BSO's Annual Donor Thank You Concert

Tuning up

Ligia and I attended the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra‘s 2007 Annual Donor Thank You Concert last night. It was held at Strathmore Concert Hall. Pete & Nicole, thank you for the tickets! It was simply amazing.

I realized two things during the concert:

  1. The older I get, the more I appreciate classical music.
  2. The BSO is very good.

Ligia and I both grew up listening to classical music. Ligia studied at music schools since the age of 6, and she finished the conservatory in 2004, after having studied voice and piano. Her appreciation runs much deeper than mine. She actually gets goose bumps while she listens to good music. It’s kind of funny. I can always tell when a piece of music is great by looking at her skin. If she’s got goose bumps, it’s gotta be good. Well, last night she practically broke out in goose bumps…

There was always a huge (and growing) stack of classical music records by our pickup player during my childhood. If I wanted music, I got Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Paganini, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, Handel, Strauss, Brahm, Vivaldi, Verdi, Rossini, Pacabel, Enescu, Porumbescu, Bizet — well, you get the point. I’ve always liked good classical music. But the older I get, the more I relate to it. It speaks to me. It resonates within my body, my soul, and my mind. I appreciate it on more levels. Never did I realize this more poignantly than last night.

We spent the first half on one of the upper levels, and we snuck down to the orchestra seats during the intermission. We felt a little guilty, but after all, it was general seating, and those seats weren’t being used. No point in letting great seats go to waste, right?

Orchestra seats

The BSO played Tchaikovsky. They started with the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, then continued with Variations on a Rococo Theme, opus 33, and after the intermission, finished with Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, opus 64.

At Strathmore, photography isn’t allowed during performances. I was good and obeyed the rules. But before the show and during the intermission, I took out my 5D and 24mm prime lens, and took photos of the hall and of the public. Strathmore is quite beautiful. It’s got a modern design, quite different from traditional concert halls, and they’ve had to add floating, adjustable acoustic panels to the ceiling to make sure sound travels properly. They’ve done a good job with that, and the sound quality is pretty consistent between the upper and lower levels. I love the warm colors of the wood floor and panels. That, coupled with the open feel of the place, gives it a really nice atmosphere.

Polite conversation

A highly unusual thing happened during the performance. Because of the severe rainstorm outside, the power went out for a few seconds right in the middle of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony. The entire concert hall was pitch black, save for the red, glowing Exit signs. Do you know what the BSO did? They kept on playing right through the power outage as if everything was alright! They did not miss a beat! Now that’s professionalism! This also underscores one of the advantages of using acoustic instruments. No power outage can put them out!

You know what they say, right? Start strong, finish strong. Well, the BSO most certainly did that. We were on our feet by the end, giving the orchestra a standing ovation, along with everyone else. During the performance, Ligia and I kept looking at each other and smiling. Normally, my obsessive-compulsive mind keeps its manic wheels turning all the time. Even when I dream, I have parallel dreams, and I find myself half awake in the early hours of the morning, trying to force my brain to skip back to the more interesting dream… When I’m supposedly relaxed, tons of thoughts run through and I can’t keep still. Even when I want to think about nothing, I can’t. I’m telling you all of this because I managed to find clarity during the concert. There were long moments when the music passed right through me, clearing my mind. I could focus on just one thing at a time — on enjoying the music — and that was really something. I tell you, those moments are rare for me! What a concert! What a fantastic performance, especially during the symphony!

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