Our week started out nicely. I got to go to Room, a cathartic movie that I needed to go to. Sometimes, when it’s been too long since I’ve been emotionally touched enough to cry, I start to worry that something broke in me. Room was just the thing for that, and not because of the darkness of the topic, but for the absolutely touching moments created with a five-year-old who carries the shit out of the movie. Becky got her hair did, which is her emotional release and fills her cup.
Then Monday began with Becky spilling coffee on her three-year-old phone. And it went downhill from there. Both of us had stressful weeks at work. Health issues. Doctor visits. And lots more we won’t discuss here.
So we were nearly crawling into Friday evening, battered and bruised, for a night with the Minnesota Orchestra’s Inside the Classics series. This was our introduction to this programming they do that’s half educational, half music, all entertaining. This night’s particular program was called Hipster vs. Nerd and compared the compositional powers of Mozart (the Hipster) and Haydn (the Nerd).
It happened to be some sort of hipster night all round as the lobby area was filled with local brews and electronic entertainments of one sort or another. We didn’t participate, and even got a bit fake-snooty about it (how far we’ve come in about two years since our first foray). But it also meant our drinks were discounted, so yay! Also, pro tip – pre-order your intermission drinks. It is SOOO much better to enjoy intermission in peace than waiting in a line.
Becky here. Joel is being incredibly sweet. I got snooty not him. There were so many lines everywhere, and all I thought was, “Hey, we were here before you all thought it was cool.” But that feeling eased because I realized that the MN Orchestra had done something that many of orchestras and opera houses could not. They figured out a way to bring in a new audience, a younger audience. The only way to survive for future audiences is to reach out and bring them in. I will admit, I did thourghly enjoy the cold glass of beer while watching the orchestra.
We headed up to our seats in the second balcony, ready for the magic.
The discussion of the topic was staged as an argument between violist-host Sam Bergman passionately fighting for more recognition of Haydn and conductor Sara Hicks defending both musicians and pretty much the status quo. The banter between the two was humorous and insightful. At one point, Bergman brought in Minnesota Orchestra president, Kevin Smith, to defend his characterization of Haydn as “boring” in a recent Star Tribune article.
What the evening’s argument boiled down to is Haydn created the forms. He was gifted at making new rules and following them, like a silicon valley code writer. And he did it well as a court musician who had to write new pieces every week on top of actually conducting. He was a friend and mentor of Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven. He wrote more than 100 symphonies. He had some balls too – writing the Farewell Symphony wherein over the course of 8 minutes, each musician walks off stage. It was a protest to his patron who was staying on vacation too long and the musicians wanted to return to their families. Seriously cool.
Mozart was presented as getting too much credit when it comes to the pair. Not that he isn’t awesome. His style was to color outside the lines. They don’t call the new show Mozart in the Jungle for nothing. (And not for nothing, it’s awesome and got us to subscribe to Amazon Prime for a year.)
I think Joel is skipping over some important reasons as to why we attended this concert. When I lived in Boston I became a member of the Handle and Hadyn Society. Why you may ask, well they offered super cheap tickets to AMAZING music around Boston…perfect for a poor graduate student. For years later, I received their mailings and with each one, my heart would break again and again for my loss of Boston. So when the MN Orchestra reached out with this concert, I was elated. Plus, it would be directed by Sarah Hicks! Her and Adam Kuenzel are my MN Orchestra favorites and stars. We’ve already written about the importance of Kuenzel, so Hicks came into our lives on September 13, 2014, in a concert entitled “2014-2015 Season Sampler Concert,” which we attended with our friends who were visiting us from San Diego. Anyway, Hicks is mesmerizing, with her passion and fluid dancer movements to the music. I also felt like I had this comradery with her; most of my career, I have held stereotypical male positions. So, my fan girl comes out for her as well. I also read this article right after the Sampler Concert and I will admit Hayden and Hicks were my draw to this concert.
As they talked, the surrounding symphony would chime in with a few measures that exemplified the topic at hand. They even had a harpsichord, and it’s not often you get to hear one of those anymore. When the harpsichord was missing after the intermission, I wished it all the best. Somehow, it’s become like the cowbell of music – they don’t get to shine often, but man you need more of it.
After intermission with some nice drinks, the symphony resumed, this time just two pieces – one from Haydn and one from Mozart. After learning so much about each composer, it was delightful to get lost in the music and transported back through centuries. I always find myself watching one person or another for a while, like the timpani player, who bangs a kettle every now and then. I imagine the years of college, graduate school, rehearsals, auditions, all to get to this symphony, and then to hit a drum once after 30 measures of rest. You know he could play the shit out of anything in the percussion world, but damn if he isn’t awesome at being part of a whole that is greater than the sum.
I’ll watch that person, or flit between a few, intently listening to pieces. Then, my gaze always always always drifts upward and I swear I see the music filling the hall, bouncing off the walls, and all is bliss. The pieces of the week fall away, and Becky and I are once again whole, human, and our cups runneth.
We already got our tickets for another of these events, called “The Evolution of Opera” that will cram the history of opera into 90 minutes, and we can’t wait!
I think it needs to be said that the MN Orchestra has done a great service to people like my husband and myself. Yes, we both finally have full time jobs and slowly climbing our way to the top of the middle lower class as student loans weigh us down, the MN Orchestra offers concert tickets for people like us in a program called $20 Under 40. the MN Orchestra gives us a chance to experience the beauty the world offers and brings comfort as we keep climbing and falling. So, thank you. Thank you for this program and the art you share.
P.S. As marketing professionals, we LOVE LOVE LOVE the Minnesota Orchestra’s error page. Seriously check it out. (This is exactly the sort of thing Becky does for a living.)