|They Put the Culture in Me #3,768: Detroit Symphony Orchestra Pinch-Hit.
||[Nov. 28th, 2006|11:30 am]
My mother woke me up from deep nap with a phone call.
She had no one to go with her to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this Tuesday evening, and she hoped beyond hope that I would take her 2nd ticket. She was to meet my Uncle Ray and Aunt Ann at the DSO to watch "Christmas with the Vienna Choir Boys," a special DSO event with conductor Andy Icochea Icochea.
My Aunt Elaine was supposed to attend, I believe, but she caught the aggressive stomach virus that has been running its way through our family. My cousin, Michelle, also contracted the stomach flu during this time. I played cards with the first victim, my Uncle Duane, at Thanksgiving. He began to vomit that evening before bed. Essentially, my mom's original ticket-holder was ill, and the backup, Michelle, was also ill. I was the emergency choice to use the ticket, and since I have not been sidelined with this plague, I told her that I would go.
I scrambled to shower and put together some semi-formal clothes. I wore my brown fedora, a tan collared shirt, and my black dress pants from my newest suit. As I finished putting on my black dress shoes, my mother pulled in the driveway. We were off and on the way to Woodward and the DSO.
We entered the Orchestra Hall's top balcony just after the first or second song into Andy's show. I looked down from the balcony to see a man with a ponytail in a tuxedo, standing in front of a concert grand piano, and on either side of him, three rows of boys in sailor suits, 5-7 boys per row, took bows. The audience showered them with claps.
And, so it began.
The usher used a small flashlight to locate our seats from the tickets. She ushered us to our seats. We moved past Uncle Ray and Aunt Ann, who had secured tickets right on the aisle, and we sat. The seats were comfy. They were comfy, I discovered, because they had been replaced with self-rising seats in 2003 to comply with the fire code. This was a bonus for my back. I noted that the seats were still somewhat small. They were not built for the portly, so I was also glad to not be obese. I was, however, dismayed to find that Andy and the V Boys took a position toward the front of the stage, and the sight lines were not quite perfected in the 1919-built establishment for balcony seats. Any of the boys or the conductor who ventured toward the very edge of the front of the stage were to be blocked in view by the front of the balcony structure and the numerous human heads belonging to human bodies in the balcony seats.
I didn't fully comprehend that I was watching a Peruvian master conductor leading a touring set of Austria's finest boy sopranos and altos until after the show. I merely noted them as a foreign man with a ponytail leading a bunch of boys in sailor suits. Boy, those sailor suits were rather cute on the boys, and the conductor was dapper in his tuxedo. That last sentence, well, I can never really state any better.
Andy and the V Boys were pleasant in demeanor. The conductor conducted himself with the utmost charm, speaking to the audience from time to time between musical pieces with only a mild accent on the English language. These Vienna Choir Boys, however, clearly demonstrated themselves as young supermusicians. They sang songs in various languages. At one point, the boys conducted their own piece without the aid of Andy. I wish I remembered the name of that piece, but it was a well-done rendition, given the command over themselves and unity of voice. One of those boys conducted and played the piano for that particular piece. The boys also would routinely support Andy with various instruments during the pieces. The boys, aged 10 through 14, used a cello, pan flutes, and drums, among other supporting instruments. These V Boys and Andy were clearly superior in musical command. The mere fact that these young lads, in a relative short amount of time, would ultimately lose their singing ability in higher pitches, well, this was of great note to me. All of their singing, if they chose to continue their singing careers, would have to be retrained to more adult male pitches, much like New Edition had to endure. In essence, the Vienna Choir Boys, well, they were quality.
You must forgive my lack of culture. Instead of Schubert, I grew up with EMF's "Schubert Dip." Operas consisted in rough translation of steady diets of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," "Saturday Night Live," and "Late Night with David Letterman." My learned instrument, as a child, was the alto saxophone, and I used it in a concert solo to play a rendition of Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy." I first knew Ludwig van Beethoven as the love of the character Schroeder in the "Peanuts" comic strip. Later, I knew Ludwig to be the favorite composer of the character Alex de Large in A Clockwork Orange. The closest to observation of a mime, for me, was a statue of the clown spokesman, Ronald McDonald. Instead of futbol, I grew up with American football. You must forgive me, as I am an American Bastard.
Of the musical pieces I enjoyed, the group did a piece from Austria's classical master, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, titled, "Ave Verum Corpus, KV 618 (Hail, True Body)." This song originated in Middle Ages in mass during the consecration of the Eucharist. It started off with a sotto voce, and then the rest of the boys launched into the lyrics with Andy's piano accompaniment. Mozart's one of my favorites among the classical genre, and it's not uncommon to find that sentiment among literally every casual classical listener.
The group did a section of music categorized as "Spiritual Music from around the World," and in that section, I enjoyed, in particular, an Uzbek folk tune, titled, "Shoch va gado (Shâhni ham gadâni, The King and the Beggar)," which apparently pertains in origin to the country of Uzbekistan, one of the many stan-named countries in Central Asia, one of which is a bordering country named Kazakhstan, the home country of the character Borat Sagdiyev, played by Sacha Baron Cohen.
