Enter from stage right, walk to center, bow once to applause, bow twice to applause, turn, exit stage right. Allow applause to die down. Enter from stage right again, walk to center, bow once to applause, bow twice to applause, turn, exit stage right. Allow applause to die down. Enter from stage right once again, walk to center, bow once to applause, bow twice to applause. And, finally, stay on stage.
If the conductor had a script, these would be his cues and, likely, the majority of the audience wouldn’t think the combination strange. However, in my usual (often unwitting) way of being the odd person out, I did find his actions weird, and I had no idea what was going on when I witnessed this from my vantage point in the balcony of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
While I have enjoyed a wide variety of music from a young age, including classical–mostly while studying for tests, as I thought it would help me better retain the information–I had never attended a classical music concert. In fact, I had attended only three concerts in my life, one of which was Weird Al, probably in large part because it was a big deal that he came to the small, isolated town in which I grew up.
I had, however, seen a movie, or four, in which some of the characters got dolled up for a sophisticated night at the opera, and found it appealing, even though opera has never been my bag. The film, A Night at the Opera, however, which I watched while completing my goal to watch AFIs top 100 films, definitely was my bag and I recommend it if you want a good laugh. Anyway, I figured classical music would be a great replacement in the “being sophisticated for a night” category. And, once I (sort of) figured out what was going on, it (sort of) was.
Any time the musicians were not playing, I felt as out of place as I imagine a Monk would feel at a Lady Gaga concert. (Maybe that’s a weird analogy, but being in Thailand is rubbing off on me in weird ways). But when the house lights dimmed and the conductor struck up the orchestra, my confusion and feelings of awkwardness disappeared and I became engrossed in the music. The conductor, a very talented young man from Venezuela named Gustavo Dudamel, was mesmerizing to watch. With wand in one hand and a snap of the wrist up, and right, and down and left, and a raising and lowering and cueing with his other hand, and finally, a graceful whip of his head that sent his springy brown curls flying here and there and everywhere, he worked his magic on the musicians and brought out their best.
I don’t know that I had the same powerful emotions I typically feel when I listen to some of my favorite film scores, but I was pretty moved, and I thought the music was invigorating and (mostly) sensational. Each of the two acts were comprised of a few long pieces, and they elicited the gamut of emotions at least from me, but likely many other audience members as well. At times I felt elated and that my heart was being lifted up, at times I felt melancholic, and at times I was irritated with what my ears perceived as discord and chaos.
By the end of the night, I was appreciative for my new musical experience, even if there was no singing, especially of twisted lyrics to popular songs a la Weird Al. I hope to spend another evening of my life listening to a marvelous group of musicians led by a phenomenal conductor, and feel slightly more sophisticated because I’ll have a little more of a clue of what all the hoopla before and in between the music is all about.