It’s often said that music is good for the soul. The belief that music has healing properties set the stage for the National Symphony Orchestra’s new community initiative, “NSO Sound Health,” which kicked off with an NSO chamber orchestra performance in the atrium of the Clinical Research Center on Sept. 11.
Hundreds of NIH staff, patients and visitors gathered for a 50-minute classical performance of five works. The rich sounds filled the 7-story space and drifted upward, permeating much of the building. Many people lined the hallways to watch and listen from the floors above, not to mention patients listening from their rooms.
The CRC atrium is a fortuitous setting for such a concert. “Music flows in all our corridors, into patient wards, reaching those in beds who cannot come,” said CC director Dr. John Gallin in welcoming remarks.
The orchestra performed works by Rossini, Mozart, Barber and Prokofiev under the direction of conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl. Musical selections ranged from light and lively to hauntingly beautiful. Many in attendance could be seen wiping tears from their eyes during the performance of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Hearing this ethereal piece on 9/11 made it even more poignant.
Also that day, the NSO’s violin ensemble, Viva Violins, performed “From Baby Talk to Mozart” at the Children’s Inn at NIH, followed by a Q&A with inn residents and an instrument petting zoo.
“The musicians of the NSO are known throughout the country for their artistry and their joy in sharing that artistry with the community,” said NSO Executive Director Rita Shapiro. “There is no better way to continue that commitment to community than through performing at the Washington area’s hospitals.”
At the launch of the NSO Sound Health initiative, the CRC’s atrium and hallways overflowed with eager listeners, a testament to the need for such a project. The NSO plans to hold an orchestral concert each year at a selected hospital or health-related venue and extend its reach with smaller ensembles and other activities.
“We’re grateful to the NSO for choosing NIH to launch their Sound Health initiative,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, “and hope this marks the beginning of a long, fruitful relationship.”
Conductor Ankush Kumar Bahl (c) and the NSO chamber orchestra acknowledge the crowd’s applause.
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins (l) and Clinical Center director Dr. John Gallin (r) offer brief remarks before the concert.
At left is the crowd as seen from an upper floor of the atrium, and a view of passersby who took in the music from high above the first floor.
Photos: Bill Branson