SSO Does Gerschwin

I’ve done the “Symphony in the Domain” series on a couple of occasions previously. I also done “Tropfest” on a couple of occasions. Both events involve walking long distances, taking along a hamper of wine and food, and sitting on the grass watching distant big screens, surrounded by thousands of people in a similar situation, many of them drunken yobbos. It’s usually good fun, but to be honest, probably a little disappointing, since you feel like a total pleb. Now that I’ve done “Symphony” in the VIP tent, there ain’t no going back.

As we arrived at about 6.30pm, entering via the Hospital Road Entrance, we were greated by friendly faces giving us wrist-bands and confirming our tickets which would allow us to enter an area where the wine flowed freely and where we were given small containers of food. But this was no Neil Perry Qantas Pack, this was very nice, with my vegetarian meal offering a very tasty chick pea salad. After wining and dining, we entered the VIP area, with the only difficulty being getting up and down from seats so low to the ground, although it provided much hilarity for the young people sitting next to us.

With all of the drama of the “Domain” series out of the way we were able to truly enjoy the music. Tonight it was the Sydney Symphony Orchestra playing the works of George Gerschwin, who I hadn’t known, had died tragically young at the age of 39. I was pretty aware of Gerschwin’s work, and have a number of CDs in my collection, especially the better known works. I was unaware, however, about some of the other works performed, including a work based on Cuban rhythms and sounds, composed while he was living, briefly in Cuba. Caroline O’Connor also came on the stage to sing about a half a dozen Gerschwin’s songs, many of them very moving. This was truly an evening of musical delight, offering both substantive works as well as the more popular. The conductor, who often played piano, clearly understood the works with a great deal of depth, thus allowing him to “play around” just a little, varying the pitch and speed at which some of the works were played.

At the end of the night the orchestra, reluctantly I think, played the 1812 Overture, which is a regular part of the “Domain” series, along with fireworks and explosions. There was a real sense in the words he used the conductor loathed this work, especially in the context of an evening of Gerschwin. But the fireworks went off, the explosions occured, and this really dramatic and exciting work went ahead, being a real crowd pleaser. Unfortunately, during the performances, many of the other people in the VIP area, including people on both sides, thought instrumentation was an invitation to conversation. If they’re not singing, it’s time to chat. I guess it’s okay if you’re out to impress a new girlfriend, but I think if you’re lucky enough to be that closed to a terrific orchestra playing beautiful music, it’s best to shut up and enjoy it!

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