Monday, July 20, 2009

Music in the Metro and the Mystery of Rush Hours


I am used to seeing down and out people in Sacramento trying to panhandle a living on street corners, and Paris had its share of them. But there were also the street musicians who had found they could pick up coins by placing themselves in key locations in the Metro system. (Well, everywhere, really, as in the case of this couple near Montmarte).

One morning we were treated to the haunting violin theme of Albinoni's Adagio, played by a young woman on one of the platforms. Another day, while climbing stairs, we heard the beautiful strains of Bach's Fugue in D Minor echoing through the tunnels and stairwells, sounding like a marvellous pipe organ. To our surprise, when we came upon the young musician, he was playing it on his accordion.

One evening when we were too tired to walk home, we took the metro and two men got on, one with a clarinet, the other with a saxaphone. Suddenly they began playing a jazzy version of Blue Moon, followed by When the Saints Came Marching In, and finally the Hora. Then they walked the aisles, hats out, collected their coins, and got off at the next stop.

Not every musician was so accomplished, I have to say. One afternoon a man got on with his guitar and proceeded to sing-shout-yell in my ear as I hugged my pole, wishing he'd go away. (It was a very crowded train.)

Which brings me to the mystery of rush hours on the Metro: Depending on what time of morning we rode to a museum, the train was always nearly empty: 9:00 a.m., not crowded. 9:30 a.m., not crowded. 10:00, 11:00; not crowded. But, whenever we took an afteroon train home from our ventures, we found ourselves jammed in like sardines. 5:30 or 6:00 p.m., 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., we had to struggle to get on and struggle to get off.

Where did everyone come from on these return trips? WERE they return trips? I'm still pondering this mystery.

1 comment:

Nancy Herman said...

We had the same experience on the metro--a soothing violinist during the rush-hour scrunch. Your posts describing Montemartre, Champs d'Elysee, the Louvre and even your little apartment in the West Bank transported me back to our own adventure in Paris a decade ago. We're looking forward to seeing your photos and hearing your stories soon.