Joshua Bell’s 2007 violin-busking session in the L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station is the ultimate urban metaphor, a reminder to keep an eye out for beauty in unexpected places.
And, while the performance seven years ago posed the question of whether a world-class musician playing, unannounced with a baseball cap, in a busy Metro station would get noticed (Gene Weingarten's story on it won a Pulitzer Prize ), the follow-up performance on Tuesday answered, intentionally or not, a different question:
If the Washington Post wrote a story telling its readers that a Grammy-winning violinist would be playing for free in Union Station during lunchtime, would anyone show up, and would any of them say that they definitely would have known if they had randomly passed said violinist at rush hour? The answer: Yes.
Before the 12:30 performance on Tuesday, people crowded into the station, pushing for a glimpse of the man who was, reportedly, going to be wearing more world-class musician appropriate clothing.
The crowd concentrated in the East Hall and extended to the entrance of the West Hall. It had been described as Bell's effort to rebrand himself into someone who is remembered as more than just a guy who played violin in the Metro one morning without an audience. But the audience didn't seem have that impression of him.
“I think it’s awesome, I just wish I could actually see him,” Emily Rzepka, an 18-year-old Catholic University violist, said. “Or hear him.”
By the time the music started, the crowd had thinned a bit. It was hard to hear in the station, where the echo of lunchtime voices and the cries of children overpowered the sounds of Mendelssohn and Bach.
“I’m on my lunch break. I was hoping to see the performance,” Rajeev Poluri, an IT Specialist who works in the station, said, “but, unlike last time, everyone seems to be clued in.”
Clued in, and, if the answers to questions posed by TV crews after the half-hour performance are any indicator, definitely knowledgeable about some distinguishing element of Bell.
“I would have known,” one woman said to a camera, smiling and nodding her head earnestly and enthusiastically.
And, she wasn’t alone. Many others said the same thing. Proof, perhaps, that Bell would have been remembered one day for more than just his first, undersold Metro performance.
Mostly, people just seemed happy to have gotten the chance to be a part of the public’s redo of an overlooked concert seven years ago, whether they would have recognized him with a long sleeve and Nationals cap on their commute or not.