October 28, 2010 at 6:39 PM
It has seemed so very long this time, the gap between the 2009-2010 season and the commencement of the 2010-2011 season. Probably because the first performance in my subscription series, tailored to my tastes, didn’t occur until last Sunday, October 24th. Probably also because the summer was long, dry, and full of hard writing work. This year’s return of my symphony season coincides with a return of the rain. I’m not complaining; I love the coziness of overcast skies, rain, particularly after five months of its absence. I’m even cheerful about needing an umbrella, a raincoat, fighting the gusts of rain-infused wind that add unique and colorful elements to my attempts at a hairstyle.
Davies Hall, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, looks so majestic, so grand from my approach on Van Ness. Waiting at the final stop light, I see the patrons already inside, standing at the window, looking out onto the Civic Center’ classical architecture, onto on us, the poor sods in the gusty rain. A ticket allows me entry into this drier, brighter world. Inside, a festive atmosphere prevails. Marble floors gleam, the chrome and glass and chandeliers all complement the dressed-up, smiling patrons. There is a buzz of conversation, the clink of glasses, the popping open of another bottle of champagne that will always signal to me a sense of good cheer and prosperity.
I take my seat inside the concert hall. From my perch high in the first tier, I observe the activity below, the un-self-conscious actions of the musicians as they warm up. More musicians wander onstage. Some engage in conversation with each other, some sit to tackle a particular passage of music. Stands get adjusted, chairs moved an inch to the left, the back. Various music passages rise into the air, scales here and there, creating a whimsical dissonance that sounds like something Berg or Schoenberg might have composed on a light day.
Out in the lobby the three notes chimes, warning people to gulp down that scotch, that wine, and move to your seats, please. In my own seat, I begin to relax. The commute over the mountains, in wind and rain, was tricky. I left behind contention in my household. (With a belligerent pre-teen son, I’m beginning to wonder if there will be any other kind of environment for the next ten years.) My writing, of late, has challenged me, but a second draft of my novel-in-progress has just been completed. I have left behind the stress of driving in city traffic with its stoplights and impatient drivers and not-so-impatient pedestrians. My only job now is to listen and enjoy.
The buzz of conversation rises as patrons stream in and find their seats. Eventually the lights dim and the voices subside. A dulcet recorded voice over the speakers reminds us to please turn off all electronic and cellular devices. Tiny white screens appear from within the audience below me, hundreds of them, devices being checked and (theoretically) being turned off.
The concertmaster strides onstage, bows, and cues the oboist, who lets out a pure A 440 for the others to tune to. Instruments tuned, the musicians settle back in their seats. Finally we are all ready, musician and patron alike. We sit there, silent, expectant, and I savor this, as well—the final breathless moments of anticipation, just before the magic begins.
© 2010 Terez Rose
As usual, a wonderful blog. Your writing is such a treat for all of us. I can visualize what you describe so clearly and share the feel of the experience viscerally. Makes me want to head out tonight to the concert hall (except that I have a violin lesson).
I wish I were there...
So, what are you going to hear this year? And in the first tier too?
On scanning the SFS calender, there is a really nice season lined up. My violin picks would be Kavakos/Prok 2 in January and Barantschik/Mendelssohn in April. There is also a SFS chamber music concert on 3/27 in Davies Hall that you might want to attend! (smile)
Aww, Tom, you're so kind. As I was walking my hill outside for exercise just now, I was fretting that maybe the blog was dull, all ponderous description and such. Your comments made a sigh of relief slip out of me.
Anne - did you feel nostalgic, reading the description? Sure would like to peer down there and see YOU next time. Next year, maybe? (She says with hope in her voice.) 1st tier all year - yup, got the old subscription seat back, yay! I'll get back to you on my line-up for the year - am dashing out to an appt. in a few minutes, but wanted to jot a "thanks for the reply" to you two right now...
