A few weeks ago we attended a performance by the Westchester Philharmonic at Purchase College, an experience I recommend highly. It’s a slowly dying art. Not the playing of classical music, which is carrying on as strong as ever, but the listening to it, which requires you to get up out of your soft, comfortable chair, turn off that re-run of Columbo that you have seen at least three times (the one with Robert Vaughn), and get into your car without spilling your coffee.
The orchestra is not going to come to you, you have to attend the performance of the philharmonic in order to hear all those instruments playing in philharmony. It’s a whole lot different than going to see a a concert today, where a pop-goddess lip-syncs an entire performance while dancing an extensive Broadway-style choreography with a snake, wearing hot pants and a bra top (the singer, not the snake), writhing around completely naked (the snake, not the singer). All that trouble for a very mediocre song.
Back in MY day, no one would stand for that kind of crap at a concert. You went to hear the MUSIC, and if Alice Cooper happened to bite the head off of a chicken and spit it into the audience, well I can’t be held responsible for that. I don’t know if the chicken was real, I don’t even know if the audience was real, but certainly the music was.
Kids, if you’re listening out there, I don’t want to sound like your dad, so go find your own dad to give you this speech. Wake him up—he’s probably in the den right now taking a nap, or out mowing the lawn while listening to Beyoncé on his iPhone. By the way, it wouldn’t kill YOU to mow the lawn once in a while.
Anyway, the performance featured the formidable talents of one of classical’s premier trios, Jaime Laredo on violin, Joseph Kalichstein on piano and Sharon Robinson playing the cello. The orchestra presented very accessible works by Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, whom you may have heard of. Mozart was a child prodigy. I know what a burden that is, because I was considered a child prodigy when I was 40, and everyone was amazed at how advanced I was for a 12-year-old.
Beethoven was completely deaf for the last 10 to 15 years of his life, when he wrote some of his most important works. He was even more deaf when his wife asked him to take the garbage out. Because he was deaf, Beethoven’s other senses heightened, and for instance he smelled really, really good.
There was no maestro for this performance, so everyone was on the honor system to play only their own notes, and it looked like everyone was conducting themselves appropriately. But pay closer attention the next time you go to the symphony: the bass violin player is over there looking at the piccolo player with palpable disdain. He has to haul around an instrument the size of a Chevrolet Silverado, and the piccolo player produces a tiny flute the size of a magic marker from his dress-shirt pocket, and starts prancing about the place doing somersaults.
And the first violin player, whom the soloists faun over as they pass by, stands up at the end of the performance. Did you ever look at the second violinist while all that is going on? Her face tells you that she thinks SHE should be standing at the end, or at least slightly stooped over.
All of them want to beat up the triangle player, who gets paid a full share for playing one note in the middle of the performance that sounds like someone passing you on their bicycle—he doesn’t even have to know anything about music, just a little geometry. Why, excuse me, but isn’t that an isosceles triangle you have there? If there was a conductor there he wouldn’t put up with ANY of it, and if you don’t like it you can just make other arrangements.
Support the Westchester Philharmonic at westchesterphil.org. Join Rick and the Trashcan Poets for some modern rock n’ roll, Friday May 12, at Mohansic Grill in Yorktown. Say hello to Rick Melén at firstname.lastname@example.org.