A Night at the Symphony

Sydney Symphony OrchestraLast night Lelak and I went to see the Sydney Symphony Orchestra perform at the Sydney Opera House. The first thing immediately noticeable was that people really dress up to attend the Opera House. My jeans with a buttoned down shirt and sneakers were really out of place. The concert hall at the Opera House is a fairly impressive size and has seating all around the stage, which I never knew. Our seats were in one of the boxes which had a pretty good view of the stage but the back right section of the orchestra was blocked by the box next to us. Poor tuba player, I only ever saw the top of his instrument. The Orchestra first performed Rustic Wedding Symphony by Karl Goldmark (don’t worry I had never heard of him either). Now I knew two things about attending an orchestral performance; one is you don’t talk during it and the other is that you never clap at the end of the movement. What I didn’t know is that it seems to be customary to cough at the end of each movement. End of the first moment, a little ripple of couching went through the audience. It gradually increased until the final movement it had grown to a deafening roar. I would hate to attend the Symphony in winter when most the audience has the flu.

After interval, we returned for what we had all been waiting to hear- the music from West Side Story. We definitely were not disappointed. The orchestra seemed to really enjoy themselves, especially the percussion section who were just going off. I guess they were just so pleased to have something to do other than a random triangle chime and a few beats on the timpani.

It was after West Side Story that I noticed that the conductor is really treated like a rock god by the Symphonic world. He kept going on and off the stage to wild applause just like the leader singer of a hit band would do. Then I witnessed something I thought I never would – the orchestra played an encore. Okay, so it was in the programme, but after everyone standing up and bowing and the conductor running in and out and doing more bowing, the final piece was just like an encore. It was something short and sweet after which more clapping, bowing and running in and out commenced all over again. It actually became rather comical.

One thing that really stood out was just how many violin players made up the orchestra. Now I know the strings section is usually the biggest, but there was 30 violin players (I know, I counted them). Then we had 10 viola players, 10 cellists and 8 double bass players. The entire woodwind section was just 8 people (although they brought in 6 more for West Side Story). It was so tiny, just two flautist, two oboe players, two clarinettists and two bassoonists. The brass section fared a little better, but only because they had 5 people playing French horn along with three guys on trumpets, four trombonists and a lone guy on tuba.

I had a great evening at the Symphony, but it isn’t something I would pay to go see. The cheapest tickets are $65, so it is an expensive night out, however, I would definitely not say no to getting some more free tickets.

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