I’m severely handicapped when it comes to music. I was blessed with much love for it, but no skill in producing or playing any of it. I’m a liability on your team if music trivia is the category and my knowledge of songs, singers and bands borders on the edge of illiteracy.
I took piano lessons in my early twenties and still hear the desperate voice of my teacher urging me to play WITH the beat of the metronome. I think I must have been his most failed attempt in teaching someone to play even the most basic. I cannot sing, I hum poorly, don’t whistle and lack the ability to remember the name of an artist or song. Oh, but how I love listening to music! It inspires and transcends me to a place of complete happiness.
(Note to self: If stranded on an island, music must be included in the survival kit.)
There are many memories that I will hold close about the magic of Prague. However, if I was given only one word to describe its charm, it would be “music”. After all, it’s the city of Dvorak and Mozart. Music bursts from its seams and wraps you tenderly in the magic notes of the great masters. It flows, like the Vlatava river, from the buildings, the street performers, and the many people on the move, with a violin or cello case strapped to their backs. Multiple concerts nightly of the ballet, the opera, quartets, sopranos, and more are performed all over the city. And that is before you include all the great Jazz acts calling out for your attention.
Along my favorite walks in the old city, I also found my favorite street performers. They all had their specific spots and I made sure I strolled by daily. There was the blind soprano at the end of the Charles Bridge whose voice caused me to just close my eyes and be transported to another place.
50 yards down from her on the Bridge was the violin player. If I could play any instrument, I would wish it to be the violin. There is such purity in its sound and such beauty in the vibrato. In the premier spot on the bridge was a small orchestra. They covered a trumpet, violin, flute, oboe and cello. Their spectators were always large and I felt that they didn’t need my applause as much. My other violin friend played along the cobblestone road to the Castle, which was a smart move, as he had little competition. He lacked the drama and artistry of my violin friend on the Bridge, but his grey hair, bowed shoulders and the many decades etched on his face, made him a favorite study thru my camera lens.
And then there was Alex … always on the Charles Bridge. He was my favorite. During the day he was the quirky guy, the one man band, with the strange contraption and yellow umbrella strapped to his head that made the tourist stop to take his picture, laugh at his antics and applaud at his originality. But at night, when I visited the most, he was the one that played the Bohemian crystal water glasses. It was the most beautiful, haunting sound and it touched my heart on so many levels. My kids would have teased me once more how easily I can cry, and Alex certainly mastered the art to make my tears flow freely, every night, while listening to his water melodies in the below freezing night air.
He set the stage to my Prague ritual as it unfolded nightly after dinner. I would walk back over the Bridge and linger along the way at my favorite statues. The streets were deserted at this hour and I felt that I owned my private sliver of Prague, away from the indifferent tourists, and absent from the haste of the locals hurrying off to somewhere. I had plenty time and no agenda. I had the luxury to remain and listen to the voices and the music from this ancient city.
I would make my way up Narudova Street, past my hotel, to the Castle and Cathedral, which was also one of the highest points in the City. And I would sit quietly, just contemplating the world in front of me, with just the moon, stars and streetlights as companions, and I would listen to myself. Maybe I can meditate after all.