Bell rings up impromptu performance

Joshua Bell performed at the White House in 2009, above, but he also played in the Strathmore Hall lobby Wednesday to cheer up disappointed fans.
Joshua Bell performed at the White House in 2009, above, but he also played in the Strathmore Hall lobby Wednesday to cheer up disappointed fans. (Charles Dharapak)
Friday, January 28, 2011

The feel-good stories from Wednesday's snowstorm were scarce, but a few lucky music lovers got a private performance by Joshua Bell.

Dakota Korth bought fourth-row tickets ($100-plus each) to see the violinist play at Strathmore Hall on Wednesday night - and was thrilled when the hall's Web site announced that the show would go on despite the storm. But when he arrived 30 minutes before the 8 p.m. concert, the place was dark. At 7:45 came the announcement: The concert was canceled.

We're told the problem was a power outage in the main hall. (Strathmore was closed Thursday, and staff could not be reached for comment.) Most of the 300 presumably not-so-thrilled ticket holders who had made it there left immediately. "People were sort of defeated, so there wasn't complete outrage," said Korth, a program officer with the German Marshall Fund.

He was retrieving his coat when he noticed a guy with a violin case over his shoulder. It was Bell, apologizing to the 35 to 40 people left in the lobby.

"I'm really sorry," Bell said, according to Korth. "I wanted to play for you guys, but they won't let me." Bell said he was touched so many people had braved the blizzard for him. As first reported by DCist, that's when a woman piped up: "Can you play something for us here?" Bell laughed - but she meant it. "You played in the Metro, so you can play here, right?"

Bell started in on his variations on "Yankee Doodle Dandy." (Korth's cellphone-taping was cut short by a request from one of the star's handlers.) He finished the piece and promised to return for a full show.

Korth said his trip home took an hour, but he's not complaining. "It was a tolerable hour, having the chance to stand five feet from where he was playing."


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