"Namo namo Maria" was an Indian Bhajan among the "Spiritual Music from around the world," and I found that devotional song to be rather pleasing. Also, "Hanac Pachap," a Peruvian-Quechuan hymn, well, that one was neat, too. After the intermission, the group did "Christmas Songs from around the World," and in those pieces, the boys did a splendid "Il est né le divin enfant" and "Joy to the World." As part of the encore, they performed a grand "O Come, O Come, Emanuel." I particularly enjoyed the French vocals. The French language, in speech and song, generally flows very smooth and pleasing to my ears. I also have a rudimentary understanding of français. Mes amis et moi, nous étudions dans le couloir.
Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the "Austrian Folk Songs" section. This, of course, did not occur to me as a Vienna Choir Boys gig while watching the show. I, in my American Bastard nature, longed to hear more pieces, especially the pieces with the German lyrics, performed in English. I remarked a small bit of my displeasure with the ultra dose of Austrian to Aunt Ann during the intermission, telling her that the German language was "too guttural" for me. It is only now that I see the irony in a native speaker of English calling the German language "guttural." Oh well. Ann laughed, so I guess that works. Regardless, my remark on the general broken rhythms of the sound of German singing is what it is. I don't care for songs sung in the German language.
I had trouble with "Psalm 61," a piece which included an interactive clapping of hands involving the audience. In defense of "Psalm 61," however, the piece itself, minus the clapping, was a nice rendition constructed by Andy Icochea Icochea, who will be referred forth as AII.
More of note than "Psalm 61" was, in the part of that "Austrian Folk Songs" section, a piece titled "Waldhansl." During this particular piece, AII preceded the piece with a lengthy instruction of the audience in a more complicated version of clapping accompaniment. The clapping, in general, really pushed my buttons. Call me crazy, but when I attend a formal night in a place called Orchestra Hall, I do not expect to have to learn a clapping section for success of a musical arrangement. This interactive environment seems more fitting for other professional shows. Perhaps this is something done by The Blue Man Group, any magician, or any stand-up comedian, for added enjoyment. In defense of AII, his interactive nature was well received by me in form of discussion with the audience. When he spoke to the audience between musical pieces, I found that to be more refreshing, in contrast to the displeasing nature of the clapping. For those of us American Bastards who may or may not have the slightest idea of the songs performed, having the conductor announcing and discussing their nature before performance serves as a fantastic version of classical Cliffs Notes.
What bothered me the most, of all things, was the crowd. Some were dressed in more formal attire than I donned, but among the Detroit socialites, there existed not one other formal hat, that I observed, other than my own. Previous generations would clearly not have been amused by the guy with a scruffy beard who wore what consisted of a t-shirt and jeans. I appear generally scruffy in haircut, goatee, and minor neck beard, but at least I showed up in collared shirt, suit pants, and dress shoes! This was not my usual crowd, in general, and the atmosphere was not characteristic of my idea of a night at the Orchestra Hall.
At one point while seated during the intermission, I remarked that some of the offerings were "crap," which was clearly not the case. My mother scoffed, and she began telling my uncle and aunt about how she tried to subject me to more cultural experiences when I was younger, but had ultimately failed. To which, I retorted, "bullshit." This is actually true, the calling of the bullshit. My mother attempted on many occasions throughout my life to put the culture in me. I remember enjoying, as a child, a wonderful rendition in stage play of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" at the Main Art Theatre, I believe, in Royal Oak, MI. That was on a field trip in which my mother was a chaperone. This is one of the many occurrences in which the culture was put in me, and I enjoyed it immensely.
I wore a perpetual scowl, in part, due to hunger. I woke from my mother's phone call to get ready to go to the DSO to, in total, spend approximately five hours on the town with her. I suffered without urge to purchase one of the many alcohols or snacks afforded to the patrons at a bajillion dollars a serving from the atrium. I suggested after the show that if my elders wanted to continue the night, then by no means would I stop them. After all, despite the hunger and the atypical entertainment, I was there so that my mother could have company and fully enjoy the evening. Far be it from me, outside of being myself, to deny my mother due happiness. I was most pleased that my duty to attend the concert had concluded. My uncle suggested Starbucks across the street, but in the end, my mother, tired from a full work day that began with a ring of alarm clock at 6 AM that morning, decided to call it an evening.
My mother and I, as we drove down Woodward, noticed the Starbucks my uncle had referred for possible extension of the evening. Lucky for us, we did not choose to head over there, as the Starbucks had closed for the evening. My mother and I drove back from the show, discussing the concert. We chuckled over the fact that there was not much Christmas music in the show titled "Christmas with the Vienna Choir Boys." She learned of my hunger, and she offered to quash it. After a wonderous night of culture being put in us, we drove to a Burger King. I ordered a #3, the Triple Whopper with Cheese combo meal, King Size, with a Dr. Pepper, plus two cheeseburgers off the Dollar Menu.
All in all, this was an agreeable night for myself at the DSO Orchestra Hall, getting the culture put in me. As for culture, well, if this was it, then it wasn't all so bad. Imagining a minor glimpse of the Fourth Reich, well, that's my imagination. I would agree to a return view of AII and his supermusician youth club named the V Boys. AII, in particular, well, I would enjoy his performance, most likely, sans the boys. He was wicked on the piano.