Monday, February 12, 2007

"What time does the baton drop?"

On my budget, there aren't a lot of opportunities to attend the symphony, and when you do, you wind up where I did: Row V, Seat 47, Balcony, squinting at a slightly glinting blob that may or may not be the Boston Pops performing Gershwin.

The conductor of the Boston Pops is Keith Lockhart. He is my orchestral boyfriend. As you can see, he is very, very talented, musically speaking.

We Cincinnatians enjoy momentarily setting down our microbrews and fondly announcing that we Knew Keith When, in the days when he was the associate conductor of the Cincinnati Pops, assistant to Erich Kunzel. Keith was Erich's little replacement, and he'd sit in the back of Music Hall when Erich was conducting to check audio levels, wearing headphones and a great frown of expression. Symphonically speaking, he tied the scarves on Erich's microphone and put little toothpicks shaped like swords in the green room sandwiches.

His first local television appearance was the Cincinnati Pops' Fourth of July outdoor concert during the Gulf War, when Erich was conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington. The entirety of Cincinnati poured into our Pops concert to salute America by drinking large amounts of beer and peeing in the Ohio River. From his unparalleled, center-stage view of all this, Keith came forth to introduce Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture in shiny black shoes and an absolute flop sweat.

"It was written," he said, only he pronounced it "ridden," and he paused to wince, and you could tell he was internally debating whether it was better to correct it or simply press on and pretend it never happened, and in that pause, the time to self-correct was lost, and so there was then another pause to think of what to say after the first pause since he couldn't very well try to say "written" again, and by the time that one ended the audience's attention began to drift to other classical music matters, such as whether or not there was time to make it through the beer line before the part with the cannons. I've been here, as a public speaker, and in public speaking time, I can verify that the lapse between "ridden" and the next word out of his mouth, "during," lasted approximately one geologic age.

So he continued with, "...during the Napoleonic Wars..." and there was another pause-and-wince, during which I am quite sure he was considering if he should bother explaining who Napoleon was, to this non-Music Hall crowd that was largely shirtless and kept shrieking things like "WHOOOOOOOOO!"

We taped the concert, and my mother sent it in a care package to a member of the Air Force stationed in Kuwait. It was perhaps the first time in my entire life I experienced anti-patriotic sentiment. I did not want to share Keith with the soldiers in Kuwait. Let Kuwait get its own freakin' Pops.

(BONUS FACT ABOUT KEITH LOCKHART: This concert was emceed by Jerry Springer. Alas, the violas did not hurl chairs at the woodwinds.)

Well, look at him now, Erich's little replacement, all grown up and saying "ridden" whenever he darned well pleases. He bounded onstage in a baseball cap and shifted his weight casually on the podium, one leg occasionally crossing behind the other. He was a man at ease in his stick-waving work.

I was sitting, there in Row V, with a lot of space between me and Keith. I missed Music Hall, where no matter where you sit, it sounds like you're close enough to count eyebrow hairs on the first violin. The people who constructed the building in which I was currently sitting were apparently of the opinion that what makes for really, really good acoustics is a great deal of concrete bricks and pegboard. The sound had an enormous amount of travelling to do between the orchestra and Row V; by the time it left the stage and got to me, it had to stop twice for gas and a directions update from GoogleMaps.

The Boston Pops experience was hugely enhanced by the woman sitting next to me.

Dear Woman Who Sat in Row V, Seat 46:

Keith brought a 74- piece orchestra with him. I am pretty sure they had "I Got Rhythm" covered without you offering humming assistance.

Lots and lots of non-love,

MB

On the other side of me was a gentleman with a several astute observations about the concert as it was in progress. He had the type of voice that tended to carry in a supposed whisper, and so I'm pretty sure that, despite the many miles between us and the orchestra, the percussionists were treated to the following observations:

"I DIDN'T KNOW GERSHWIN WROTE THAT."

"I GUESS GERSHWIN WROTE THIS ONE, TOO."

"THAT SURE IS A LOT OF FLUTES."

"IS THIS RHAPSODY IN BLUE? IS THAT WHY THEY HAVE A BLUE SPOTLIGHT ON THE PIANO?"

"HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THE GUY WITH THE TRIANGLE MAKES A YEAR?"

Dude even rubbed his face loudly. But it was during the Porgy and Bess medley, so no loss. There's only so much you can do with an instrumental version of "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York."

The encore was "The Stars and Stripes Forever," complete with enormous American flag tumbling from the ceiling as the orchestra blasted into the final verse-- just like that Fourth of July on the banks of the Ohio so many years ago. If only Jerry Springer could have been there.

standing ovation at: mb@blondechampagne.com

6 comments:

tamar said...

Thanks for the chuckle ;)

Josh The Pilot said...

I'm sorry I wasn't there to be your date and push away the weirdos.

PatsFan said...

Totally with you on the Keith thing, MB, he's hot!!! And available... not that Josh could possibly have competition at this point, he's just too wonderful to pass up !!

Anonymous said...

Did you know that Leopold Stokowski introduced the idea of "pop concerts" during his tenure with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. I wonder how he would have dealt with the inebriated, shirtless patrons of the arts.

red pill junkie said...

Dear anon, I'm sure Leopold would have sent his good ol' friend Bugs Bunny to deal with them, as he did with Giovanny Jones in a WB cartoon ;-)

starnarcosis said...

Only in Ohio could you have Jerry Springer and Keith Lockhart on the same stage. *sigh*. At least we have Neil Armstrong.

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