concerns and aspirations, then lifted emotionally and spiritually to a higher level by the beauty of the scenery, a piece of art, a musical performance, or a theatrical production. At least for a few minutes, the audience and the creators become one in a joyous unity.
For more information about Theia Mania, relating to the arts such as poets, sculptors, artists, musicians, performers, and audiences, listen to Robert Reilly’s lecture on Josef Pieper’s monograph, Divine Madness, Plato Against Secular Humanism, to a group at the Institute of Catholic Culture: https://instituteofcatholicculture.org/talk/divine-madness/
PS: Through the centuries, diverse groups have used theia mania to describe lots of weird events. But today I’m siding more with Josef Pieper, to wit:
“Such patrimony is achieved and preserved only through a willingly accepted openness: openness for divine revelation, for the salutary pain of catharsis, for the recollecting power of the fine arts, for the emotional shock brought about by eros and caritas — in short, through the attitude rooted in the mysterious experience that Plato called theia mania.” (or Divine Madness)
Another PS: Yes, the CD is worth buying from ASO and it’s not that expensive. But, it’s not as good as vinyl – or the real concert. CD’s are great, but they’re a pale imitation of the real thing.