Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our first trip to the symphony

Last Friday my husband and I attended the symphony for the first time. I’m not a complete stranger to orchestral music. I was in concert band (where I was a middling flautist).  I’ve been to other Charlotte Symphony Pops shows where the orchestra backs well known pop, country, or R&B artists (which allowed me to live the childhood dream of seeing the Pointer Sisters live, by the way), but I’d never been to an actual symphony performance without the added element of film and video (like last year's Video Games Live! tour) or a star vocalist. 

This was the CSO’s John Williams’ Spectacular, a Pops show featuring the music of the film score composer whose work with Steven Spielberg has placed many of his compositions in the pop culture canon. The music of “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jaws” are as familiar as Christmas carols to most of us. My husband is also a film music buff (I think his all time favorite is Hans Zimmer’s work from “The Thin Red Line”), so I really wanted him to be able to hear this music performed live. As we strolled across the bridge over Tryon on the way to the car afterward he said, “Seeing it live is different from hearing a recorded version of it. It’s like seeing campfires on TV your whole life, then one day actually sitting beside one.”

That pretty much sums up our experience. It was just really wonderful. Without the aid of visuals your mind is left to wander. It was quite a nostalgic night for me. I recalled clutching my E.T. necklace and sobbing in the theater as a 7-year-old as the music spurred memories of Eliott’s bicycle climbing through the night sky. The violin solo from "Schindler's List" by Caroline Campbell (who declined an offer to appear on the Grammys last weekend to be there) sent me back to the theater watching that film my senior year. Fancying ourselves Oscar buffs two friends and I actually skipped school and drove 45 minutes to the sprawling metropolis of Charleston, WV to see it the first week it played there. I still consider it one of the most important movies of my teenage years. The heartbreaking little girl in the red coat scene came to mind during Campbell's aching second solo. There were times I got goose bumps.

Campbell was a treat to watch. She didn’t just play the songs, she moved with them, jerking her head as she clipped a note or literally arching and bending with the bend of a note. She was also quite striking in an elegant sequined blue gown.

Conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos (pictured above) brings so much to his role as well. I interviewed him for another publication last summer and was taken with his charm, charisma, and passion for his work. Those qualities come out on stage as well. He morphed with the music during the “Star Wars” finale - which I knew he was excited about as a fan of the films and because some of the pieces he included (“Asteroid Field” particularly) were being performed by a non-Williams sanctioned orchestra for the first time. You could see Darth Vader’s stance in his movements and watch his enthusiasm as his lead became somewhat of a dance, punching the air with his baton.

The other thing I enjoyed was finding the instruments we heard on stage. Is that an oboe? Is that a French horn? Your eyes would dart to the section to see if you were correct in your assumption. I wanted to cheer whenever a lesser used, unsung so to speak, instrument would take the lead. I realize the symphony is not a rock show, but it could benefit occasionally from some of the spontaneous reactions of other big events. On the inside I was holding up a sign declaring my fandom for “WOODBLOCKS!” like I would at a wrestling match when that underused percussion pearl clomped in toward the end of the show.  

The two and a half hour performance flew by. I do wish there were more young people there, especially given the nature of this particular performance highlighting songs many children, teens, and young adults already know. I certainly never had something like this growing up (heck, I drove an hour to watch “Schindler”). The community is lucky to have the symphony, the Oratorio Singers (who added vocal oomph to selections from the later “Star Wars” films), and a vast number of arts options.

I’m already anxious to go again. Next up? Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana!” next Friday and Saturday, February 24 and 25, during the symphony’s KnightSounds 2 series. 

No comments :

Post a Comment