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  • Richard Narroway

Virtuosity vs. Generosity

And there goes the final day of the tour. I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry. It has been such a wonderful, life-changing experience, so much so that I don’t even know where to begin. The events of our first day in Darwin - meeting the team, the plane ride, the conversations, the meals, the performances - all seem so far in the past. And now I am back in Sydney, sitting at home trying to comprehend the surreality of it all. I will save a recount of experiences for a later date. For now, let me share some reflections regarding how these past few weeks have transformed my whole philosophy of being a cellist and musician.

This journey began around two years ago, simply as a personal goal to perform the Bach cello suites around my home country. Over time, however, it grew into something much larger - an endeavor to bring music to the lives of others and make a positive, lasting impact on the community. The entire process has been transformative.

Over the years, I have been trained like many other aspiring instrumentalists to find gratification in musical performance. In today’s modern age, the concert stage has become the quintessential symbol of classical music performance. Presenting ticketed concerts in Carnegie Hall or the Sydney Opera House has become the singular dream of so many young musicians. Virtuosity has become a dominating force. And don’t get me wrong - virtuosity is fantastic..

But should virtuosity really be reigning supreme? What about generosity?

During these past weeks I have grown closer to the Bach cello suites than ever before, having performed them for all kinds of different people in all sorts of unconventional venues. But perhaps first and foremost my journey has reaffirmed my belief in the power of music in general - it’s power to connect people with each other and to connect people with themselves. It has been an absolute privilege to witness first hand how this music can inspire Parkinsonian people to regain confidence, find fluidity and naturalness in their motions.. to see young students light up at the sound of the cello, in awe of the magical sounds that come out of what at first glance looks like a wooden box with some metal strings strapped around it.. to observe how an entire hospital ward becomes transformed into a place of calm and beauty at the sound of Bach..

I have mentioned to many people already that working with Dance for Parkinson’s has been one of the most spiritually gratifying musical experiences of my life. My musical interpretations took on entirely different shapes in those sessions. I found myself responding to the emotions and movements of the people around me while they responded to the sounds of my cello, finding joy in the sense of release the music gave their minds and bodies. I will forever treasure this feeling of being part of something larger than oneself.. that is what music, and life for that matter, is all about.

Virtuosity is great, but there is something more special and more lasting about the generosity and compassion of connecting with others through music. It will take a while for this all to sink in. So much thanks and gratitude to a wonderful team - Marissa Olegario, Mark Edwards, Josh Anderson and Lilly Perrott.

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