Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 23, 2017

Thoughts on a Concert

Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA
by Shera Cohen

Since I won’t pretend to be a music critic, this is a layperson’s point of view of our own Springfield Symphony Orchestra. Admittedly, I had not been to the SSO in two years…shame on me. I guess that I attend too much theatre.

The venue – Symphony Hall – is one of the most splendid, not to mention acoustically correct performance sites in New England. The majestic exterior with its several huge columns and sculpture-embossed doors is simultaneously foreboding and inviting. The interior is breath taking from floor to ceiling. I’m sure that I never noticed any of this finery on our annual elementary school outings a half-century ago. Seeing through adult eyes gives a new appreciation.

I chose to attend this performance because the program was all Mozart and Beethoven. You can’t go wrong with either, of course. What I hadn’t initially realized was the difference between the work of the two composers. The evening was extremely well balanced.

The program started with the two Mozart pieces. It seemed as if Music Director Kevin Rhodes and his orchestra had a wonderful, reciprocal, and respectful relationship. It’s always pleasant for a novice (or semi-novice, in my case) to recognize sections of music. No, I couldn’t name either Mozart piece. However, I knew that I knew it. Familiarity tends to make people happier in their lives at that moment.

Intermission followed, offering me a short visit to my favorite public location in all of Springfield – the Mahogany Room on Symphony Hall’s second floor. The site provides a surrounding for hobnobbing at its best.

The configuration of the stage had been reset during intermission for the second part of the program; now the piano was center-stage. The orchestra tuned up for Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, then Maestro Rhodes returned along with him a tall, lean, young man, the guest soloist.

Spencer Myer sat at his instrument and listened attentively as Rhodes led his orchestra in the first movement. In a moment, Myer rested his wrists on the keyboard, Rhodes gave him a nod, and the music began. I was thrilled to hear Beethoven and to see the talents of this young musician. Mine was the best seat in the house. I could see Myer’s two hands during the entire long piece. It almost looked as if the piano keys bounced. I will avoid the many hackneyed kudos about pianists at work. Let’s just assume that they are all true in the case of Myer. And for the first time in a long time, I was there to appreciate it.

When I returned home, I immediately Googled Spencer Myer to find several bios, each stretching many columns about his accomplishments some of which included past performances in Springfield. It was no surprise that he was invited back.

Not so long ago, audience members dressed to the nines when attending the symphony. Sure, some seated near me looked dapper and lovely, yet others wore “business casual.” More importantly, the musicians were the picture of aesthetics in black.

In the category of “don’t do what I do, do what I tell you to do,” is a little story about myself. Do not assume that the concert starts at 8:00pm, as it had in the past, as most performing arts do. It was 7:15pm when I decided to take off my apron (yes, I wear an apron) and change from my Saturday hang-around clothes to the business casual. About to turn off my computer, I caught an email from a friend who I was to join, reminding me of the 7:30pm “curtain.” OMG, I didn’t know this! Forget the already laid-out good garb, this was to be go as you are, look like you look, scramble to get out the door. Whew…just made it. It was certainly worth the rush not to miss a single note.