Bath Medium Security Institution, October 19, 2018
String Trio, Katrina Chitty, viola: Igor Gefter, cello: Mark Skazinetsky, violin
Our fourth performance at Bath followed three hours after the historic event at Millhaven. The difference in the environment and the reception was striking. Warden Ryan Beattie personally greeted our group at the gate. Ryan then gave a brief presentation about the institution to our group, which was smaller than at Millhaven (5 volunteers had to leave), but stronger, because Mr. & Mrs. Bob Rae had joined us for this performance.
The place was packed with our “regular” fans and some newcomers – about 80 inmates filled the chapel. Interaction with them started as soon as we entered the premises and continued throughout the evening. I was looking for a familiar face of an inmate, whom I was corresponding with for almost a year, and finally managed to find him at prayer in the chapel. He was happy to see me, but refused to join the event, respecting the religious tradition of Shabbat. My argument of him being a sick man, needing care (giving him exemption from the rule of Jewish law) has convinced him to come. “Don’t improve on Mozart. Mozart is perfection!” he said. His mother used to admonish him when he was playing flute in his young happier days in Vienna, Austria. Good advice to many professional musicians.
After a short introduction from Ryan and without the usual opening remarks from Dmitri, who has chosen to read from Les Miserables as opposed to speak about his own falls that evening, our musicians started the program, which was presented at Millhaven earlier that day. Stan has created one of his best works ever – bright and optimistic – I think the general positive atmosphere played the role. But you really never know, what and when inspires artists. The atmosphere was as always relaxed, but dignified, respectful and engaged. Again and again we could hear the dust settle as the audience listened:
“I always thought only snobby, educated, rich people listened to classical music. That’s why I could not identify or enjoy it immensely. I realize now, that music is a universal language, lifting us up above our circumstances and our isolated negative feelings…Sometimes this place (prison – dk) is so hopeless and doing a life sentence I was resigned to dying here. This music gave me hope and faith in someday getting out of here permanently.””
“…I have known federal incarceration for forty three years…..Tonight, my eyes witnessed for the first time in my life , classical music being played alive. My ears heard the gift of soul, which felt as if divine caress manifested all limitation of mortal restrictions. How can words reflect such joining of meaning?Intersecting to reveal truth in its purest conception. Your gift surpassed all perimeters of what may define music. Grace, elegance, passion, all fail to encompass the infinite reality experienced.”
“..This may sound silly to some people but the truth is that your…. sound of music seems to give me a sense OF HOPE. … I wish everyone in this world could have the opportunity to hear just a little of your music, I truly believe it could help heal and mend pain and sorrow, and even hate !”
“ …I am doing concurrent life and indeterminate sentences…My optimism increased after the concert, especially for having Hon. Bob Rae in the audience. It was unbelievable that I would be shaking hands with Hon. Mr. Rae… The last time I saw him was on TV at the time when he delivered his report for the UN about the Myanmar Rohingas.””
“ …Don’t improve on Mozart. Mozart is perfection! – my mother used to admonish, when I was 10 and played flute in Vienna…”
A standing ovation and a and enthusiastic encore – the deeply emotional and electrifying Hungarian Dance by Brahms, requested earlier by one of the inmates – concluded the performance and interaction with our inmate audience continued intensely for another 30 minutes. People just wanted to express themselves and be heard. There were so many… Ryan videotaped the entire event – I am hoping to receive the first ever video record of one of our concerts at a CSC facility.
Numerous testimonials continue to pour into my P.O. Box. – our music gift has reached the hearts of many men at Bath Institution.