Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Do you even remember the first time you heard and saw a symphony orchestra?  I’ll bet you weren’t sitting in the front row as I was today with a group of shelter kids who were experiencing symphonic music for the first time.
It was not without considerable angst that I was able to get 15 comp tickets to the annual carol singalong with the Capital City Symphony.  I had called and called to reserve tickets the minute they were put on “sale” at a processing cost of $2 per ticket.  But by the time I reached a live person in the box office, I was told there were no more tickets to be had.  Some string pulling by people in high places finally persuaded them to put aside tickets for our little band of kids.
By the time we managed to get everyone to the Atlas Theater today, the best seats were in the front row, so that’s where we sat.  I was somewhat nervous that someone wouldn’t behave well, but that’s where we were to sit.  As it turns out, screaming babies were far more disruptive than anyone in our group. 
They were somewhat incredulous to be 10 feet away from the violin section and at the feet of the conductor.  There were nonstop questions as I pointed out the various instruments while the orchestra warmed up and we got ready for the lights to dim.  Questions like
-- Why do the violinists put their instruments under their chin?
-- Is a cello just a bigger violin?
-- And what about those even bigger ones where some people are standing up holding them (the double basses)?
-- Will the conductor be a boy or a girl?
I was surprised the kids didn’t know more of the traditional Christmas carols and songs that I grew up with.  Even though they had programs with the words in them, it wasn’t until we got to songs like Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman that they joined in singing.  They especially liked The Twelve Days of Christmas where the audience was divided into odds and evens and we stood up and sat down as our numbers came around.
We stuck around briefly after the concert to ask the first violinist about why he played his instrument the way he did.  He was a friendly African-American man who seemed to take a special interest in my 10-year-old boys.  
After the concert we were treated to a smorgasbord of holiday cookies donated by local bakeries.  That was even better than the ice cream cones we had originally promised them.
I was so glad my friend had suggested this concert as a way to introduce these kids to a little culture and to give them a place to go on a Sunday afternoon.  I think even the most sullen teenager had a good time.


Blogger Steve Reed said...

Sounds like a terrific, worthwhile outing! It's especially great that they were able to chat with one of the musicians.

1:43 AM  
Blogger e said...

Wow! It sounds like a wonderful experience for all of you.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

Wow! Sounds like a great outing! I remember my first year of teaching, taking my class to see "A Christmas Carol" and front row balcony seats. I was so concerned that one would fall over the balcony if I let my eyes off them!

I bet the reason that your kiddos know the "secular" winter songs is because those are the ones that are taught in school, while the more "Christmassy" ones are considered religious and you don't learn them unless you are bombarded by x-mas music, go to church, or you family sings them. Who (besides me) sings with their family anymore?!

One sad victim of accountibility testing is that classes no longer take time from precious academics to put on a winter musical. I miss the endless practices and the final product... but alas... a thing of the past for most schools.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kelly -- I think you are right. Even though those religious songs are no longer part of my religion, I have wonderful memories of singing them in Christmas programs when I was growing up. They seem like an important component of cultural awareness that has gone missing for the current generation. I'm always sad to hear that budget cuts and academic demands are doing away with musical experiences for elementary ed kids.

6:59 PM  

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