The assassination of JFK is one of the most considered, analysed, reported and commented upon moments of the last hundred years. Big History. A tearful Walter Cronkite breaking the news to a suspended nation. Millions watching that Zapruder footage. But this is something smaller and more powerful. It is the recently uncovered audio recording of conductor Eric Leinsdorf informing an audience of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.
If you watch History Channel for any stretch of time, you’ll see the lengths TV producers will go to in an attempt to get us to understand what it was like to live in a moment of history. This remarkable audio recording does more in 23 seconds than those producers could hope to do in all of its hours of broadcast.
As far as ‘classy’ moves go, the decision to play Beethoven’s Funeral March is right up there. As you listen to the Philharmonic play, it’s worth remembering that moments before Leinsdorf made the announcement, the musicians found out that the president had died when the sheet music hit their stands. This is the sound of their emotions registering.
My parents’ generation often said that everyone remembers where they were when they found out that JFK was assassinated. Me? I was at the Boston Philharmonic.