I know it’s a wonderful thing to listen to classical music live.
That’s why I brought my nearly–11 and just-turned–13 year old sons to the school auditorium for the 2pm Sunday performance.
And I know it’s annoying when people distract you.
This is why I’m sure you’ll have noticed (since you were obviously watching us) that I was silently correcting my 10 year old when he got fidgetty: stilling his hands with mine, making sure he wasn’t kicking the seat in front, quietly prompting him between pieces as to how many more movements were still to come.
What Went Down
Towards the 1 hour 10 minute mark, I admit he was moving around a lot. I’m sorry it distracted you. It distracted me too, especially as I felt a responsibility to correct him over and over again, so that he wasn’t disruptive.
Having got to the last piece in the concert, you felt you needed to lean forward and tell him that there was only one piece left, with the unspoken “so for goodness’ sake sit still” hanging in the air.
Thanks for making me really uncomfortable.
Thanks for making me miss most of the last piece as I tried to figure out how much we had annoyed you, or whether you were trying to be supportive. And wondering why you waited until the short, last piece to make your displeasure known.
I’ll bet you didn’t notice the way my boy was squeezing my hand in time with the music. Or the way he shared your chuckle of glee when the motif from the first piece came around again at the end, in a piece by a completely different composer.
I’ll bet you didn’t consider that I’m trying to bring my boys up to be well-mannered, cultured, and excited by the passions of others (wasn’t the violinist amazing, by the way?).
What The Future Holds
I know it’s annoying to be distracted during a concert.
I also know that I was one of the youngest people there, not counting my boys. And I’m 43.
If we want live orchestral music to survive as a form, we need to make concerts (afternoon concerts, at that!) a hospitable place for people with children and for first-time concert-goers. The soloist did. Remember? He told us to go out to the bathroom whenever we needed to; he wouldn’t mind. He said he’d cue us when to clap and, when we got it wrong, he laughed and said “We’ll take it!”. He was the perfect host.
Without people like me — paying full price and bringing along the next generation of fans — orchestras will not survive.
So. I will continue to take my kids to this regional orchestra’s Sunday afternoon concerts in the middle school auditorium. And yes, the 13 year old will read his book for a while. Yes, the 11 year old will fidget towards the end of a long concert without breaks. And then, one day, they’ll be ready for the big city orchestra’s Saturday night concerts, where they will pay big money to hear amazing music, I hope, for the rest of their lives.
If, that is, there are enough people willing to brave the tutters and the sighers to keep orchestras alive that long.