Sunday, January 29

Listening To Paint Dry...

Let's start out with a given... I like music. I grew up liking music. My Dad had a huge collection of 78s of all the Big Bands and musicians of that era. I was inspired by that music. So much so that I learned to play the trumpet as a youngster, became sufficiently proficient in playing the instrument that I became a member of a Dixie Land Band. The band played during the summer months on a paddle dinner boat that catered to corporate parties as it plied the waters of one of the large lakes in North Carolina. Many a hot and humid summer's night our music was so well received that it was interspersed with the sound of splashes, laughter and applause as inebriated party revelers either fell or were pushed overboard. But that's another story...

I am am member of my choir and also a men's assemble that sings gospel and pop music selections. Aside from opera, which defies rational explanation for its existence, I like virtually all types of music. My enjoyment of music having, therefore, been established, my Judi and I gladly accepted a pair of tickets to attend last evening a performance of classical music by The Florida Orchestra. The performance was conducted in the newly renovated Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg. I use the descriptive adjective "renovated," as opposed to "remodel," because the venue underwent a major overhaul for approximately one year that ventured far beyond just ripping down the old wallpaper, slapping on a new cost of whitewash and tearing up the old tread bare carpet that gave tie die a bad reputation. The acoustics are now such that you can indeed hear a pin drop as well as every cough, belch, burp and the myriad of other bodily expulsions that bellowed forth between each musical selection.

Last evening's "Masterworks" performance was billed as Tchaikobsky's Swan Lake. Prior to the main bout on the card were two selections by the German composer Bela Bartok. The first was a three-parter that the string orchestra performed and the second featured a Concerto for Piano 2 ( although I only counted one piano) that was being played by a guest pianist who, as it appeared to my wife and I, was content with making a concocting of sound that assailed the senses and made about as much enjoyable musical sense as a yard rake on aluminum siding. Nevertheless upon the conclusion of each section of music the audience jumped to its feet erupting into thunderous and enthusiastic applause. They either greatly appreciated the musician's virtuoso performance or they were ecstatically glad, as were Judi and I, that that whole excruciating enterprise had come to a final conclusion. Judi remarked, and I concurred, that this euphoric display reminded her of the Emperor's New Clothes; everyone who was standing did not wish to provide their fellow audience participants any perceptible inkling that they too had no idea why they were standing up in the first place. It was better to stand an feign understanding than to remain seated and remove all doubt.

Intermission. Thank God! Judi departed to the lobby for some well deserved adult liquid fortifications, while I remained in the auditorium to evaluate the multitude of human species that comprised the sell out throng. It use to be said of a yesteryear St. Petersburg, that it was "God's waiting room." They may have left the streets of our fair city, but they all assembled in mass that evening in Mahaffey Theater. There was a smattering of children and younger folks, but for the most part it was comprised of every person that appeared to be a current residence of the county's nursing homes. I surmised that if majority of these folks ever managed to make it out to the lobby, a goodly number would never return, having been summoned prematurely forth to the great concert hall in the sky.

One particular elderly lady immediately captivated my attention. Her hair was the color of a yellow magic marker and was coiffed like a low yield explosion. She was wearing a light blue wool, two-piece suit adorned on each shoulder and extending down each side of her back what appeared to be two grey squirrels, the quantity of fur for each would stuff a fairly good-sized couch. I also noticed that she did a rather superb job of chewing her gum in near perfect matched time with the music's tempo.

The lights dimmed, the octogenarian crowd rumbled and stumbled back to their seats, and Swan Lake began in earnest. Swan Lake is a story of unrequited love on steroids, or Rome and Juliet with feathers. It is a beautiful piece of music that is familiar to any music aficionado, and the Florida Orchestra did itself proud in its flawless interpretation. In one of the major movements of the suite the Concertmaster (a.k.a. first violinist) had a protracted solo, and in performing same gave all the tale tell indications that he was in the throes of a musically induced epileptic seizure, gyrating like a crazed maniac, thrashing about on his chair to all points of the compass, attacking savagely the instrument's strings with unrestrained gusto. Deservedly so, he received the lion's share of the audience adulation at the conclusion of the piece. The lady playing the harp also got a nice round of applause, but I gave her only a five out of a possible ten because she pretty much stayed seated while delivering her appointed solo. Not everyone can be a star.

All in all our evening's venture into classical music was memorable, although I still personally prefer my music preferences to encompass less strenuous involvement. Give me a bubbly evening with Lawrence Welk and I'll follow you anywhere.