I know nothing about classical music except that I like Strauss waltzes because I saw a documentary years ago with the Lipizzaner stallions performing to Strauss.
Performing Lippizzner stallion
I know nada about how music is composed and how those black squiggles on the page tell a musician what to play as well as the speed and volume to play. It might as well be quantum mechanics.
When a kind woman from the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) called three years ago encouraging me to buy season’s tickets I balked. I imagined Sibelius on a frosty winter night, bearded men – and maybe bearded women, too – nodding knowingly in their cushy seats, conducting with their pointer fingers as I slumped snoring in my seat. I said as much to the nice sales lady on the phone.
“Oh no, no, no,” she said. “There’s so much more to offer. Have you considered….” and off she went extolling the virtues of the Pops series. Hmm, I thought, Pops sounds like something old dads go to so they can say they went to hear the orchestra on Saturday night, like they were hobnobbing with the culture class all tuxedoed and shiny shoed. But then she said yatta yatta Broadway Divas yatta yatta and I said what? And that was that. She hooked me.
My husband chose half the orchestra performances last year. Turns out he likes Sibelius. We went. I fell asleep. This year I chose all the performances again. No Sibelius for us!
Shall I display my ignorance further? The season opener for the orchestra this year was headlined by Itzhak Perlman. I’d heard of him. Had I heard anything he’d played? Nope. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Apparently he played on a Billy Joel album back in the late ‘80’s which I have heard but he was anonymous at the time of recording.
Billy Joel and Itzhak Perlman in concert, 2015
You can listen here.
The audience for the performance we attended was the musical cognoscenti mixed with the glitterati seekers – those who attend concerts of famous musicians because they’re famous musicians. Me? Call me the ignorati. There were lots of shiny shoes but no tuxedos. My husband wore his best Hawaiian shirt and clean low-cut hiking shoes. I wore sparkly earrings and red patent (shiny) leather flats.
But enough about fashion.
Have you ever been at a concert where the audience was silent at the end of a performance? Ever wondered why an audience would be silent? I know now. When Perlman played the theme from “Far and Away” I leaned forward in my seat straining to hear the last note, the last reverberation of the strings. I filled my lungs and held my breath so as not to disturb the air around me, to allow the sound to reach my ears. The note, as strong as spider gossamer, hangs in my memory even now. It was as though I’d climbed to the top of a long mountain path and arrived at a lookout over Shangri-la, the world green, fresh, perfect.
The moral of the story? None, except that not all telemarketers call to tell you that you have a compromised hard drive and you better let them fix it or your life will be over, or claim to be calling from Revenue Canada and that if you don’t pay up pronto your bank account will be frozen forever. Sometimes the telemarketer will change you into an orchestra-going culture vulture. So be careful. It could happen to you.