Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Escaping From Prison

If there is any hope for love at all,
Some walls must fall.

Peter, Paul and Mary
Everywhere I look people seem to be building walls. Walls are generally built to keep people out not so much to keep people in, although prison walls do a good job of that.

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall," So wrote Robert Frost in "Mending Wall."

And there's this from Cole Porter "Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in. "

There's a street in New York called Wall Street. There used to be a real wall there, It was built by the Dutch in the 17th Century using African Slaves, to keep out the Indian Tribes. Later on the British tore it down.

The Great Wall of Chine, built by Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, during the Ch'in Dynasty over 2,000 years ago, still stands but it's a tourist attraction today.

In 1963 construction began on the Berlin Wall, officially known as the "Anti-fascist protection wall". In 1989 it came down. Pieces of it made their way around the world. a large chunk of it was donated to the City of New York. It was placed in an indoor pocket park. I went there one day to have a coffee and sit. I can't imagine anything more sinister looking than that wall.

When I had my classical radio program in New York City I sometimes interviewed musicians who would come and visit. One afternoon I saw a pretty redheaded girl playing her violin on the sidewalk and doing it very well. I approached her and introduced myself. She had a German accent. I explained about my radio program and said I would like to interview her. I gave her my card and asked her to call.

She didn't. But about a year later a conductor friend was giving a concert with his orchestra. I went. On the program was a Mozart violin concerto and there she was as the soloist. After the concert she and the conductor and I went out for a bite to eat and I reminded her who I was and asked her again if she would come to the radio station. This time she accepted.

She arrived with a legal pad covered in notes. With every question I asked she would flip through the pages to find the answer and read it off very fast with her German accent. She began to answer one of my questions by saying "Well, when we escaped from East Berlin, we....."

I stopped her right there. "Tell me about that." She put the note pad aside and calmly told me this amazing story.

She was studying with a teacher in East Berlin who told her that she must go and learn from a certain teacher at the Juilliard School in New York. So her parents arranged passage on a train that was going to break through one of the check points into West Berlin. I think she told me she was 14. Her parents hid her and her violin on the floor, under the seat.

They made it to West Berlin and then to Switzerland and, eventually, she made it to New York where she was studying with that very teacher when I met her.

Her name is Gudrun Schaumann and I'm pleased to see that she has made recordings and is performing as a soloist all over the world, including East Berlin.

There are a lot of walls, social walls, ethnic walls, political walls, religious walls. Ah, but those are for another day.

DB - The Vagabond
(This is not a contest.)

Given the resources and opportunity, what one thing do you want to do in 2010 that you've never done before.

You have all Winter to answer. Answers will be posted on the first day of Spring.
20 responses so far.

DB - The Vagabond


pacifica62 said...

"Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down"

Liz said...

"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence."
'Mending Wall' Robert Frost

While 'good fences make good neighbours' I must admit to preferring neither fence nor neighbour.

Karen said...

I lowered my wall and found my husband there.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Interesting thing about walls, they eventually come down. We can only hope that personal walls come down in time to make a difference.

Gerry said...

Interesting story of strength that was needed by this woman and her parents to break through the walls so she could express herself in her art. Sounds like she was wonderfully talented. What a loss that would have been to the world if her parents had not had the fortitude to get her through that wall. This story seems to say don't ever give up if you think you have something valuable to share with the world. You might have to find multiple ways to break through before it can happen.

Rose~* said...

Ah yes - the walls over here during the Olympics most certainly came down. Everyone had a wonderful and safe time.