Trinity-Pawling School has special, all-school assemblies fairly often and for myriads of reasons. Maybe our headmaster has a special announcement to make; maybe it’s time to give out athletic awards, but every now and then, we students have the opportunity to witness something really fantastic. Just last week was one of those days. Mark O’ Connor, a violinist and fiddle player who’s been an active musician for thirty years, came to visit our school and play for us. When the announcement was first made, there were some groans. We are, after all, teenage boys, and many of the students doubted that a solo violinist would be able to hold their attention for a full forty-five minutes. The general attitude of the student body wasn’t great, even when filtering in to the Gardiner Theater on Thursday night––even as Mr. O’Connor strode out onto the stage and prepared his instrument.
But then he began to play.
Mark O’Connor has a sort of pure talent for his art that one sees only very rarely. He effortlessly worked through piece after piece, flawlessly playing the notes in spite of the rapidly increasing complexity of the tunes. Mr. O’Connor gave a brief introduction to each piece, giving us the name, composer, and some of the history for each song we heard. This helped to put each song in context and let us, the students, appreciate them a bit more. After some fantastic violin pieces, Mr. O’Connor picked up his fiddle, alternatively playing it in the classical fashion and holding it sideways like a guitar to play blues songs. There were some microphone issues about half way through the performance, but Mr. O’Connor stopped only long enough for it to be removed from the stage, and then continued playing. We had no trouble hearing the clean, bright notes from the instruments even without a sound system. As we left the theater after forty-five minutes of entertainment many seemed to have changed their minds about Mark O’Connor and about his music. It was a fantastic experience, and one of the most exciting musical performances held at Trinity-Pawling in recent memory. Those interested in Mark O’Connors work can find him on his homepage at www.markoconnor.com, where you can read about him and about the bands he’s worked with, and view audio and video clips of his performances.