Chapter 15: The Concert
The local cinema served as a both a theatre and as a concert hall which occasionally showed movies featuring Claudette Colbert or Jean Harlow and at times even a Polish or Yiddish production.
This time, something different was coming to the theatre in the form of a live concert from London that was going to be broadcast. Wolf promised his mother and his children that he would take them to the performance.
Izio and Lilly were ready on time, dressed in their best festive clothes.
Wolf wore a white suit with gray stripes, a bow tie and his black top hat. His mother Paulina wore a black lace dress with embroidered flowers held together on top with her gold pin.
At precisely quarter to six in the evening, they left the house to walk to the cinema. As Wolf had reserved and paid for front row seats in advance, he did not have to wait on the long line that had formed. Upon his arrival, he walked straight to the front of the line.
Upon entering the auditorium he noticed that only the back half was occupied and realized that they started seating the people from the rear. Finally the people sitting in the front rows began to enter and were permitted to take their seats. Wolf knew quite a few people in the audience, and he had to get up from time to time to greet some of them.
At six thirty the bell that hung in the waiting room chimed three times. An usher made an announcement that everyone should please be seated as the concert was set to begin in a few minutes.
At a quarter to seven an usher went up on stage and turned on the radio that was sitting on a tall, narrow table with loudspeakers on either side. In the background music from a string instrument could be heard, indicating that the concert was about to begin.
The crowd fell silent and all eyes were focused on the device on stage emitting shrill squeaking noises.
The usher once again went up on stage to try to improve the quality of transmission. He moved the antenna located at the back of the radio in different directions, and the quality of the sound did indeed improve.
The booming voice of the English announcer proclaimed the beginning of a concert of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, live from the Royal Albert Hall and broadcast via the BBC.
“The concert, Vivaldi’s symphony, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, the famous Italian conductor, will now begin,” he announced.
The lights were dimmed and the concert began. The silence in the hall was broken at times by the sound of a harsh, persistent and irritating cough that emanated from the rear. After loud complaints from the audience the man was forced to leave the hall until the cough abated and he relaxed a bit.
Izio and Lilly demonstrated their impatience by moving around in their seats and shuffling their feet. After a while they started talking to each others in whispers. Wolf reprimanded them and told them to keep quiet.
Paulina, whose brother Julius was the conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic and a famous pianist and composer was ecstatic. The look on her face left no doubt how much she loved the concert. With her eyes closed, she waved her thin arms as if she were holding a baton and conducting the orchestra.
After an hour of visible suffering, Lilly tried to drag Izio out and into the hallway. He was actually beginning to enjoy the concert, and did not want to go, however, he finally gave in to her and together they left.
“Father will be angry at us. After all he paid for expensive front row seats,” Izio said, “Let’s go back in.”
“You can go back in, but I am going home,” Lilly replied.
“There is no way that I will let you walk home alone in the dark. Let me tell father that we are going home,” Izio said.
Izio tiptoed into the hall and walked up to the front row, leaned over to his father and whispered into his ear, “Lilly does not feel well, women’s problems. I am accompanying her home.”
Wolf nodded in agreement. Just then, the concert ended, and a thunderous applause could be heard from the crowd. Izio quickly ran out, grabbed Lilly’s hand and said, “Come, the nightmare is over.”