An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 14
Does the title conjure visions of screaming girls in your mind? Crowds of female fans in a frenzy of passionate adoration, such as the world witnessed repeatedly since the heyday of Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and others? Yet, as far as I can see, there is not a single video of David Garrett’s events on YouTube that shows such scenes. Some might argue that he obviously can’t compare with Elvis, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Others might reply that they have nothing on him.
Be that as it may, David appears to have more than enough of whatever it is that might make girls scream. But the people who come to his shows, including love-struck girls, are remarkably restrained in their behaviour, especially in Europe. Adoring, yes – but also respectful; shy even. Overawed, it seems. By contrast, the Latin American countries provide his noisiest, most exuberant audiences, according to David’s own words. Videos of concerts in South America and Mexico record a lot of background noise as people chat, sing along, laugh, or call out in their enthusiasm, and the occasional “I love you!” is clearly heard above the din.
David Garrett’s critics like to suggest that his audiences must be mindless, uneducated, unmusical masses who have fallen easy prey to clever marketing strategies because they “could not tell a C major chord from a car horn”. But David, who has personal and direct impressions of the individuals who make up those crowds, speaks highly of his fans. The affection, respect and gratitude he shows them does not pass unnoticed. Letters, cards and gifts are heaped on him wherever he goes. And, as YouTube comments show, David’s fans are at least as intelligent, literate and musically sensitive as his critics:
“David is my hero, and the hero of other open-minded violinists. He has drawn so many people of all ages to classical music and to the violin. At his concerts, children sit completely mesmerized by the passion he brings to his music and the manner in which he reveals the full range of what is possible in playing the violin. His lovely, pleasant, open manner is so endearing and creates a wonderful concert experience.” – “Whether playing the classics or pop-rock tunes, he rocks! No other musician brings together people of all ages to appreciate such a wide spectrum of musical styles.”
These days, David Garrett’s audiences are a mix of all ages and come in several sizes: moderate, large, extra-large, huge and enormous. The moderate-sized are usually classical concerts in beautiful architectural settings, such as traditional concert halls or even the occasional church. But his crossover shows use vastly more technical equipment and draw much larger crowds, filling supersized arenas to the brim. In neither case, however, are screaming girls in evidence.
The front rows tend to be occupied by loyal fans who have the time and the means to follow David from concert to concert and have sometimes been doing so for years. They have become experts on his shows, his life and his music through long-time study and observation, and the reward for their passionate interest is the beam of his luminous smile as it sweeps them during their standing ovation at the end.
“Absolut genial! Die pure Freude, die David Garrett empfindet, springt sofort über und bleibt im Herzen. Ich juble Dir zu, mit einem ganz großen DANKESCHÖN!” – (“Absolute genius! The pure joy David Garrett feels sparks across and stays in the heart. I hail you with a great big THANK YOU!”) – “Dear David, all my respect to you with love for the beautiful music and energy that you give to people.”
Pensioners, young couples, parents with children, music students, music teachers, teenagers and middle-aged women seem to mix equably as they fill row upon row of huge auditoriums and arenas. And as the cameras pan across their faces and pick out a few close-ups, they capture that same look of quiet reverence we already encountered on the faces of David’s interviewers on talk shows as he plays for them:
It is a calm, a wondering look, captivated by the sight this beautiful musician offers to the eye; and an enchantment, a marvelling at the soothing or sparkling sounds he coaxes from his violin at will.
Touched by such grace, the delighted stillness on each face becomes a mirror of that beauty, rather as the calm surface of a pool would reflect the brilliance of a star. Screaming would shatter that mirroring, this reflection and wonderment, like a rock.
“Dear David, stay right with your feet on the ground, then you will be someone who never will be forgotten. For my wife and me you are the BEST violinist.” – “Wonderfully played, just beautiful! And that contagious joyousness of his playing, one would like to join in directly.” – “A great performance by an outstanding musician. I love his passion when playing the violin.”
Over the years, David has learnt to overcome his initial shyness and has discovered and developed a talent for engaging with his audience. Although he claimed repeatedly in interviews that he really dislikes going on stage, one would never guess. He seems so perfectly at home up there, owning the space, the show, the love of the multitude – and he knows how to give them a fantastic time too. Whether a piece is calm or lively, classical or contemporary, contemplative or explosive, well-known or new: with consummate skill, David Garrett entices his listeners to celebrate MUSIC in different forms. He radiates pure joy as he plays, and that joy is reflected in each individual member of his audience, many thousand souls strong, at each event in turn.
What a great gift and skill it is to be able to do this! It calls to my mind Morgan Freeman’s lines in the moving film The Bucket List. “You know, the Ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance of heaven, the guards asked two questions, and their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not: ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ and ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”
Well, David will be able to answer with a resounding yes both times. He clearly loves what he does, is aware of his privilege and willing, for the sake of it, to take the strain of a life on the road, thereby sacrificing almost everything that makes up a normal adult life. But then, what is really so great about a normal adult life? Who wouldn’t willingly trade with him if it were at all possible? … Surely even those guards at the entrance of heaven will want his autograph.
Driven by his purpose, his ideas and intentions, David Garrett has hit the fast lane and shows no signs of slowing down. His loyal fans see it with mixed feelings. On the one hand they can’t get enough of him, but on the other they worry about his health. Does he get enough rest? Does he look after himself? More importantly still, does his management? Every pound lost or kilogram gained is immediately noted and widely discussed, his life examined and possible reasons scrutinized: Such is the price of fame and success.