Sunday, March 20, 2011

Going to the Symphony

After about a week of blogging about nothing but Fukushima, I thought a brief change of topic might be appropriate.

Last night my wife and I went to the symphony thanks to a friend's generous gift of two tickets. The symphony played works by Brahms, Ravel, Sibelius, Beethoven, and Elgar. The night started out strong with Brahms' Academic Festival Overture. Since I'm not too much of a fan of the post-Romantic Period of music, I wasn't too excited by the Ravel piece, although the symphony and the solo pianist (a high school student!) performed it well. Since I seem to be some sort of Philistine, I had never actually heard of Elgar, although I enjoyed his Enigma Variations.

However, I was once again reminded of one of the main reasons why I prefer to avoid theaters; a surprising number of people actually pay to attend such events and then end up being rude and disruptive. Unfortunately, I have an obsessive compulsive personality, which means that I easily lose focus when there are extraneous noises and other distractions.

At least three couples nearby found it necessary to whisper throughout much of the performance. None of these people were children or youth who were dragged to the symphony against their will. All were adults, most of whom were older than my wife and I. When the music got louder their whispering got louder (which sometimes jumped into quiet talking). To those couples I'd like to say that I'm sorry that the orchestra was interrupting your conversation; perhaps you should shush them next time. All joking aside, there is absolutely no reason why patrons at the symphony should be holding any sort of conversation while the orchestra is playing. Nothing you have to say can possibly be more important than showing consideration for the people around you and for the artists who have put so much time and talent into their performances. Next time, stay home and put on a CD and let everyone else at the theater enjoy the music without having to hear the sound of your voice.

One gentleman apparently thought it was appropriate to surf the Net with his iPhone for most of the performance. How much thoughtlessness or contempt for the artists must you have to think that it's appropriate to attend a live event just to play with your fancy electronic toy? This is what children do, sir. If you're going to insist on playing with your overpriced device while listening to music, why don't you stay home, pop in some earphones, and listen to an mp3 on your iPhone instead?

Finally, why would you bring fussy infants or toddlers to the symphony? You're in a theater that's designed to readily transfer sound from one side to another; every whimper, cry, or scream from your children will reach every other patron in the room. This is a performance by a symphony orchestra, not a Disney movie or a children's concert. Do yourselves and everyone else a favor; hire a babysitter and leave the kids at home like we did.

Despite these distractions, I will still return to the theater if only because no CD or mp3 player can possibly compete with a live orchestra. I just hope that next time there will be less attendees who have no intention of giving the performers their undivided attention.


  1. I'll bet there were some people that even clapped between movements.

  2. Fortunately there wasn't any of that, although I think there might have been some applause between movements of Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" last year. The pieces they played this time were relatively short and only Enigma Variations actually had more than one movement. I think the conductor's and the orchestra's body language were enough to show that they weren't done yet.



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