Photo by David Standridge via Arkansas Symphony Orchestra
“God comes to us in theater in the way we communicate with each other, whether it be a symphony orchestra, or a wonderful ballet, or a beautiful painting, or a play. It's a way of expressing our humanity.” ~Julie Harris
I went to the symphony for the first time on Saturday.
In a word: Mesmerizing.
Despite my penchant for all things rock-and-roll, I have always enjoyed (sometimes secretly) classical music; however, my education on the subject was limited to Looney Tunes and movie soundtracks. I will never forget hearing Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” for the first time in the movie ‘Platoon’. Haunting. Beautiful. The summer I turned thirteen, I remember my father’s insistence that we visit the home of Mozart while on a stopover in Vienna, Austria. It confused me. I had never known my father to be interested in classical music; but, I was taking piano lessons at the time. It makes sense now. Later in my life I would be glad we had made this stop, he claimed. He was right. Of course he was right. My upbringing in Kenya allowed for much exposure to culture… just not classical culture.
After high school I attended a fairly small, Christian, liberal arts university… with an amazing music program. I was an English major. So, while I attended a few on campus performances here and there, that particular part of university life wasn’t exactly my scene. My cousin, on the other hand, who attended the symphony with me, is an amazing flautist… and vocalist. She attended the same university. Her major? Yep. Music. I know she enjoyed the performance, but I think she really enjoyed watching my reaction.
I loved the music. Then again, I knew I would… despite never hearing any of the pieces previously:
Menuet Antique by RAVEL
Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425 (aka: Linz Symphony) by MOZART
Pictures at an Exhibition by MUSSORGSKY (orchestrated by RAVEL)
You should look them up, especially “Pictures at an Exhibition”, and give them a listen. There were, however, two things I found as fascinating, if not slightly more so, than the music:
(1) Watching the rise and fall and sweep of the bows as they glided across the strings was hypnotizing. Despite each being wielded by a different ridiculously talented human hand, the seemingly choreographed movements were nothing short of spectacular. Dancing bows… performing the most elegant ballet. Hypnotic.
(2) The conductor for Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann, is amazing. A-m-a-z-i-n-g! He didn’t merely conduct. He educated the audience about the history of each piece and teased us with snippets from each… pointing out intriguing bits for which we should be listening. But, when he did conduct… DAMN! He was animated and spellbinding and clearly passionate about the music and his musicians. My cousin wants to play for him. I can’t blame her. Plus, and I had to point this out to my cousin post-symphony for fear of her (God bless you, luv.) Snow White high on crack laugh… He looks like Gilderoy Lockhart. He even has a wand and most excellent hair.
I know. I brought Harry Potter into my symphony experience. Considering the masterful John Williams brilliantly brought the symphony into my Harry Potter experience… Are you surprised?
P.S. We both greeted the younger couple that sat to my right… perhaps because, age wise, we were in a stark minority together. During the intermission my cousin, who is more than a little geeky like me, pointed out that one of them was wearing a Paramore shirt and she was carrying a Spiderman tote bag… yet, they were still at the symphony. “I know!” I exclaimed. “They’re our people!”