Nearly every day, I travel from my Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain to the downtown via the “T,” the local shorthand for the subway. During rush hours especially, the Downtown Crossing stop is crowded and loud, and all too often the human vibes throw off major amounts of impatience and stress.
If I’m lucky, however, I’ll step off the train and hear the lovely sounds of classically trained harpist Alàis Lucette, who sometimes sets up there and helps to calm the nerves of frazzled subway travelers going to and fro. (You may listen to samples of her music and order her CD here.) There is something eminently civilizing about soothing music that cuts through the noise of mass transit.
When I lived in New York City and made my daily subway commute from Brooklyn into Manhattan, on occasion there was a violinist who would make his way through the subway. While some interruptions in the subway can be irritating, this fellow was a welcomed distraction and instantly put me in a better mood for the morning.
I’ve been living in cities all my adult life. I should be over the “novelty” of talented musicians playing in the streets and subways. But I can’t help it, it’s often still a treat to me, especially when the music takes me to a better place in my mind.
In fact, I remember well the first time I heard and saw street musicians in full playing mode. After a collegiate semester abroad in England, I met up with some classmates in Paris, and we took the obligatory stroll through the Latin Quarter. It was filled with lively street music on a beautiful May evening. Perhaps this betrays how sheltered I had been in my NW Indiana upbringing, but I was absolutely taken by the idea that folks would just set up on the street and start playing!
So here’s to those gifted makers of music who add joy and civility to metropolitan life. We city dwellers are indebted to them!