Yes, I am as dumb as it comes in regards to symphony performances… or at least I was until Saturday night. The performance was fantastic, filled with peaks and valleys that tugged at your emotions – but I’m going to approach this blog from a different vantage point – ie, the things a “dummie” may not know about a symphonic performance.
First of all, although it’s not the first time I’ve seen a performance somewhat like this, it’s certainly the first time I’ve seen a performance like this put on by such a high caliber of musicians. The synchronicity and precision of that many people weaving their parts into one magnificent quilt of sonic beauty is astounding by itself. The conductor is a larger than life character with an amazing story of defection from Europe to Greenville…but these are things you can easily witness once you attend one of these performances. Let me delve into some of the other details I picked up on that I found really interesting and unique.
For one, there was a featured violinist who played throughout the performance. I commented on how a piece he played from Schindler’s List was the most amazing violin I’d ever heard in my life and learned that he is actually there thanks to endowments given to the GSO. Apparently a performer of that caliber is normally out of our price range in a market such as Greenville, but thanks to the monetary donations we were able to hear and see him right here in our own town. Now that’s cool (and thanks to the donors by the way!). Speaking of pay and whatnot, it turns out the musicians that play in symphony performances are unionized which is why you will basically never see a performance go beyond the allotted time. That’s another new one to me.
Another interesting tidbit – not everyone gets dressed to the nines for the symphony. So if your tuxedo still has that stain on it from your cousins wedding, no worries. Of course I wouldn’t recommend you just wander in there like a bum off the streets, but dress presentably and you should be fine.
And finally, something that interested the music nerd inside of me – When the featured musicians came out, like the violinist I mentioned before, they play one long note as a point of reference for the rest of the symphony. I could be totally wrong about this, but I assume this is because many if not all of the instruments have some fluctuation in notes… that sounds confusing, but when you think of the violin for example, which has no frets, the musician plays where they know the note to be on the neck. Without frets it would be very simple to go slightly sharp or flat on a note, so I assume this opening “tuning” ritual before each piece serves as a way for everyone to be on the same page with a standardized point of reference. Sorry if I lost you on that one, but I thought it was interesting.
So there you have it, my symphonic guide for dummies. I highly encourage you to attend a Greenville Symphony Orchestra performance at The Peace Center. For more information and tickets, visit The Greenville Symphony Orchestra’s website.