Just Keep Playing
Last Thursday night, The Chicago Symphony, under the direction of Riccardo Muti, was playing the second movement of the Brahms Symphony No. 2, when the sound of a fistfight broke out in one of the upper boxes, where good manners usually reign.
Venues like Orchestra Hall have very strict rules about noise. Disturbing a soloist by sneezing or coughing is frowned upon. Cell phones ringing will get you a glare, although one concert musician had a good sense of humor, and he played back the ringtone on his violin.
Fistfights breaking out during a classical music concert hall are unheard of, though. Orchestra Hall isn’t a mosh pit or Woodstock, don’t you know?
Our band, on the other hand, has played under the most unusually noisy circumstances. We’ve played at Fourth of July concerts where the fireworks landed between the bass drummer and the cymbal player. We’ve played for the mentally-challenged (which was probably the best, the biggest, and the most appreciative audience we ever had; we hoped we could play for them again). We’ve played in shopping malls, where we had to compete with Muzak.
We also play at nursing homes around our area. That is not to confuse nursing homes with retirement homes. Retirement homes are places where retired people with health problems go to live in comfort and security. They’re generally still mobile and cognizant. Nursing homes are a degree past that. These are people with serious, debilitating illnesses who may or may not recover. Many are in wheelchairs or even wheelbeds. Some have Alzheimer’s, others have suffered strokes. They are, shall we say kindly, uninhibited.
We are a thoroughly disciplined band. For an amateur band, we are as professional in this aspect as the musicians of the Chicago Symphony. We do not laugh, smirk, or get annoyed when a member of the band yells out, “Tell the band to shut up! I’m trying to sleep!” We and our director just soldier on, straight-faced.
This past Sunday, one of the sentient audience members, a visitor, not a patient, suggested that we play music that the audience can recognize. This comment required more than the usual amount of discipline, as our conductor is new. He had just finished explaining that the band was trying to bring its audience new, fresh music when what they really wanted was the old stuff we’ve always played. The director said nothing, but the band secretary was highly-incensed. Hey, don’t look at us. We didn’t pay that guy in the back to make that comment.
According to the report from CBS Chicago, the conductor shot the battling offenders dagger eyes. But he never missed a beat.
Tea Partiers should take note, whenever they find themselves the object of ridicule by the Media or the Liberals: Don’t even bother to shoot your adversaries dagger eyes. Just keep talking.