Ronan Mattin, a 9-year-old boy from Kensington, doesn’t say a lot. But his heartfelt reaction to a Boston symphony concert last weekend has resounded far and wide.
The Handel and Haydn Society had just finished performing Mozart’s “Masonic Funeral Music” last Sunday at Boston’s Symphony Hall. In the stillness that followed the final notes, a child’s voice was heard exclaiming a single word: “Wow.”
The applause that followed seemed as much for the young fan as for the musicians.
Albert Mattin said his son, Ronan, is autistic and mostly nonverbal. He and his grandfather, Stephen Mattin, Albert’s dad, have “always been buddies.”
Ronan’s grandfather has taken the boy to plays, the circus, museums and concerts. He had taken him to a gospel concert in Boston a few months ago. “And Ronan was so taken with it; he kept saying ‘concert,’” Mattin said.
So Stephen Mattin bought two tickets to the Handel and Hayden Society’s big concert and went with his grandson. When they came home, he told the family what had happened.
“He said in the silence, you could hear a pin drop in the whole place and Ronan said, ‘Wow’, ” Albert Mattin said. “It was clear that everyone heard it.”
“We all kind of laughed,” he said.
And they thought that was it. Until, that is, Albert’s aunt saw a Facebook post a few days later from the Handel and Haydn Society; they were looking for the “wow” child.
To hear the moment Ronan reacts to the Mozart piece, see below (Note: this was posted before he was identified):
In an email to supporters, David Snead, president and CEO of the Handel and Haydn Society, wrote, “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.”
The Mattin family got in touch with Snead, who offered them tickets to the organization’s fall concert, to meet the conductor and some of the musicians. He also arranged a video chat with conductor Harry Christophers from London.
Albert Mattin said Ronan rarely talks and when he does, it’s usually to express something he needs or wants. “So it was really a super, super exceptional thing.”
What’s been so heartwarming is the response they’ve gotten from others, starting that night in the concert hall. “Everyone was so sweet about it,” he said.
They’ve been interviewed by Boston TV stations, National Public Radio and even a Canadian broadcaster. Actor George Takei posted the story on social media.
Mattin thinks he knows why so many people have been touched by his son and the story. “There’s nothing contentious about it,” he said. “There’s no point to argue about.”
“It’s just nice to have something that’s nice these days.”
And his family needs that too, he said. With two children on the autism spectrum, he said, normal life has its challenges. “They’re not all ‘wow’ moments,” he said. “So as nice as it is for everybody else, it’s that nice for us, too.”
“We have our own little echo chamber of people who love Ronan and understand his behavior, and it’s nice to see that outside of that, people can be so kind, too.”
For him, Mattin said, “The biggest thing is it just proves to me that he can get out there and appreciate these things and events … that are kind of universal.”
It drives home his conviction that for kids who are on the autism spectrum or have other behavioral differences, he said, “It’s important not to just hide at home where it’s easier. It’s important to get out, because these things can mean so much.”