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Ronan Mattin, 9, and his grandfather, Stephen Mattin. Photo courtesy of Stephen Mattin

That ‘wow’ moment that charmed Boston’s concertgoers

BOSTON — Seconds after the Handel and Haydn Society stopped playing Mozart’s “Masonic Funeral Music” at the Boston Symphony Hall last week, 9-year-old Ronan Mattin was so swept away by the music that he loudly exclaimed — for the whole auditorium to hear — “Wow!”

After a beat, as Ronan’s awe-filled “Wow!” echoed throughout the hall, the audience burst into laughter and cheers. The orchestra was so charmed by the child’s exclamation that they asked the public to help find him, hoping to reward the sweet sentiment with a trip to meet the artistic director. Audio of the concert was recorded by WCRB, Boston’s classical radio station (and part of the WGBH Foundation).

Ronan didn’t mean to be disruptive, said his grandfather, Stephen Mattin, who took Ronan to the concert. His grandson, Mattin explained, has a disorder on the autism spectrum, and often expresses himself differently than other people.

“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 said.

Mattin said that his sister-in-law saw on television that the Handel and Haydn Society was searching for the “wow kid,” and the family, who lives in Kensington, New Hampshire, reached out soon after. The orchestra plans to invite the family to a show later this year to meet the artistic director and musicians before the performance.

Ronan is a huge music fan, his grandfather said. He took the 9-year-old to another concert in Boston a few months ago, and he “talked about nothing else for weeks,” Mattin said. Ronan loves taking trips to visit the Museum of Science and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mattin said, and he was excited for last week’s concert.

Mattin said he certainly wasn’t expecting his grandson’s exclamation, but was glad the orchestra was tickled by it and wanted to connect.

“I had told several people because I thought it was a funny story,” Mattin said with a laugh. “About how he was expressing his admiration for the performance and put everybody in stitches.”

David Snead, the president and CEO of the Handel and Haydn Society, wrote in a Facebook post that it was “one of the most wonderful moments [he’s] experienced in the concert hall.”

Ronan’s parents, who live about a mile down the road from Mattin, got a kick out of the story, too.

“They weren’t too surprised that he should do something to crack everybody up because he’s a pretty funny guy,” Mattin said.

Mattin said he was touched by the kindness of the other audience members and performers after the “wow” moment, and that the Society reached out.

“You know, everybody’s different. Everybody has different ways of expressing themselves,” Mattin said. “I think people in general, society’s becoming more tolerant or understanding of the differences between people.”

This report originally appeared on WGBH News.

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