It is Veterans Day, a day of honor for serviceman who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country as well as those who survived military service. I never thought I would spend today at the Legion of Honor museum except that my host, Jonathan Dimmock, was scheduled to play a special Veterans Day concert on the E.M. Skinner at the museum. Of course, I wanted to take in as much music as possible on my few days here.I did spend a couple hours practicing for Sunday’s concert, then ventured out on San Francisco’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and MUNI bus system to find the museum.
From Berkeley, it took me nearly two hours by train and bus to get to my destination, including a bus transfer to another route. I was waiting at 33rd St. and Geary for the number 18 bus which supposedly would stop right in front of the museum, when I was joined by an older couple. From their conversation I found it comforting to find out they were going to the same place. They asked where I was from and I told them about the museum recital at 4:00 pm.
When I got inside, I was invited to view a special showing of a movie, Eleven, about eleven pilots and gunners who fought in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It was a very moving experience combining recent interviews with the eleven men who recounted their war stories with historic photos and archival video. Many men of course did not return but were killed or missing in action. Three of the veterans highlighted in the movie were actually present at this showing, along with the filmmaker who was a grandson of one of the men who left a diary about his WWII experiences. The three veterans, now in their 90s and showing their advanced age, got an extended round of applause from the audience.
I took a very brief tour of the museum’s collection of paintings from 17th c. Netherlands before the recital started. Jonathan Dimmock had chosen music with a “heroes” theme from American and British composers—two countries which had been recently rocked by upset elections—Brexit in the case of Britain leaving the EU, and America’s shocking election result of this past week.
As it turned out, at the recital I sat next to the couple whom I had met at the bus stop. I told them I had seen the WWII movie, and the woman said it would have been too painful for her because she was in school in Marseilles, France, when American bombers dropped their payloads. If you can believe this, this woman was born in 1924 making her 92 years old! She has a PhD and still teaches French with Alliance Française! We exchanged contact information and hope to stay in touch.
I then accompanied Jonathan to his rehearsal with the San Francisco Choral Society. Jonathan will be playing the organ-only version of the Duruflé Requiem with Howells Te Deum and Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, plus the four Duruflé motets this weekend, unfortunately conflicting with my own recital. I would never pass up a chance to hear the Duruflé Requiem even in rehearsal, so this makes a full day!