How I came to attend the Louisville Orchestra’s performance of Dvořák’s New World Symphony.


I graduated from high school in 1978 and landed a job picking up and delivering parts for a contractor’s supply company called Reid-Holcomb, which had just opened a branch office in Clarksville. The branch manager lived in Georgetown and was somewhat of a family friend, and he got me on part time. The other half of my time was to have been devoted to attending courses at IU Southeast, although apart from Introduction to Philosophy, which I loved, I didn’t attend the others very often.

However, my checkered academic career is not the subject of today’s digression.

The job at Reid-Holcomb lasted through the end of 1978. I learned of my redundancy in January upon returning to what had become non-work, having just gotten home from a week spent in the Bay Area. Before departing, I’d mentioned my brief holiday to the branch manager, who neglected to tell my immediate superior, whom I’d unfortunately bypassed in the chain of requisite approvals.

To be truthful, it was a tough economy, and they didn’t really need me, anyway. My faux pas just speeded matters along.

The trip to San Francisco and environs was much fun. I joined my friend and former high school English teacher Bob, who was staying during the holiday season at his brother’s condo in Palo Alto. We hiked at Point Reyes National Seashore, ate at a French restaurant in Carmel, and took the obligatory tour of Alcatraz. During the latter, I observed males in identical sweaters holding hands, and thought: Hmm, I’ve heard of this sort of thing, and never seen it in New Albany. Is it here, too?

The point being that I was a decidedly non-worldly 18-year-old, and fascinated (often confused) by everything I saw. Unlike summer vacations with the folks, this was about me as an adult free to see the planet, although of course I’d have been far too timid and incompetent to navigate or understand any of it without a genuine adult around to do the heavy lifting and explain that yes, they’re everywhere, and no, it doesn’t matter one bit.

With that settled, it was revealed that Bob’s brother had a treasure trove of long-playing record albums, including pop, rock, jazz and classical. Of these genres, classical was the least explored, so one evening I placed Dvořák’s 9th Symphony on the turntable, solely because the “New World” descriptor seemed vaguely to promise something more familiar and less foreign. For whatever reason, I was utterly enchanted, and continued playing it over and over until Bob grew weary and forbade further listenings. He made a game effort to steer me toward Mahler, but I wasn’t ready yet.

In an easily grasped metaphorical sense, I imagine that Dvořák’s “New World” symphony and the brave new world of a state approximating adulthood were woven together in my unawakened mind. It would be another six years before enough of it coalesced into a plan, and I finally set off to backpack in Europe. It was the boot camp I so desperately needed. But am I really an adult, even now?

It’s been slightly more than 35 years since Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”, Op. 95, first settled onto the turntable in Palo Alto, and last evening Mrs. Confidential accompanied me to the Brown Theatre in Louisville to see it performed live by the Louisville Orchestra. Providentially, she saw it mentioned just a few days ago, and largely unaware of the back story, suggested we take in the performance. I’m grateful.

It was a fine evening, and while I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable to critique the orchestra’s work, I was happy to be there.  The workaday world has been hard as nails lately, and so an escape into these lovely melodies, and the memories they engender, was an experience I really appreciated.

Sometimes plans just come together. I’m glad they do.