On Meeting Philip Glass

By | April 10, 2018

Anybody who knows me even in the slightest knows that I’m just a tad partial to the music of Philip Glass.

Last winter I went to a Portland performance of his “Dracula,” performed by the Kronos Quartet with Phil playing the second keyboard, (a part he later added to the piece just for himself so he could perform it live with the quartet). This is one of two of his pieces set to an existing, older film, where the film is played on screen behind the performers who are playing live on the stage. (The other was his opera set to Cocteau’s, “La Belle et la Bete.”)

This was my 20th performance of Philip Glass music, and probably the 14th (or thereabouts) time that I had seen Mr. Glass perform live. It was wonderful. Several times during the performance I was struck with the thought that this man who had turned 80 at the beginning of the year is still touring and performing. I mean – I’m just in my 50s and I’m tired! How does he do it!?

After the performance I went to a small reception for the opportunity to meet Phil. I’d spoken with him twice before — once in an autograph line and once during a post-performance Q&A —  but I’d never actually met him, and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, even if it meant buying a $100 ticket to this reception.

The reception was held in an upstairs room in the Heathman hotel, which is actually connected via a back hall to the performance center. There were 50 or so people in the room, and when Phil and the members of Kronos entered the room, Phil was a mobbed by everyone wanting to talk to him. (Side note: Included in the mob was a kid who looked to be 11 or 12 who was so adorably excited to see Phil that I couldn’t help but grin. He looked how I felt, and although Phil was noticeably tired, he very graciously paid extra attention to this kid.)

Not wanting to contribute to the mob who I could only imagine would be an annoyance to the man, I stayed on the fringe, thinking I’d wait until things got quieter. While I waited, I chatted with one of the people who was involved with Phil’s tour, a handler, an assistant, a musician — I’m not sure). We talked about other performances, and he was surprised that I’d seen so many, and I told him this was my 20th performance. He was a lot more impressed by that than I expected him to be — is it really all that crazed?

I told him that I wanted to talk to Phil but I didn’t want to be yet another person mobbing him, and he said, “No — he’d want to meet you. You need to go talk to him.” I tried, but there was just too much of a crowd, and I wasn’t willing to get aggressive about it.

Seeing my situation, the fellow I’d been talking with took my arm, parted the crowd, brought me to Phil, interrupted the other people, and said “Phil, this is Kathleen. This is the 20th time she’s seen one of your performances.”

Phil took my hand, shook it, and said: “I just want to go home. It’s nice to meet you, but I’m tired and I just want to go home.” Then he left the reception.

I absolutely understand and expect I’d feel exactly the same way, but I was dog-paddling in a pool of deep disappointment for several days. That’s okay. Next time.