When I was in Chicago, I stayed with a flutist that I met at a summer festival. Her roommates were another Canadian flutist, and the other flutists' boyfriend, a violinist playing in Chicago Civic. Civic were having an open rehearsal, so in the evening after the audition he got me ticket for that. it was a very neat idea-- when I heard it was an open rehearsal I assumed it was just a normal rehearsal that the public was allowed to come to, but in reality it was more in the vein of a performance, but with a lot more talking. Riccardo Muti is utterly charming to the audience and he spoke for a long time about the piece, both for the benefit of the audience and the orchestra, and rehearsed very thoroughly for about an hour and a half before doing final "performance" run and calling it a night. It was clearly intended to be educational programming, but never felt patronizing the way some "inside the orchestra"-type concerts can be. I stayed an extra day after the concert, figuring it would be silly to go all the way to Chicago and not hear the CSO play. Luckily there was a concert on the day after-- Tchaikovsky's The Tempest, La Mer and Tchaik 4. The performance got me thinking about aspects of concert hall design besides acoustics. I had been warned before the audition that the acoustics in the hall were fairly dry-- not really a problem for this orchestra, who of course have no problem making themselves heard and understood. (But annoying for some auditionees, including one player I spoke to who said it came as a shock to him since he owns, lives and practices in a church!) However, my assigned seat was on the right side of the floor, very close to the stage, meaning I had an excellent view of a few bass players' legs, but not much else. Although I could still hear the rest of the orchestra, if not see them, it was undeniably not a good listening experience. Why? Why is it so important to see the people making the music at a concert? Is it just because that's all that separates the experience from staying home and listening to a recording? Hilary Hahn recently wrote a post suggesting "Things to Watch in an Orchestra Concert"-- one example being brass players' eyebrows! Often orchestral concerts choose to ignore or deride the visual element of music, possibly to our detriment. As if, if you need a visual element to appreciate the music, you must not be truly appreciating it. Well, I like to watch real human beings play, with my eyes. I moved to a balcony for the second half where I had spotted some empty seats.
The rest of that day I also did some touristy things-- the house I was staying in was near a little neighbourhood where I went walking a few times:
I went to the Art Institute of Chicago during the day, and although I don't know a lot about vidaul art I did recognize one painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the subject of the Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park with George.
I also saw some paintings that I couldn't get quite as excited about.
Noe that that's done, I'm leaving for Thunder Bay in just under a week! I went to a University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert last night, and will go to some masterclasses and Nuit Blanche before leaving.