Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wherein my snobbishness causes me to have an aneurysm at an end of school concert

(Still waiting on race pics from the marathon, I'll get back to that multi-part novel when I have those)

I freely admit that I am snobby when it comes to concerts and performances.
I was raised on concerts-instrumental and choral.

My grandmother worked for the Utah Symphony for many years, which allowed me the blessing of attending many of their performances through my childhood.  My dad has been a member of the Salt Lake Symphonic Choir my entire life (and for years before I existed), so multiple choir performances each year were also part of the norm.
My piano teacher was also a member of the Salt Lake Symphonic Choir, and was their accompanist, so you can be assured that there was much discussion of proper recital behavior, both on the side of performing and the side of being in the audience.
My parents were wonderful about exposing us to theater as much as they could make it possible, especially musicals, and we were expected to behave appropriately.

Add to that the couple of years in elementary school when I played the viola (wish I would have stuck with that!), and the time in choir in high school with a very particular director (who never hesitated to halt a performance when the audience was not acting appropriately), and you have some guidelines that have been permanently drilled into my noggin.

I vividly remember having the opportunity to see The Nutcracker performed by Ballet West when I was probably around 10 years old, a Christmas gift from my grandparents.  I cannot remember if it was just before the performance started or during intermission, but I can still hear my grandmother's British accent reprimanding the young adults in front of us that "This is the ballet, not a rock concert!".  I was a little embarrassed, but also totally impressed with Gran's feistiness.

Now that it has been established why I am the way I am about concerts...

This week was the choir concert at the middle school.  Last week was the orchestra concert.  Malia and Taylor both play the cello, and Malia has been in a musical theater class and choir this year, so we have had plenty of opportunities to attend performances over this school year.
I can deal with the obnoxious kids in the audience.  While the screaming and shouting names and whistling and "woooooooo!!!"-ing are annoying, I get that most of these kids haven't had audience etiquette drilled into them the way I did.  And they are teenagers so the whole loud obnoxious behavior is normal.  (We get plenty of proof of that at home, I prmoise.)  I can roll my eyes to myself and move on.  Not to mention we usually have all of our herd in tow and are working to teach our littles how to behave appropriately, but we certainly have many many moments of reminding our kids how to behave, and taking littles out to avoid them becoming disruptive is a regular occurrence.  I don't expect the audience made up overwhelmingly of people under the age of 14 to behave the way I would expect an audience to behave at a symphony performance.  Really.

But dear students who are performing.....please.  Help me out.
Your choir teacher this year was a gem.  She really was.  I know you will miss her (she is moving).  You will be lucky if you get another one like her.  She has done an incredible job working with you.  The music you have done this year has been fabulous.  The variety was great!  I love that students have accompanied these pieces on the piano, the drums, and even the ukulele.  I hope you enjoyed it because it really has been a pleasure listening to you perform.  There is a great amount of talent in this choir, and that is obvious to anyone listening.  You sound wonderful!
So what's my issue?  Well, you seem to have missed all of those times that Miss J taught you how to stand as a part of a choir.  (I asked other students.  Apparently she has talked about it multiple times.)  The beauty of a choir is blending so many individuals into one.  It is about presenting a picture of unity.  When you insist on being beyond overly dramatic, it is incredibly distracting.  When you are turning from side to side during an entire song, it's distracting.  When there is a unity of black costumes and you insist on gripping your left elbow with your right hand, your arm really breaks up the line of vision.  Folding your arms, playing with your hair, tossing your head, turning around...all of these things take away from the performance!  Especially when a handful of offenders are on the front row.
Unless you are a soloist, this is not a spotlight on you.  This is not an individual performance.  This is not a dance performance.  If there is choreography that goes with a song, sure, have fun with it.  But even then-within reason.  The audience should not be so distracted by you that it detracts from the performance.  (I promise I'm not the only one who noticed, it was impossible to miss the whispers and comments during and after.  Even if I am the only one embracing my British feisty and actually putting it out there.)

I know, I sound like a jerk.  And I know, I could just close my eyes and enjoy the music or just look away instead of watching.  (Although that might be even more disastrous with toddlers in tow.)  Yet I find myself mystically drawn to it.  It's like a train wreck.  I just can't. look. away.  So what's my point then?  Listen to your teacher when she talks to you about performing, including the little things that you don't think are important.  Because they are.
Also, keep singing your little hearts out.  You really did sounds amazing, props for that.  It's a treat to see so many teenagers-especially so many boys!-interested in music.

And that's all I have to say about that.