There’s no better way to end Take A Friend to The Orchestra week than with a patron contribution and today’s post comes from Heather Brown, a classical music enthusiast with mad culture blogging skills and the heavy duty take-a-friend goal of packing an entire balcony with fellow subscribers. Sounds like a perfect goal to me. ~ Drew McManus EMBRACE THE PARADOX Thanks to my parents’ influence, I grew up playing and listening to …
Going to a classical concert can be an experience that crystallizes a moment in one’s life that, when viewed in retrospect, can be an irrevocably life changing. We hear of these awakenings in our musical circles often and for many, it can be such an intense bewildering occurrence. I remember such an event in my life when I was 12 and my father took me to an opera performance of Verdi’s La Traviata.
I had looked forward to this evening for a long time. Rufus Wainwright was going to join me for dinner and an LA Philharmonic new music concert. On the bill was John Adams “Short Ride in a Fast Train,” Igor Stravinsky’s “Requiem Canticles,” and Lou Harrison’s “Symphony on G.” I had never met Rufus, but he agreed to join me on a free night. He was to arrive by train, so I made reservations at Traxx at Union Station for 6 pm.
There is value in repetition. This was a difficult lesson for me to learn, both as a child when I discovered that I was expected to practice my music lessons every day, and as a teacher when I had to repeat a lecture point because some students didn’t understand what I was saying. This lesson was made easier when I realized that even if the exact same notes were played, or the exact same words said, I made new meaning. I heard new things in the notes or felt new things in my lips and fingers as I repeated Clarke technical studies over and over. My students (hopefully) understand more about suspensions when I say again how to prepare the dissonance, especially if they weren’t listening the first time!
As a good Take A Friend To the Orchestra exercise, I could probably convince 10 friends to buy tickets to experience a night at the orchestra for the first time in their lives. But as the Oliver Wyman’s Audience Growth Initiative study shows, about nine of those friends probably won’t return the following year.
Hey there, music fans. Curious what goes on in symphony hall after dark? Welcome to Take a Friend to the Orchestra 2009, your one and only source for how to party with the orchestral elite. Whether it’s Schubert or Schoenberg the natives are snacking on, anyone can take a taste if they know which fork to use. And you don’t have to wear black to the ball, Cinderella. This club’s not as uptight as you might think.
Like finding something decent to watch on cable TV, determining which concert to attend from a season brochure can take some clicking. If the names and faces leave you feeling about as intelligent as your last attempt to read the Economist, don’t drop out yet. Classical music can require class of all sorts, and this introductory course might entail a little Google-ing. No shame in that, and if your search results aren’t giving you what you need, you can always phone a friend.
Just when you think Take A Friend To Orchestra (TAFTO) creativity has reached terminal velocity, a contributor comes along to remind us otherwise. Case in point, Soho The Dog’s Matthew Guerrieri whose contribution reminds us what makes classical music so valuable in the first place. What’s more, he sums up what would normally take hours to discuss in merely 28 cartoon panels (that’s right, it’s one of Matt’s legendary cartoons!) All of the sudden, the economic downturn doesn’t seem so daunting. ~ Drew McManus
Toronto, April 14, 2003. The entrance to the large factory space at Cherry Beach Sound in Toronto’s docklands has been renovated with various vintage items of Arctic travel and resembles a museum of exploration as much as an alternative opera venue. The audience (slightly frigid as a result of an unseasonably cold April) passes through the long atrium and arrives at the starkly lit entrance to the performance space as if entering into another carefully constructed reality. The occasion is the premiere of Linda C. Smith’s Facing South, an opera (based on a libretto by Don Hannah) that looks at Robert Peary’s quest for the North Pole, and has been commissioned, workshopped, and produced by Tapestry New Opera Works, an opera company whose mission is to create new works for the operatic stage.
I have a terrible confession to make. When I was 13 or so, I loved to watch chess tournaments on PBS. Shelby Lyman, I believe, was the host of these programs, and they were surprisingly campy. On the particular fateful day that I’m thinking of, for instance, Tim Rice (frequent librettist for Andrew Lloyd-Webber) appeared as guest authority, on the basis of his musical “Chess.” I not only watched, but taped, this program; puberty was wreaking havoc on my judgement. Right afterwards, a Verdi opera, Falstaff, came on; I let the VCR record this too. Of course I didn’t know from Falstaff, but whoa dude! I was entranced, delighted, smitten; I sat, glued, inches from the grainy screen, and watched while my mother yelled at me to vacuum my room or something; and when the final fugue happened and all the characters in the last joyous bars vanished from the stage leaving merely the empty forest landscape, leaving the impression that it had all been a beautiful dream … well, I was beside myself, a happy happy tween. 84-year-old Verdi had come, perhaps in the nick of time, to rescue 13-year-old me from associates of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
When Drew asked me to write for TAFTO I immediately agreed as it has been a favorite series of mine to read especially since it is such a proactive approach. However since I am mostly in performances and not watching them, I was initially stumped on the angle to take. I have invited many friends to attend in the past, some have become subscribers and one recently became a board member and now heads up Crescendo, a patrons social group at the Springfield Symphony that she herself formed. Since I write extensively on the subject of Orchestras and their relationships with their audiences and communities over on Sticks and Drones, I decided to bring to TAFTO an assignment that I gave to my Audience Connections class at Drury University. The assignment was to do a review of two different performances by the Springfield Symphony, one a Classics, the other a Pops. The class had 4 students last semester so 2 went to the Classics and 2 to the Pops and I sat them in different parts of the hall. These however were reviews with a twist (literally), for they were not there to review the orchestra’s performance, because I told them to turn their backs on us and instead review the audience!
