Saturday, October 10, 2009


Elf took the boys and I to the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra on Thursday evening. They have a series of family concerts, where each adult ticket gets two kids in free. I haven't been to a classical concert since I was at school in Burnie, when the TSO toured. [I lie - I did once go to a TSO recording session where you got in free but had to sit on your hands the whole time]. One day I will go to a normal concert like a normal person, rather than a special "outreach" concert where the programme is specially designed to convert newbies to the cause.

It was raining and parking was tricky, so while Elf parked the car I took the boys in to get tickets. I had just paid for them with plastic when Elf jogged through the crowd, and gasped, Pheiddipides style, "I've got a free ticket - only buy one." She missed it by that much. Tickets for two adults were $76 - about twice what I was expecting. I guess that's standard for a one-hour classical concert?

The concert was programmed on the theme of "fire", so there was a bit of Stravinsky's Firebird, some Handel composed for the royal fireworks, and a couple of contemporary pieces by Australian composers. I really enjoyed the music, and watching 46 dedicated professionals working so tightly together is pretty fascinating. At times there was a beautiful seamless drone, and I could not put my finger on where it was coming from - maybe strings and oboe together.

The musicians tend to slenderness. I imagine them picking listlessly at their food in short breaks from practising, mind elsewhere, going over and over that tricky run of demisemiquavers in that requiem by Bach, or something. I couldn't picture any of them with a burger. All dressed in black, but in getups of their own choosing, ranging from very formal to fairly laid back.

The mood onstage though was uniformly intense. The conductor was a youngish chap called Matthew Wood. The power relationship and etiquette is quite interesting - he obviously runs the show, comes out last, orchestra stands for him and waits to be invited to sit etc. He, however is a visitor, and does a lot of showy shaking hands with the principal violinist, who is the captain of the home team so to speak. He left his podium to shake her hand three or four times.

At the conclusion there was a lot of bowing and responding to bows (a lot like an Easter service we went to at the very "high" Anglican church where we were married), more handshakes, then flowers were brought out to the conductor. He brandished them, bowed some more, then presented them to the principal violinist. Handshakes and a kiss. More bowing. All of this after a one hour performance.

The presenter of the concert, that Christopher Lawrence off of the radio, had asked the audience to go wild at the end, cheer and stamp a bit to get an encore. He came out waving his hands wildly to say "come on, give it up, I want some wolf whistles". This was predicated on the idea that playing an extra piece is a reward for the audience. Although I enjoyed it very much, and all the kids in my earshot did also, a better reward would possibly have been to let us go 5 minutes earlier.

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