Anne, as promised:
Nov 7th: Anne Sophie in trio
Jan 15th: Prokofiev and Vadim Gluzman performing the Khaturian VC
Jan 23rd: All Beethoven, including the Piano Concerto no. 3
March 12: Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream and Symphony no. 4
April 17: Charles Dutoit and Gautier Capucon (Henri Dutilleux cello concerto)
June 19 - Yuja Wang, Bartok Piano Concerto
Woo hoo! Others that I was very sorry to miss, but dates were bad. There were a huge glut of "can't miss this!" performances all in January and early February. Frustrating that they weren't all stretched out into June. (And, to boot, the Kavakos/Prok was weeknights only. Rough to manage.
Maybe destiny will allow me to squeeze a March chamber performance in there as well...
It looks like you'll get to hear a lot of fine music making this year. (smile) But sadly, I don't think I'll be able to swing a trip this year. You'll have to listen for the both of us...
>But sadly, I don't think I'll be able to swing a trip this year.
That's why they're creating a very special 2011-2012 season. Just for you. : )
I love this. Sometimes even symphony administrators and marketing directors don't even understand why people go to the symphony, what it does for them. You describe it perfectly, Terez.
Do you go with anyone, or by yourself? I can't remember the last time I went to a concert by myself, and that seems (oddly?) appealing right about now.
Thanks for the nice comment, Laurie. Really, it is an interesting thing, this euphoria inside me, just before the performance. While I'm crazy about the music and very much into it, I just love the little kid excitement of strolling through the lobby. I love dressing up for something special. I love feeding off other people's good moods. I love the views of the city from the glass walls. Try fitting all THOSE variables on a marketing report! (Well, they do. It's why they renovate and keep standards high.)
Karen - I always go alone, and I LOVE it, I have to say. It's my day off from family. My husband would enjoy the occasional symphony performance, but not a season's worth, and this way he can do kid duty and we haven't have to deal with babysitting. (Terrible word to describe supervising an older kid, but what other name is it called?) I've gone with a friend, occasionally, but really, I prefer going solo. I bring my notebook and do a lot of relaxed, freestyle writing, before and after, and enjoy not having to share my thoughts out loud.
One time, two years back, some guy handed me a flier as I approached the front doors of Davies. it was an advertisement for "Tired of going to the symphony by yourself? Looking for a friend or group to share it all with? Join our "symphony for solos" club!" I laughed and crumpled it up. Something like that would be a perfect nightmare for me. But that's an introvert creative type for you.
I'm a retired single man, but always get 2 season tickets (Dallas Symph). Usually I take one of several friends, but sometimes I go alone. I have found both ways can be enjoyable. I enjoy taking a novice to concerts and helping them listen for specific things, and to watch the orchestra and conductor for clues. But going solo can be equally satisfying. I DO love that moment when the audience settles down, the concertmaster enters, and the ritual of tuning begins...great anticipatory moment!
One comment about "picking concerts". I had the good fortune to be in St Louis (in grad school) in the 60s when they were having a tough time selling tickets in a too large auditorium. They offered student prices of less than a dollar a seat per concert!!! We had a bus from campus that added a dollar! I learned SO much about classical music those two years. And it helped me realize that part of the enjoyment was that I did not have to decide if the program was "interesting" beforehand. I went EVERY time and learned something every time..... adding pieces to my I-want-to-buy-a-recording list or the not-for-me list, etc. Hearing Mahler for the first time, seeing Rostropovich and Itzak Perlman live are outstanding memories. Now, I get season tickets for the same reason (but not so cheaply!), and find new composers to like or new interpretations, etc. On the times I can't go, it is a pleasure to give away the tickets. I am fortunate to be able to do this.
James, wow, what a WONDERFUL experience you had. Man. Imagine if we could somehow make that happen for young people, making it a "why wouldn't I?!" kind of opportunity. And you're right, you expand your music tastes when you don't pick. I always try to keep at least 2 of my original six subscription seats. This year it's a Beethoven piano concerto over a more familiar biggie. And the SFS does a great job of programming unknowns with the biggies. That's where I'm getting my education.
Okay, that sounded noble, but the truth is, I still traded in four tickets to get some old favorites! (Well, I've never heard the Khaturian VC before - does that count as being intrepid? Probably not. Just a lot of fun.)
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