There’s nothing quite like an innocent child’s pure, unmediated reaction to beautiful music.
The Boston-based Handel and Haydn Society is best known among the classical music enthusiasts as the H+H Society. Founded in 1815, it is one of America’s oldest and most celebrated performing arts groups. On the night of May 5, 2019, they once again put on a classical concert, enchanting their Bostonian audience with a spectacular performance of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music.
At the very end of the performance, however, a little boy in the audience broke the silence with an awestruck “WOW!”
— 99.5 WCRB, Classical Radio Boston (@995WCRB) May 8, 2019
The awe in his clear, innocent voice seemed to win over the hearts of both the audience and the performers. The entire Boston Symphony Hall immediately burst into laughter and applause.
The young fellow’s unbridled reaction, although quite departed from typical symphony goers’ protocol, ultimately resonated throughout members of the classical music community, including David Snead, the H+H Society’s President and CEO.
“I was like ‘That’s fantastic!'” David Snead told CBS. “And also there’s a sense of wonder in that wow. You can really hear on the tape, he was like, this was amazing!”
— CBC Music (@CBCMusic) May 9, 2019
With an urge to find out the awe-filled young voice responsible for that unforgettable moment, Snead sent a message to the public, especially those who went to the concert that Sunday night.
“At the end of Sunday’s performance of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music, something happened that I had never before experienced in my 40+ year of concert-going.” wrote David Snead in the message. “It was one of the most wonderful moments I’ve experienced in the concert hall, and I’m glad you were all there to experience it as well.”
“But we don’t know who the ‘wow’ child is.” wrote Snead, encouraging the unknown child to come forward.
Snead was not disappointed. He soon got in touch with the boy’s grandfather.
9-year-old Ronan Mattin did not mean to disrupt the event, explained his grandfather, Stephen Mattin to WGBH. His grandson is on the autism spectrum, and that is why he often expresses himself in a different way to other people.
A “huge music fan,” according to his grandfather, Ronan “talked about nothing else for weeks” after going to another concert in Boston a few months ago. Although the 9-year-old absolutely enjoyed classical masterpieces, he almost never expressed how it made him feel.
“I can count on one hand the number of times that [he’s] spontaneously ever come out with some expression of how he’s feeling,” Mattin told WGBH.
“The good news is that… the music is so amazing that it will not only survive but thrive as a wider audience of music lovers is welcomed.”
— 99.5 WCRB, Classical Radio Boston (@995WCRB) May 17, 2019
His grandson’s exclamation caught him by surprise, said Mattin. But he is also impressed by the H+H Society’s friendly and tolerant gesture.
As promised in David Snead’s public message, Mattin’s family was gifted a recording of the concert including the “wow” moment. They were also offered an opportunity to meet Harry Christophers, the famed English conductor who conducted Mozart that Sunday night in Boston.
“You know, everybody’s different. Everybody has different ways of expressing themselves,” Mattin told WGBH. “I think people in general, society’s becoming more tolerant or understanding of the differences between people.”