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First Paper

Sounds of the Sea
On a beautiful Friday evening, when the Twins were playing host to the Royals and a presidential debate was going on, there was also a Minnesota Orchestra concert going on. Although the attendance at the concert wasn’t record-breaking, it still proved to be a wonderful performance. Arriving at the venue, I went inside and took my seat. Anticipation began to build as the start time drew near, and the audience appeared to be excited for the concert to start. Many aspects went into this performance, including framing, flow, and impact.
Framing begins with location. In this case, the location was Orchestra Hall, built in 1974, and home of the nationally respected Minnesota Orchestra. Seating 2450, with a main floor and 3 tiers, this hall is designed for classical orchestra performances. With 114 cubes built into the ceiling to assist with acoustics, the sound is phenomenal. Start time was set at 8 pm, but the concert didn’t actually begin until about 8:02, because of a live radio broadcast that evening. While the entire crowd had to have a ticket, many of them had complimentary tickets received from an employee, and many had rush tickets, which were purchased just before the concert began. This concert marked the 2nd series in the subscription season for the Orchestra.
The Minnesota Orchestra is a top-notch ensemble, having just completed recording all of Beethoven’s Symphonies. A prime example of their excellence is their warm-up. Two hours prior to the concert’s start time, they begin to play their instruments, and take their seats on stage. As the audience enters the auditorium, they see the orchestra members on stage already in their tuxedos and evening dresses. With the stage being 4 feet off the ground, there is a great sound projection throughout the hall. Regarding the audience’s dress standards, there were people dressed similarly to the performers and there were people very casually attired. However they appeared, they were all primed and ready for a great concert.
In the Minnesota Orchestra there is a Music Director and a Concertmaster, both of whom play irreplaceable parts in the structure of the organization. Below them are the Principal section leaders who guide each instrument during the concert. This evening there were 3 soloists, the first of which, Lise de la Salle was an up and coming French phenom at the piano. Only appearing in a few concerts in the United States right now, this was a golden opportunity to hear a fine musician. Measha Brueggergosman, soprano, and Christopher Maltman, baritone, rounded out the soloist line-up. The Minnesota Chorale, directed by Kathy Saltzman Romey was also to perform that evening. All of these great artists had put together one heck of a show!
Being prepared for a classical music concert includes knowing what to discuss before the show begins, and this crowd certainly knew. As the orchestral ranks grew on stage, the conversations grew louder, about the reputation of the orchestra, about the program to be played, and about the soloists featured that evening. When the lights dimmed, so did the chatter. Concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis appeared on stage, tuned the orchestra, and then Maestro Osmo Vanska took the podium to begin the concert.
This concert was well-organized, with programs (a) handed out to the audience prior to the start. In addition to having the order of the concert, the program also contained program notes that detailed each piece, movement, and participant that evening. This helped the audience to understand the big picture of the evening. To kick off the first half of the concert, Sibelius’ “The Oceanides? was played. While this particular piece is quiet for the most part, it does peak every couple minutes, and then quiets down and eventually ends. This emotional, beautiful composition set the mood for the evening. Next up was the Ravel Piano Concerto, and de la Salle delivered a performance quite up to the expectations of the crowd. Containing 3 movements altogether, a fast-slow-fast order, the concerto demonstrates virtuosic ability by both the orchestra and the pianist. Needless to say, this was received quite well by the people in attendance.
Coming out of the first half into an intermission, the audience was quite excited, and was eager to re-enter the hall. The second half of the concert was filled with Brahms’ 1st Symphony, otherwise known as the “Sea Symphony.? This piece is very long, a total of 64 minutes, and ranging in tempermant from exciting to beautiful, from warm to cold. Captivating the attendees spirit with it’s joy and drama, this long piece ended the concert wonderfully, and got a standing ovation.
Before each piece began, the conductor prepared to start, and the orchestra paid rapt attention. Some pieces started with a bang, and some softly. In the piano concerto, the soloist, Lise de la Salle demonstrated her virtuosic ability throughout her playing. Expressive performing, technical ability, and the gifting to reach the audience with the music were all evident as she pounded the keyboard. Moving her body, she drew the audience in. Paying close heed to the music, they thoroughly enjoyed the piece. Brahms was similar, but with vocalists instead of a pianist. Powerful singing sought out the corners of the room, filling every inch of the space and reaching every listener.
At the conclusion of each piece, thunderous applause rang out. In the case of the concerto, the audience rose to their feet with a standing ovation. Appreciating the effort of the performers, the men and women in attendance gave yells of delight, shouting “Bravo!?, and whistling until they ran out of breath. The musicians appeared elated and pleased with the reaction. After the concert’s end, the orchestra left to go backstage and the audience exited for the lobby. Several artists came out to sign post-concert, and the others left by way of the stage door. Gratefully lining up for autographs, the audience chatted excitedly as they made their way through the lobby.
In terms of the variety of the people coming to the concert, there were all ages present, from young children to retirees. Many college students bought rush tickets and came to the concert. Men and women, businesspeople, musicians, rich, middle-class, the variety was huge. Before the event, the excitement built, and afterwards, it was released. Talking went on and on in the lobby about how great the concert was, and how incredible the performers were. A celebratory mood hung over the crowd as they left, and all were happy they chose to attend. All in all, it was a great concert.
What began as a gorgeous night ended with a great symphony and a cool breeze. The performers were pleased, and the audience was satisfied. That morning in the newspaper, there had been a glowing review, which may have been part of what drew some people to the performance. (b) When the critics are positive and give a good review, many fans will come to a concert that they normally wouldn’t. While the outside world spins on, the Twins lose and the debate sparks, the concerts still take place. Music transformed the audience from a calm mood to wild applause. Music fulfilled expectations that were made prior to the concert. Music gave these men and women a chance to take the spotlight and shine with all they had to offer. Several of the soloists made their Orchestra Hall debut that weekend, and if all goes as planned, they will return to the hall in future years to continue impressing Minnesotans. In trying to re-create the composer’s vision when they wrote their pieces, Vanska and the Orchestra keep striving for excellence and accuracy.
In summary, the concert took a calm, mostly upper-class audience, and brought them to their feet in cheering and clapping, then proceeded to usher them out the door, talking all the while, and finally calming back down as they exited the venue. Reaching the listener and satisfying them well, the Orchestra continues to churn out top-notch evenings, and probably will for years to come.

(a) Showcase, Minnesota Orchestra’s program magazine, September 2008
(b) Star Tribune, September 27, 2008, http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/music/29843824.html?elr=KArksD:aDyaEP:kD:aUnOiP3UiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU


I really like how, unlike the rest of our class, you focused on classical rather than pop music. It really is a nice change of pace to read about.