Every year on my birthday, I make a list of new things I want to try. Some of these things are difficult, some are easy, some are shockingly mundane. You can read about past adventures here.
I have never been particularly enamored with live performances. Rather, I want very much to be enamored with live performances, but about half an hour in I usually find myself fussing with the waistband of my pants, looking at the performers' shoes, mentally creating a back story about the violist who appears to be 22 and is wearing an oddly sexy shear shirt.
As such, I've never (of my own volition) attended a symphony. I imagined it would be two hours of shifting in my seat and becoming increasingly obsessed with the facial expressions of the conductor. But! How was I to know if I didn't try?
Here are five things I learned while attending a performance of Haydn's The Seasons
1. The symphony isn't just for Richie Riches - at least not in St. Paul
For $10 each (!) my dude and I got Awkwardly Close to the stage. Like, I'm-making-eye-contact-with-the-percussionist close. Isn't that nice? I love it when traditionally 'fancy' things are reasonably priced.
2. Not all conductors are painfully serious and tightly wound
In fact, some of them conduct in a black dress shirt with no tie, have a face like a friendly hedgehog, and are so clearly joyful that you want to hug them. And they encourage you to applaud between movements - which isn't normally done.
3. A well-performed symphony sounds like a CD
At least to my totally untrained ear. You know how when you see your favorite band live, there's a 70% chance that you'll think "Well, I guess they really cleaned up that song in post production"? I was floored by how clean and crisp and amazing the orchestra sounded. And the vocalists who performed? Insane. Amazing. Inhuman, almost. How is that sound coming out of your body?
4. When you make those faces, Dear Tenor, I can't stop looking at you
I realize that part of being a professional vocalist is being emotive. But when you sing with one arched eyebrow or use Joey's fart-smelling method for navigating long instrumental interludes, well, that face I'm making is stifled laughter. Because I'm 13.
5. Some of the musicians do nothing for 90% of the performance
Because really, there's only so much tympani that's called for. Of course, I became of obsessed with this fact, and watched various performers stare into the middle distance or pick at their cuticles while they waited twenty minutes to play for 45 seconds. Are they bored? What are they thinking about? Do they ever get so lost in thought they forget to come in when they should? These are the things I was thinking about instead of paying attention to the music.
Have you ever been to a symphony? Do you ever struggle to pay attention during long live performances?