It was one of those times when you really just want to curl up in front of the TV and not go out. But we had tickets to see Nigel Kennedy play Vivaldi, and, having seen him before, we knew that we had to make the effort.
The concert was very late starting – to the point where large parts of the audience were doing the slow handclap of displeasure – and Nigel starts by apologising and taking the blame. His little speech doesn’t really help the atmosphere – he doesn’t seem sufficiently contrite.
And then, he and his orchestra begin to play. Everything changes in an instant. Here is a man who not only plays his violin amazingly, he also plays with his orchestra in the most wonderful way. He encourages them, enlivens them, gives them credit, all the while creating unbelievably beautiful music without seeming to work at it.
The audience applauds in between movements – unheard of in classical music – as well as at the end. And the man who was irritating, when he first appeared, becomes someone they laugh with and respond to and delight in.
He is unkempt, he is unconventional, he is somewhat childish – and he is an outstanding performer, a musical genius, who experiments, who plays sublimely, who inspires his orchestra, who lives his music for you on stage. What a great role model! Not perfect, quite human, yet working his own particular excellence for us all to benefit from.
It is a totally uplifting experience, leaving your heart and soul singing. Genius may not be ‘tidy’ or even comfortable sometimes, but it does inspire and remind us that excellence is magical. And genius is infectious – it reminds us that we also carry elements of it inside us and helps us to bring them closer to the surface.