A Night Out With Sparky

Last night Sparky and I did something special together, just we two cellists. We went to a concert held by the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra, in the church where I usually do my Canada Day concerts.

It would have been little more special if half an hour before we got there, Sparky hadn’t done a 180 degree shift from his excitement prior to the actual concert and decided he didn’t want to be there, because we’d get home much too late to read a chapter before bedtime. He was cranky and a bit whiny through the first half. He sat there with a Lego book open on his lap, poking me and whispering stuff now and again. It was chilly in the church and he was wearing only a cotton button-down shirt, so that didn’t help; he burrowed into his down-filled jacket and pulled his scarf and hat on. But as every new piece began he asked for the programme and looked up its name. I like to talk to him about music, and sometimes give him snippets of trivia about the piece and the composer. He’s often receptive, but he wasn’t in the mood this time, so I let him be.

They opened with a Shostakovich overture that was nice and crashy with lots of brass, moved to Respighi’s Fountains of Rome (I need to break out my double disc set of Respighi music, because I do not listen to it enough), did a pleasant arrangement of Williams’ theme for Schindler’s List, and finished the first half with a soloist performing Chaminade’s Concertino for Flute and Orchestra. I was especially interested in this one, because our orchestra played it with a phenomenal young flutist a couple of years ago, but I’d never heard it live.

The orchestra was incredible. They were smooth, tight, confident, and leapt from pianissimo to fortissimo without dragging along the way. (My orchestra must make our conductor despair sometimes, because dynamics are one of our issues; he likes a lot of contrast, and we are usually very slow to get there.) We sat in the perfect place to see the celli work, and I was kind of excited about that. I think the last time I saw an orchestra play was about three years ago, and it was the WIYSO again, in their free concert for the Beaconsfield centennial year. (Again with Sparky! That’s one of the reasons I thought this would be a nice treat; we’d very much enjoyed that one.) It’s quite a treat to be able to sit and enjoy another orchestra.

The second half was what it’d really be looking forward to. They played Dvorak’s eighth symphony, and while the ninth is yes, very good, I prefer the eighth, hands down. The last time I saw the eighth done in concert, it was in the second half of an all-Dvorak programme presented by the TSO fifteen years ago; the first half was the Dvorak cello concerto with Yo-Yo Ma as the soloist, and Ma crept out in the second half to sit with the cellist at the last desk and play through the eighth symphony with them in the cello section for fun. The WIYSO did a brilliant job. The symphony is very cello-heavy; they have a lot of the themes and carry a lot of the textural richness along with the brass section, and they did a terrific job. It turned out that a lot of his grousing during the break was because he was tired, because Sparky slept through the second half, his head pillowed on my lap. I marvel at how he manages to sleep through the loudest, crashiest pieces of music. He’d whined through the break, wanting to go home, but I told him pleasantly yet firmly that we weren’t leaving because I wanted it hear the symphony, and so he could be miserable or try it make the best of it. I opened a tiny packet of Smarties during the second movement for him, and he went back to sleep for the rest of the symphony.

He said the next day at our group lesson that he’d really liked it, even though he slept through most of the second half. I know that even though there are hiccoughs along the way, he’ll remember these special nights. And yes, I read half a chapter to him after we got home, as I’d promised.

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