Three years ago I was a classical newbie. The day I started to switch was just a hair after my 24th birthday, and three years further on it is a process very much in development. Before that transition point I had barely more than a baseline exposure to the genre, being able to recognize Beethoven’s fifth (well, as long as it was the first movement) and listening to each of the three classical CDs in my collection for perhaps a few hours each year, if they were lucky. Classical music was something to daintily dip my toes into, not to dive under.
What do you love about going to the symphony?
This is the question I asked the readers on my website, Violinist.com, which has a lively discussion board populated with professional musicians, enthusiastic amateurs, teenage students, their parents, teachers and fans of the violin.
Taking a friend to the orchestra is a bit of a tricky matter when you play in the orchestra. Most of my friends either play in the Calgary Philharmonic themselves, or have been coming to concerts their whole lives. And when I do get to know someone from a different sphere, and find they’re enthusiastic about hearing an orchestra for the first time, I’m not always in the best position to guide them through it. I’ll be up on stage, hoping they managed to get there, didn’t feel too lost or bored, and maybe we’ll get an opportunity for a post-concert chat. I don’t get to help them out or answer their questions, at least until after the concert has ended.
The experience of actually seeing an orchestra live is magical. Bows moving in tandem, melodies flitting from section to section, the anticipation of the crowd, the conductor waving his arms–it is a thrill unique to the orchestral concert experience. Audio and video recordings can’t even come close to the feeling of actually being there, hearing music being created in that moment, filling the hall with sound and then dissipating just as quickly.
I didn’t see my first opera until my mid-20’s.
If I hadn’t entered this wonderful and crazy world as someone who works within the business, there’s a good chance I mightn’t have been around opera at all. I’m not an “insider,” and for the first part of my career, I felt the burden keenly. I got my first job in the opera business at age 29, and I always seemed to be surrounded by colleagues who were singing along with the Met broadcasts before they knew how to read. For years I played “catch up,” and am still easily intimidated.
“So, you dare to think you might possibly be qualified to even consider buying a ticket for classical music concert? Really? But you don’t even have perfect pitch! And you surely don’t know the Kochel numbers of Mozart’s big works. Answer me this: what instruments use a double reed or when should you applaud in a concert? No, why don’t you just reconsider now and save yourself the embarrassment.”
The TAFTO excursion I sponsored was to the April 9 matinee performance of the Honolulu Symphony’s “Homage to Mozart” program. I arrived early so that I could secure the tickets from will call before the others in my party arrived. The marketing director ended up arranging for us to pay $10 for tickets in the sixth row which I assume is $65 seat territory. I knew this would be the situation when I submitted my first installment to Drew, but thought the alternative of offering comp tickets for a donation so that people would place a value on the experience was an interesting option to share with readers.
While I do work as a theatre manager, up until I took myself to the orchestra last year as part of Drew’s inaugural TAFTO challenge, my only real exposure to classical music was recognizing pieces from Bugs Bunny cartoons and a hazy recollection of attending a performance by the Albany (NY) Symphony Orchestra about 20 years ago. I don’t quite remember why I attended all those years ago. Though since I was a dorky college freshman I suspect an attractive woman and a free ticket were involved.
In Paul Auster’s “The Locked Room” from The New York Trilogy, Fanshawe is missing and presumed dead. Although a prolific writer before his disappearance, he could never bring himself to publish any of his work, and has left his entire unpublished oeuvre to the narrator, his childhood friend, with instructions that he read the collection and decide whether or not it is worthy of publication. Upon reading Fanshawe’s manuscripts, which confirm to him his friend’s literary genius, the narrator decides to pitch the collection to a publisher, singling out a large novel as the most brilliant work, and as a result, the one that should be considered first for publication. When the publisher asks the narrator for a description of the book, he considers the request but then decides on the following course of action: