The Writing Prompt: Phenomenon
“Something that is impressive or extraordinary; a remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.”
“It was a dark and stormy night” here in Northern California. The drive from Lodi to San Rafael in the late afternoon wasn’t bad, but the drive back home to Lodi was miserable because of the steady, hard downpour making it extremely difficult to see and fairly treacherous since portions of the freeway were beginning to develop standing water due to the amount of rain coming down quickly. In short, it was a miserable trip.
But the trip was worth it since that evening was the fulfillment of a dream: Sir James, “the man with the golden flute,” and Lady Jeanne Galway were touring with the Polish Chamber Orchestra, performing Mozart. I got tickets more than six months in advance so we were seated in the seventh row, dead center, in what had to be as perfect a location as the house offered.
The concert was spectacular — among the most enchanting and extraordinary evenings of music I have ever experienced. We were seated close enough to see and appreciate the entire ensemble. Close enough to see the twinkle in Sir James’ eyes when he and Lady Jeanne were playing together, obviously mesmerized by each other. Close enough to watch his fingers move ever so slightly as he raced up and down the scales that were an integral part of the selections. Close enough to see the expressiveness in his eyes as he played. Close enough to watch his unique style of conducting. Close enough to watch the expressions on the faces of the orchestra when he played the cadenzas — they were enchanted, even though they listened to him play every night.1
Close enough to understand why he brought tears to my eyes when he played “Danny Boy” as an encore. He jokingly noted that the House Manager in that venue was the lovely “Ms. Flanagan,” so if he neglected to play it that night, in particular, he wouldn’t “get out alive.” Just before he began to play, he explained that, to him, the piece is a prayer and he plays it that way.
“You know what happens when you don’t pray, right? Absolutely nothing! So give it a whirl,” he told us!
Sir James is a phenomenon — his mastery of the flute is impressive, extraordinary. He is a consummate musician — a prodigy — as well as a truly remarkable and exceptional person.
Over the past 30 years or so, he has brought a knowledge of and love for the flute to countless folks around the world. He selflessly and generously shares his knowledge, skill, and talent via Master Classes at the venues where he performs in concert. He also participates in an e-mail group, providing free instruction and advice to players and teachers from all corners of the globe, always telling us via his signature line where he happens to be at the moment. He records sound and video files demonstrating proper technique and, as a Christmas present, even gave his fans the chance to play a duet with him — a Telemann Canonic Sonata — by logging into his website and downloading the sound file.
If you ever have the chance to see Sir James and Lady Jeanne in concert, run — do not walk — to the box office! Whether or not you are a fan of classical music is of no import. Sir James’ unmatched talent and communication with his audience will win you over. An evening with Sir James and Lady Jeanne is an experience not to be missed!
- In particular, one bass player shook his head with a big smile on his face, as if to say, “How does he do it?” [↩]