Sunday, March 19, 2017

What a front row stage level seat makes you think about at the symphony

I started to think about this about a month ago, as I watched and listened to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra perform Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”. Then, this past week, when we went to see and hear Ravel’s “Bolero”, I had the point finally driven home and decided to write about it.

Possibly the best shoes at the concert
I’m talking about, in general, all the things that have to “go right” for a symphony orchestra to pull off a two hour musical performance. The things that can go wrong are myriad and varied: broken strings, fainting spells, turning the wrong score pages, instruments going out of tune, principal soloists catching cold, and any number of imaginable mishaps, however unlikely. What goes unnoticed in waiting for something to go wrong is how many things have to go right.

A selection of men's and lady's
Shoes, for instance. 79 pairs of shoes have to comfortable, broken in, shined, and functional, enough that 158 feet go completely unnoticed and un-thought-about for the 79 owners. This is important because as anybody who has ever had sore feet or a pair of ill-fitting shoes – which is probably every person who has ever owned shoes – knows, you can’t do a damn thing or concentrate or think of anything other than your feet when they hurt. You wouldn’t think of shoes being important to a concert performance, but I would argue, it could be one of the most critical aspects to a successful performance. Then, of course, you get into the rest of the clothes and personal grooming aspects. Underwear has to be comfortable. Skin has to not be itchy. Underarms have to not be irritated. Horn players’ lips have to be moist, supple and strong. String instrument players’ fingers have to be uncut, firm, and flexible. Percussionists arms have to be loose and responsive.

Those are sharp!
Then the surroundings: The stage has to be supportive but quiet. Music stands have to be upright, straight, and adjustable. Chairs have to be firm, comfortable, secure, and also adjustable. The AC or heat has to come on. The lights need to work. The doors need to be unlocked. 79 cars have to be in good working order and have to find roads that are passable between the performers’ houses and the concert hall. They need to not have accidents on the drive in. They all need to have gas in the tank.

No surprise, these are probably my favorite
Really, given everything that has to happen and not go wrong, it’s amazing there are such things as symphony performances at all.