We all remember our first encounter with WaterFire. Mine is a very simple story and it took place on a hot summer night several years ago.
I was still living in Massachusetts and that night we had a concert of the RI Philharmonic in Narragansett. After the concert was over I was too wired to just drive home and decided to stop by in Providence and have a bite to eat before heading to my house. As I drove into town I encountered a lot of traffic and what seemed to be billions of people walking around. Then I remembered that people kept asking me, “Have you been to WaterFire yet?” “Are you going to WaterFire?” I realized that it must be happening that night so I pulled into the first parking space I could find and started walking around. . .
The first thing I noticed was how calm everything seemed, there were huge crowds, but everyone seemed very peaceful. I started to walk towards the river and then I saw the fires. And I heard the music.
Surprise, amazement, admiration — those were my first reactions. Immediately I thought: We MUST do a concert here! And it can not be a regular “Summer Pops,” it must be a Very Special WaterFire Concert.
I then sat by the river, near the World War Memorial and just listened to the music and watched the fires and the people walking by for the next 2 hours. I was truly amazed to see how this very simple joining of the elemental forces of Fire and Water entirely changed the urban space and the people in it. And the music mix, the different sounds from all over the musical landscape was an amazing catalyst to all that energy.
A few weeks later I was introduced to Barnaby and immediately we started talking about the extraordinary power of a collaboration between WaterFire and the Philharmonic. Over the years we have had many great conversations about music and art and made plans to make this happen. We have discussed the many pieces we would like to feature, and finally here we are: Live symphonic music will join the firelight of the braziers to further transform the space at the city’s heart.
Barnaby often mentions in conversation the fact that WaterFire is a transformation of urban space. I think in creating WaterFire Barnaby is also transforming all of us. Everyone who has spent time sitting by the river in front of the fires is transformed by the experience.
This weekend all the musicians of the RI Philharmonic Orchestra will bring their own fire to every listener downtown. We look forward to our live music blending with the night of fire and being a catalyst of transformation for each of you and for the entire city.
Resident Conductor, Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra