Saturday, December 13, 2008

Amateur Hour

The Pittsburgh Symphony tried something a little different this year. As usual, the orchestra and the Pittsburgh Mendelssohn Choir and guest soloists put on performances of Handel's Messiah. But this year, they decided to make tonight's concert into an audience sing-along. A very limited sing-along, restricted to four or five picked choruses, but a sing-along nonetheless.

A good description of it would be "amateur hour."
Not just amateur singers, but amateur concert-goers.

The place was packed, and I think a lot of people were there because it was Christmastime and it was The Messiah. Here and there before the concert people were openly (not clandestinely, like some people I could mention!) taking pictures inside the hall. Obviously they'd never had an usher put the fear of the management into them! An absurd number of ticketholders came in late-- far more than usual-- and the ushers let them in, while the music was going; what could they do?

In the row below me sat three young girls, maybe fourth or fifth graders. They were dressed in their holiday best, their long hair pulled up in tufted knots. But unlike the children on opening night, they made no attempt to pay attention to or follow the music. By the end of the first aria they were pillowing their heads on each other's shoulders, and by the conclusion of the second chorus they had burrowed their faces into their coats and were dead to the world.

Until the second half, that is, when something in the music roused the young lady in the seat just below mine and she started beating time by slapping her program on the back of the seat in front of her. Bored of that, she then commenced tapping her little patent-leather-shod foot on the concrete floor. Her father (presumably), the group's only chaperon, said and did nothing.

For that matter, neither did I. It didn't quite cross the line into disruptive. It was just-- amateur.

But you could say I got them back. Not on purpose, and much to my regret. I was not in good voice tonight. I'd had a busy, tiring day and this bronchial crud is making a resurgence. What's more, they didn't have scores available for borrowing; they only printed the words to the choruses for audience participation in the program. Me, I'd brought my score. The two women to the right of me had brought their scores. Other people scattered here and there through the auditorium had brought their scores. But seemingly, none of the people who'd brought their scores sang bass, tenor, or alto. That, or all the amateur basses, tenors, and altos wimped out. That left the job to us sopranos, tired or not, bronchial-crud-ravaged or not.

Hey, I was hitting the high gs and even the as just fine-- long as I could sing them forte. But bring it down to an mf or a p-- pathetic. No breath support whatsoever. Wobble, wobble, bobble!
I'm thinking, let's try this again in a smaller venue where the audience is the chorus. I haven't heard of any churches in the Pittsburgh area that do an audience-participation Messiah, but it'd be fun to find out.


whiskers said...

*sigh* I love the Messiah. :)

Sorry to hear you're still feeling bad. Hope you get better soon!


Sandy said...

I, too, love the Messiah!