I went to see a concert by a symphony orchestra this weekend, which is not something I do very often. This has nothing to do with classical music – I don’t much go to other concerts, either. The two concerts that have left the longest-lasting impact are the New Kids on The Block -gig in 1991 and Madonna performing in Helsinki in 2009. The profoundness of their respective impacts has nothing to do with the music that was (allegedly) performed (I was so far back that it could have been frankly anyone hovering on the stage). Not all visits to concerts have been pre-planned, either: I once ended up on a stadium-gig of Juanes (of the “La Camisa Negra“-fame) with a friend, a decision possibly fuelled by a couple of prior glasses of Riesling (and facilitated by the fact that tickets obviously were not exactly sold out).
The misconception many people seem to have is that one needs to be a connoisseur of classical music in order to go listen to a concert every now and then. This is not true. Also: no-one will ever know. As opposed to pop- and rock concerts, in a classical concert no one ever asks the audience to sing along, much less to make some noise. Hence people will not be able to tell whether you know the pieces or not. Sometimes vintage classics might pop up, such as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Habanera from Carmen, but even then you are not requested to perform your own drunken rendition in the audience.
Speaking of: in classical concerts the musicians generally speaking almost always appear to be sober while performing. When we compare this situation with most other types of concerts and performances, it is quite extraordinary. While technology can save many a drunken soloist, the classical performers cannot resort to luxuries such as lip-syncing. It’s all unplugged, as it were.
In most cases we are talking about some 100 musicians on stage – adding possible soloists – at the same time, yet the concerts manage to start and finish on schedule. Compared to a regular pop/rock band of mere five members, who almost always seem to have unsurmountable problems with getting their arses on stage on time, sober, this is a fact that deserves appreciation.
In a classical concert one can comfortably take one’s designated seat and study the programme until the lights go out exactly as indicated. Many concert halls disable mobile reception, thus absolute relaxation is guaranteed for the duration of the concert. Intermission can be spent leisurely studying the concert hall (alert all selfie-hawks: these places are architectural perfection and offer countless backdrops for interesting pictures), sipping alcoholic beverages and/or visiting proper sanitary facilities (as opposed to queuing for port-a-loos at big stadium gigs).
Some other observations: If there ever was a place to feel young, classical concerts are those. The age of an average member of audience tends to be between 65 and death, thus one feels like a young lark amongst them (I am counting out the students, who make a refreshing yet disappointingly small portion of the crowd).
Given that most classical concerts are performed indoors because acoustics, choosing an outfit is an exclusively pleasant experience (no need to factor in rain/snow/sun/drunken people pushing and showing). The threshold to go listen to concerts should be non-existent: there’s far too much useless and unjustified snobbery attached to classical music as it is. While the concerts themselves are grand affairs with 100 penguin-looking people performing in an imposing hall, the audience do not need to look like they escaped from a period drama. Anything goes. Also, anyone should go.
The ultimate pièce de résistance: the 21st Century pest that haunts all gatherings of more than 10 people – audience participation (“Everybody take your mobile phones and let’s create this amazing starry sky!” or “Grab the person next to you and let’s create this epic human chain together!” or “Everybody jump!”).
There’s absolutely none of that.