Pictured from left to right: Rebecca Nichols, Yasuoki Tanaka, Noah Chaves, Christopher Dudley.
Impromptu - December 2006
photo by Kirsten Beckerman
EVERY CHRISTMAS SEASON, a group of BSO musicians heads to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center to spread
a little holiday cheer. In a tradition that dates back to the 1980s, about eight to 12 players—usually some brass,
some strings, and some woodwinds—tromp around the wards in small groups playing carols for the kids.
It’s not exactly silent night. First, there’s the entourage—it takes help from symphony and hospital
staff to get the players, their instruments, and their stands around the hospital. “It’s one of the funniest
scenes to watch [us trying] to catch the elevators” with all that stuff, says trombonist Christopher Dudley. Then there’s
the music. The players take requests, so—kids being kids— they play a lot of “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty
the Snowman,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” throughout the hospital hallways.
Of course, nobody complains about the noise. Hospital staff get into the spirit, as do many of the parents. But most importantly,
the kids love it. “Music is such a beautiful thing,” says violinist Greg Mulligan. “It’s our contribution
to make somebody’s life a little happier for a few minutes. It feels really great.”
If a child is particularly sick, parents will often invite the musicians into the room for a quiet, private song—“Silent
Night” or “The First Noel.” Playing for sick children can be emotionally challenging, says Dudley. But
it’s worth it. “It’s moving to see these kids and how courageous they are,” he says. —Catherine
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