Monday, March 20, 2006

omg teh most amazing story EVAR (especially if you like mahler)

Chicago, March 18th, 2006. Concert program for the CSO that weekend: Mahler's 2nd Symphony.

First off, Bethany and I were supposed to go on Friday night, but apparently they decided to have that concert at 1:30 pm instead of at night. So Saturday night, Bethany having returned to Racine (birthplace of me!), I ventured off to Symphony Center on my own.

Not surprisingly, the show was sold out- except for a few insanely expensive seats. Some people were selling in the lobby, but I had no cash. So I decided to stay in the lobby for a bit into the first movement, just to get a taste.

I realized about four bars in that this was something I desperately, anxiously needed to hear all the way through, but listening in the lobby? Not so hot. Tears came to my eyes- should you desire to see a Mahler symphony, see Chicago.

An usher came up to me and asked if I was waiting for someone. I explained that no, I was just listening, I had no ticket, and if he wanted me to leave I'd be happy to stop taking up space.

"No, no. Nononono no. That's not necessary, don't leave!" he exclamed (although under his breath- this is a concert you know!). "I have the perfect place for you to listen. Follow me!"

He led me back around to the rotunda- a public space in Symphony Center- and seated me on a bench. Meanwhile the orchestra is playing anguish and despair inside the hall, and my tears are following faster. The kindly usher hands me a program and pats my back. "Enjoy- and that'll be $80!" We laugh and he heads off.

About five minutes later, another usher in charge of the doors near where I am seated approaches me. "Do you really want to see this concert?" she asks. I nod. "Of course I do." She nods and motions that she'll just be a second, and disappears into the hall.

A minute later, she emerges. "I told the lady inside that you were sitting up top, and were made sick by the height," she said, motioning toward the topmost balcony- nosebleed seats to the T. "So, we'll seat you in an open seat after the first movement."

My thanks flowing freely, she shushes me and shoos me inside the door to wait for the end of the movement. Inside, another usher whispers that she'll seat me whereever she can.

The first movement comes to its abrupt end- the final chord to soft to hear even as close as I am now to the inside of the hall. The doors are opened swiftly and latecomers seated. I am whisked back to another door, it is opened and I am shoved out into the hall- and I freeze.

I've entered on the balcony behind the stage, where the chorus sits, and the first thing I see is Michael Tilson Thomas smiling patiently in my direction. The next thing I see, immediately to my left, is the entirety of the Chicago Symphony Chorus looking at me, eyebrows raised. And I look up again and realize that the entire population of Symphony Center is looking at me- in my red coat and astonished expression, and I can't move. Charlie Vernon is staring at me from the stage. MTT is still looking in my direction, albeit less patiently. Behind me the usher whispers "Sit! SIT!" and I realize I must sit, me- just ME- and then the symphony can continue.

I sit.

The second movement starts, and I'm giddy- this is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. And heard? Oh, it was amazing. Do you know? It was astounding.

And then? Well, aside from this surprise: waving at me from my right after I sit is an old friend. Ten seats away. Miah Cawley! Can you believe it! And he's motioning, why are you here? And late?!? and I could only laugh.

Each movement of the symphony got better and better. By the time the orchestra wailed its way into the fifth movement, I was in a permanent state of chills. The trombones sounded fabulous, of course (And me, I thought- you are all getting old! I want your job!). MTT conducts beautifully. The music is still running in my head and I can't shake the feeling of something greater- this is art and humanity and life.

All good things, as they must, come to an end, and so too did Mahler's 2nd Symphony. I chatted with Miah for a long time, and went back to the hotel to bubble exuberantly at my hotel mates. And what can you do after that?

Go to an irish pub and drink beer!

(pictures to follow SOON...first, much catching up of work and practicing to do)