Night to Remember

Yo Yo Ma at the Lodals
Yo Yo Ma at the Lodals

Yo Yo Ma played at the home of our dear friends, Elizabeth and Jan Lodal, on May 13, as a prelude to his concert the following day for the full Supreme Court. About 60 people attended, including four Justices and Steve and me. Upon our arrival, Elizabeth introduced us to the guest of honor and mentioned that I was a retired piano teacher. Seeing the grand piano in the corner of the Lodal’s large music room, Yo Yo asked if I would like to play with him. Stunned, I nevertheless found the courage to say “Yes!”

Elizabeth went to the music cabinet and pulled out a book of songs for low voice that their son Eric had used in his studies at  Juilliard. The score fell open to Schubert’s “An die Musik,” which cellist Igor Zubkovsky and pianist Anna Ouspenskaya played at my 60th birthday concert. There was no time to practice, but we agreed to play it by sight after he performed three other unaccompanied pieces. Yo Yo is widely known as an especially inclusive, gracious human being. He engages with people all over the world, from Silk Road musicians to inner city school children. He delights in going off-script and giving ordinary people memorable experiences. His spirit is contagious. Though I have revered him for years, I felt so at ease in his presence. Night to remember!

Steve took this unedited video of our 3-minute performance on my little camera. It’s not great sound quality, but we kept together and were warmly received. I only wish that we could have played longer, so that I could have absorbed more of his exquisite phrasing. Memorable!

At dinner I sat between Steve and Justice Stephen Breyer.  How does one initiate a conversation with one of The Nine? Books and grandchildren, of course. Breyer vividly described the recently published book he is currently reading, Five Came Back: a Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Thomas. Just as enthusiastic was he about his five grandchildren, the youngest of whom are 4-year-old twins. He and his wife Joanna had taken the oldest three on an Abraham Lincoln tour of DC over spring break. His wife was in New York with them last night, making sure they could still recite the Gettysburg Address. Idea for a tour with my niece’s family in July.

At our table, Steve chatted with Leatrice and Melvin Eagle about their collection of crafts that the Houston Museum of Fine Arts recently acquired and exhibited. Steve also got to visit with Yo Yo’s wife, Jill Horner, and his general manager, Jonathan. The Mas live in Cambridge, MA, as does Stephen Breyer. Yo Yo dined with Elizabeth and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He told Elizabeth that he had just finished the book, Friday Night Lights, the classic chronicle of Texas football at Permian High School in Odessa, from which Steve, his sister and his cousins all graduated. Then Yo Yo came over and told Steve how thrilled he was to meet so many West Texans. What a mensch!

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