(Warning: This will be the second week in a row I use this space to complain about audience behavior at a musical event. I could have spaced this gripe out, yes. I could have written another opinion for today that has nothing to do with distracting and inconsiderate stuff going on while you're trying to enjoy something delicate and ethereal, and I could have saved this for another time. But the incident about which I'll be writing happened Saturday evening, night before last, and the irritation I felt then has not dissipated. Every time I think about it, it gets me indignant all over again. And I have a policy to write, whenever possible, about whatever makes me angry while I am still angry about it. It is a good policy and has served me well, in a therapeutic sense if nothing else.
Trouble is, on any given day, I am angry about three or four things. At least three or four things. Of course, I can only write on one subject a week. So as you can understand, it would be impossible to get to every matter that has me steamed while I am still steamed over it.
But this week, I am lucky. Up until Saturday evening, I was preparing a column on something that doesn't make me angry. What's more, the subject matter of that column is not particularly topical, so it can wait. Today's subject cannot wait. If I put off writing about today's subject, most likely I will get over being pissed about it. In another week, I might even shrug it off as no big deal and never get around to opinionizing on it. At this moment, though, I am still angry enough that it makes me mad even to think I would ever not be angry about it. How dare I, think I, calm down and shrug it off without letting everyone know how angry this makes me!?
So you see, I really have no choice but to use this column space, for the second week in a row, to complain about audience behavior at a musical event. If that seems too much of the same topic to you, don't read this. I will understand. I may be hurt—even angry—for a time, but eventually, I will get over it.)
(One More Quick Warning: If you're one of those parents who brought their bawly, squally kids to the performance of the Meridian Symphony Orchestra Saturday night, you may want to skip this column along with those I spoke to in the first warning.)
I am pleased Meridian has its own symphony orchestra. Every town should have a symphony orchestra, that's what I say, just as every town should have parks and parades. The more symphony orchestras there are, the better life is on Earth.
Meridian's orchestra has come a long way. I was there for the very first performance, almost 20 years ago, and it sounded like at least three-quarters of the string section had no idea what those little twisty peg things on the far end of their fiddles were for. It's much better now.
The wife and I went Saturday night because we have a friend who was playing a cello concerto. For those unacquainted with philharmonic lingo, a "concerto" is a work for solo instrument and orchestral accompaniment. It takes a lot of effort and organization to get that many musicians together in one room long enough to put such a thing together, believe you me. And if you don't play an instrument, you can't imagine the time it takes for the soloist to learn all those notes. Every time you hear a concerto, you are witnessing the culmination of years and years of music lessons and daily practice. In fact, if you average an orchestra out to 60 people (there are often more), average their ages out to ... say ... 40 (they are often older), then assume most of those people took up their instruments by age 10, you're looking at a minimum of 1,800 years of music lessons and daily practice, just to get that concerto played. Not counting whatever time the composer put into composing the damn thing.
The concerto our friend played was composed by Haydn. Franz Joseph. "Papa" Haydn we call him in the biz. It probably didn't take him long to compose that concerto because old Franz Joseph was quick. In his 77 years, he managed to knock out more than 100 symphonies, 50 sonatas, 80 string quartets and a whole pile of other things, including concertos and oratorios. (If I'm still around in 2032, I intend to write a column in commemoration of Papa's 300th birthday, and in that column, I will explain the difference between an oratorio and a sonata. It's something everyone should know, but I don't have time right now, as I am running out of room and need to get to that part about the squalling kids.)
Anyway, a lot of time, a lot of focus, a lot of dedication and a whole lot of love goes into putting on a concerto—or any other orchestral piece, for that matter. Maybe it's not the same kind of love parents feel for their children, no. But it's the kind of love good parents hope their children have some of when they grow up. It's a love for things noble and beautiful, and I understand why parents want to share it with their children.
I'm certain this is why so many parents brought their tots to the concert Saturday night—to expose them at an early age to noble and beautiful stuff. And to be fair, as soon as it became clear to those parents that their squalling kids weren't going to stop squalling anytime soon, they trotted them out of there.
But here's the deal, Mom and Dad: Once the squalling starts, it doesn't matter whether you trot him out in 10 seconds or 60. The damage has been done. Not even counting what it does to the audience's attention, a soloist may spend months, even years, preparing for this one performance. This one, unreclaimable shot. This one moment on the front of the stage. And then comes your kids ... See what I'm getting at? For the audience, it's like finding a fly in your soup. The fly may take up only a small corner of the bowl, true. But knowing that doesn't help your appetite come back.
For the soloist, it's more like finding a dead horse in your soup.
Seriously, until there is not a lingering doubt in your mind that Junior can sit through a typical orchestra performance without going buggy, leave him at home, would you? I mean, everyone in the audience wants him to grow up with an abiding love for all those delicate, ethereal things we love so much. But spoiling it for the rest of us isn't going to help that happen.
OK then, got that off my chest. Hope I wasn't too rough on those good parents. After all, they are the good ones. I don't imagine many of the bad ones were there Saturday night.