Carnegie Hall’s Unlikely Audience

I remember high school orchestra concerts, we’d been practicing pieces, perfecting movements for months and months, culminating in this one performance in a huge auditorium, where, for the most part, only our parents showed up. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if the student body showed up like they did to football games every week? Cheerleaders getting the crowd pumped as we walked out on stage, standing ovations and cheers at every tricky run that was successful, and hey, it’s a concert, why not some crowd surfing?

Obviously, this is just not the sort of crowd you see at orchestra concerts. The crowd has to be still and silent to be able to hear the delicacy of the music, and if everyone stood up, the people in the back wouldn’t be able to see the fingers fly down the strings or the conductor’s loopy moves. It just wouldn’t happen. Or so I thought.

Last night Jon and I went to see the New York Philharmonic, with guest musician Trey Anastasio of Phish. The crowd was not typical for the philharmonic. At first I gawked at the loads of people coming in late, wearing sweat bands on their heads or large tie-die top hats. I know they’re Phish fans, but where was their respect? This was Carnegie Hall!  But as the concert continued, they hooped and hollered after particularly impressive sections, gave the orchestra a standing ovation after every single song, and when I took a general glance at the rows in front of me I couldn’t help but feel the crowd moving, yes even head banging, to the music. 

So I forgave the girl near the top swinging around a blue glow light, and the guy in front of me who tried to get everyone to stand up for the last song. The music was great, and the crowd was loving it more noticeably than any orchestra audience I could remember.