Friday, September 24, 2010

No Downbeat Left Unheard

Delit d’Swing, 2006

If I can combine a trip with music, I’m a happy camper. The opportunity to hear good music has a way of transforming even a routine business trip into a transcendent experience, especially if the music’s encountered unexpectedly.

Here’s how silly I can be about this. While chairing a conference in Chicago about twenty years ago I learned that the performing arts school of the university across the street from my hotel was putting on a one-night only concert version of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. I adjourned a planning meeting an hour early so that I could slip out quickly and get across the street in time to get a seat.

During another conference where I was a Saturday morning speaker, this one in San Antonio, I kept on my coat and tie and crashed two wedding receptions being held at the hotel that afternoon just so I could listen to an excellent mariachi band.

I wrote here earlier about the night I got to hear Bruce Hornsby, Bela Fleck and Ricky Scaggs at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. On other nights I’ve fallen into clubs in New York and Chicago to hear jazz musicians.

Years ago my wife and I stumbled into Litchfield Cathedral in England late one afternoon just as the choir was beginning to rehearse for an upcoming concert. There were no other tourists around. We sat in a back pew just below the choir loft and let the music flow around us for almost an hour.

I also wrote here before about wandering into a quiet courtyard in Venice early one Saturday morning while a pianist upstairs played a Rachmaninoff concerto.

In Paris, we left the windows of our hotel room open so that we could hear the organist rehearse at the Basilica of St. Clotilde.

We also found the group above playing at the flea market in the Place Saint-Sulpice. They call themselves Delit d’Swing and play le jazz hot in the gypsy style of Django Reinhardt. You can hear them play here.

Wedding at St. Clotilde, 2006


  1. I love stumbling across music, too. Around here it's usually bluegrass or mountain music. That last shot is great! Reminds me of our youngest, always climbing to get a better view.

  2. That would be a treat! I felt that way in Central Park last weekend, when I heard some really good buskers doing their thing. They were very talented, and I felt like I was getting a private concert.

  3. I'm a music girl too and love to hear live music rarely caring what genre it is. Years ago I went to Memphis ready to hear some great blues, but the best thing I heard was a group of young people on a corner way off Beale Street rehearsing for church singing the best gospel music I've ever heard. I can still hear it.....