Last night J and I went to the first of three Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts we’d agreed back in December would be our mutual birthday gift to one another. Neither one of us had ever been to the BSO, which is kind of ironic given how long we each have lived in New England, so we felt like bumpkins when we walked out of the rain last night into the well-lit swankiness that is Symphony Hall.
“We’ve never been here before,” J explained, apologetically, as we presented our ticket stubs to an usher, looking clearly clueless as to where we should be. “Oh, yes,” she chuckled as she led us to our balcony seats. “That’s how we Bostonians are. We never do any of the interesting things until we have visitors!”
She’s right. J’s been to the Symphony in Pittsburgh, and I went to see the Toledo Symphony a half-dozen times when I was an undergraduate there. But neither one of us ever got around to going to the Symphony here in Boston, somehow eschewing such high-class nightlife in favor of more low-brow activities.
“So, how is this different from a Bruins’ game?” J asked after we’d settled into our seats, skimmed the concert program, and listened to the last half of a pre-concert lecture explaining the motifs we’d hear in Rimsky-Korsokov’s “Scheherazade.” We decided a typical hockey game features more drinking and more fights than a typical symphony concert (although fights aren’t unheard of at Boston Pops concerts). Judging from the concert program, which was filled with ads for retirement communities and investment brokers, the typical symphony-goer is both older and wealthier than the typical Bruins fan, although from our cheap “partial view” seats in the upper balcony, we spotted more than a few 20- and 30-something concert-goers who presumably were taking advantage of the BSO’s reduced rate for the under-40 crowd.
I’d worried a bit before the concert that our understated evening attire–a turtleneck sweater and skirt for me, and a dress shirt, tie, and chinos for J–would clearly mark us as Symphony Newbies, but everyone else in attendance was similarly dressed, with the only ballgowns and tuxedos we spotted being on the stage. Our “partial view” seats, we learned, gave us a great view of the sculpture niches that house marble statues of mythological figures overlooking the hall: instead of sitting in the proverbial nosebleeds, we sat in the heavens, surrounded by gods.
From our particular corner of the upper balcony, our view partially obstructed by a flanking row of seats, we had a perfect view of half of the strings and most of the percussion section…and if we leaned forward or sat up in our seats, we could just barely see the evening’s soloists. But a symphony, as J remarked, is not a play: you’re there to listen more than watch, and there isn’t a seat in Symphony Hall where you don’t find yourself submerged in a lushness of sound.
Now that we know where to go and what to wear–and now that we know that the BSO website’s stated policy disallowing cameras only prohibits pictures during the performance, as the folks around us snapped shot after shot of those aforementioned marble gods before the concert began–we’re looking forward to our next concert and its taste of Boston nightlife.
This is my belated contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Nightlife. Because I left my camera at home last night, I have no photos from Symphony Hall, so these well-dressed mannequins from my photo archive will have to do.