Orchestra Experience

Since apparently I’m just going to randomly blog about Nashville things…
(And why wouldn’t I?! That city fed my soul like no other!)
I figured I would give a review of another one of the trip’s highlights, and do some shameless self promotion in the process.

While in town, I caught the premiere of Ben Folds’ piano concerto. I had interviewed Ben about it for Paste Magazine, so I was excited to hear it there in Nashville where the idea was conceived. (You can read my article here.) The experience didn’t disappoint.

To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I went to a symphony performance. Beck played with the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl several years ago, does that count? Because that might have been the last time. Or wait Peter Gabriel played under the same circumstances more recently. 2012. I just looked it up. Anyway. It’s been a while. And those performances probably don’t even count as I should just go watch a symphony play without a popular artist to attract me…oh wait.

WHATEVER. I was at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Which is gorgeous if you’ve never been.

Ben Folds’ portion of the program was the last bit, which meant full on classic orchestra for about two hours – can you use orchestra and symphony interchangeably? Long story short: It was mesmerizing. From the music they played to the nonverbal communication with each other and the conductor.

I recalled my brief relationship with the oboe (which seems to have a major part in most orchestra pieces) and love that my ears still perk up at its sound. Speaking of, I totally listen to classical music – don’t get me wrong – I just don’t go and SEE classical music which is a whole thing that Ben brought up in our interview that didn’t make it into the article. People – especially younger people – don’t go and see orchestras play anymore.

So right before the concerto, the orchestra performed the William Tell Overture (they had also performed part of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde). It felt like the energy in the room was building for something…

And then…as the orchestra wrapped that piece and the conductor walked off stage, a piano rose up from underneath the middle of the centerstage. I made the comment it would have been real rock and roll if he had been sitting on the piano bench as it ascended triumphantly into the air, but it was probably more professional the way he did it. Which was to walk out on stage after everything – and every one – was in place.

His concerto is about 25 minutes long, and if I didn’t know how difficult it is for someone to play piano that hard for that long, I would have said it could have been longer. Because it was incredible. There were elements and things you’ve never heard in that environment before. Something I didn’t mention in the article that had every one buzzing after the show was the way he uses the orchestra members’ cell phone ringtones at one point to carry the tune. That’s a 2014 piano concerto right there.

I also especially enjoyed the part where he stood and played one hand on the keys and one hand on the actual strings of the piano. There is probably a proper name for this, and perhaps it’s something others do as well. But I had never seen it before, so it captivated me.

After the concerto, he was applauded back on stage for an encore. I was there on night two of three. He said the first night they realized they never thought of what to do about an encore. He doesn’t have a microphone at the piano, so he decided on a singalong. The first night they sang Purple Haze. The night I was there we sang Piano Man because Billy Joel was playing next door. The third night crowd was treated to Tiny Dancer.

So yeah, when he comes to your city, or a city near you, or a city you’ve always wanted to visit, you should go.

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2 Responses to Orchestra Experience

  1. Suzan Bargen says:

    I want to go to a concert if I find him here sometime. I’m not familiar with him except thru your writings.
    I hope you’ll keep blogging. I love reading your things. Love you!

  2. Dad did find he is coming to Powell in April!! We are going to try to go! Excited!

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