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Emily Liz

April 25, 2004 at 4:22 AM

Wow, that concert last night was terrific...I have to tell you a bit about it.

Well, we got on the bus at six prompt. The parents and younger siblings - being parents and younger siblings - all sat in the front of the bus. The teenage musicians - being teenage musicians - all sat near the back. I compromised and found a seat with Mother that was just about near the dividing line between teenagers and parents. Our symphony's concertmistress sat behind us, and she was eating all the way...she always eats,'s very funny...and as we passed the various towns on the way to the Cities, Mom and I were smelling everything from popcorn to Oreos.

When we arrived at the Ordway, it was awfully difficult to keep my composure intact. Here were all these beautifully dressed people luxuriating in one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen... I'm used to the dinginess of my local theatre...not so much to an ambling three-story lobby with sparkling bar counters on every level and distinguished ushers wearing suits and standing erect against the wall, like light fixtures. After asking directions from three various ushers, who kindly ushered us onward to the next ushering checkpoint, we found our way up three curving staircases, all with a delightful view of downtown St. Paul and the distant lights of the Radisson.

Being a group, of course, they stuck us in the third, highest, and cheapest tier up. The seats weren't bad, though - the view was spectacular, and you got a commanding view of all the rich folk beneath. But being on top of the Ordway, with literally only one row of seats left behind you, is a beautiful and exhilarating experience. Being extremely near-sighted, my only complaint was that I couldn't see the soloist's technique too well. Octaves looked like a piece of cake. But that's partly my fault, too - I should have worn my glasses. :)

The program opened with Mozart's thirty-third symphony, Joseph Silverstein conducting...and all I can say is wow. I had always revered the Saint Paul Chamber for its various exquisite recordings, but seeing them in action, so perfectly attuned to one another, uniting all the themes in such a nonchalantly elegant was a breathless experience. It was cloud-like Mozart, my favorite kind, and I venture to say this was the best Mozart performance I've ever heard, period. As pleasurable as gourmet chocolate! Good thing we were at the top of the auditorium, because otherwise I think I would have wanted to float up and away...

From there, some of the musicians left the stage to perform Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat for Strings. Frankly, I can't see any of my sixteen-year-old acquaintances (much less any of my male sixteen-year-old acquaintances) penning something so beautiful and compelling...nor can I see any other group besides the SPCO giving a more silken performance of it. Mr. Silverstein took a violin-part here, which was delightful, and together the eight performers crafted a little piece of heaven for all those in attendance...

Somewhere in here, I realized that there was an usher standing by the door and watching the concert. This usher became almost a distraction, although he was doing nothing but standing there, absolutely still and silent, hands clasped neatly behind his back. I wanted to tell him to sit down and relax his legs...mine hurt just watching him stand there, stiff and unmoving for movement upon movement of Mozart and Mendelssohn...but at the beginning of intermission, he gallantly stepped outward toward the door and held it for the people going out, showing no sign of fatigue whatsoever. If any of those immobile ushers are reading this, you have my sincere admiration. It can't be easy to stand so still, so silently, for such a long period of time...and you add such a distinguished air to everything. You made me feel wealthy and influential and special for two hours' time, and it felt wonderful. Thank you very much.

Intermission passed quickly and the moment we were all waiting for arrived... Ms. Chang swept onstage wearing a bright hot pink dress and took her place besides the conductor. With that, the concerto began...and it truly was a very pretty performance. Not very intellectually stimulating, but very fiery and energetic and youthful, and it was a fine reading as compared to some other artists I could name. Anyway, being a fourth-year student wrestling with the Vivaldi a-minor, I'm not exactly in a position to criticize. I respect anyone who can play the Dvorak concerto, makes no apparent mistakes, and seems remarkably at ease in front of a huge audience. I'll just say other artists have impressed me more emotionally and intellectually...but I still have a lot of respect and admiration for Ms. Chang, anyway.

My only complaint (if it can be called a complaint) is that the orchestra seemed a tad bit more uncomfortable during the concerto, but apparently this was the first time they've ever played the orchestral accompaniment, so a little uncomfortableness is warranted, I think... After such beautiful and concentrated Mozart and Mendelssohn, too, I'm sure they were a little tired, anyway. Still, they and the soloist did a remarkable job. It was a delightful concert I'm sure I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Back down the flights of stairs, we got in line to get Ms. Chang's autograph. She must have signed at least two hundred programs, and all with a was remarkable. My impression of her was that she was very childlike in person, very free and very innocent...I don't know if this is really true, of course, but she seemed very childlike last night. Two autographs later, one for me and one for my friend, we left the gorgeous Ordway and got back onto the bus. Since it was eleven o' clock, the teenagers - being teenagers - suddenly began waking up and feeling energized, while the parents - being parents - were dozing away in the front of the bus.

About halfway home, the lights all went out in the bus. An audible gasp went up and down the aisle. All the better to view the prairie starlight, was beautiful, and a fitting close to a warm and wonderful evening. Boyfriend-girlfriend couples started cuddling away. The concertmistress started eating again. After a two-hour drive, we got out at our rehearsal hall's parking lot and scattered out to our cars and drove away in the early-spring was a delightful evening, and certainly worth the twelve-dollar ticket price.

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