Moved By Kennedy's Death, The Boston Symphony Played On | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Moved By Kennedy's Death, The Boston Symphony Played On

Play associated audio

A visit to the symphony: It's often a solitary experience that can, in truly important moments, become communal — as it did in Boston on Nov. 22, 1963.

At 2 p.m., the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Friday afternoon concert began like any other. The orchestra stuck to the program until 2:35 p.m., when it took a brief break. When conductor Erich Leinsdorf returned to the stage, he did not lift his baton to the orchestra. Instead, he gazed out into the audience, forced to share some terrible news.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a press report over the wires," he told the crowd. "We hope that it is unconfirmed, but we have to doubt it.

"The president of the United States has been the victim of an assassination," Leinsdorf said to loud gasps from the crowd. "We will play the funeral march from Beethoven's Third Symphony."

We've all seen photos, listened to stories or shared personal experiences of that day — that particular moment when you first learned about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But there's something unique about hearing the reaction from an entire concert hall of people hearing these words for the first time.

The orchestra played on, giving the musicians and the audience time to absorb the news.

Later, during a scheduled intermission, the musicians debated backstage whether it was appropriate to go on. Ultimately, Henry B. Cabot, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's president of trustees, decided the music should continue.

"The day my father died, I came to a symphony concert for consolation," Cabot told the stunned audience. "And I believe you will receive it yourselves."

And above, you can listen for yourself, in a recording for radio broadcast by Boston member station WGBH.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

The Gift Of Eternal Shelf Life: 'Tuck Everlasting' Turns 40

In Natalie Babbitt's celebrated classic, a young girl stumbles upon a secret spring and the family the spring has given eternal life to. Babbitt says she wrote the book to help kids understand death.
NPR

Food Industry Drags Its Heels On Recyclable And Compostable Packaging

A new report from two environmental groups reviewed the recyclability and compostability of packaging from 47 food companies. It found few examples of companies that have prioritized waste reduction.
NPR

Guantanamo Bay A Sticking Point Between U.S., Cuba Since 1903

Guantanamo Bay is home to the United States' oldest overseas base. Melissa Block talks to Vanderbilt History Professor Paul Kramer.
NPR

With 'Discover' Feature, Snapchat Bucks Social Trend In News

Snapchat says social media likes and shares aren't what makes a story important. The ephemeral messaging app has rolled out Discover, featuring multimedia articles from major news brands.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.