Saturday was the opening night of the 85th season for the Ann Arbor Symphony. There is something special about standing in a full house and singing the National Anthem, being supported by a full symphony orchestra, that made me realize how lucky we all were. Lucky to be in a beautiful place, lucky to be listening to such a fine orchestra, lucky to have family and friends to share it all with.
This season will be all about contrasts, writes Maestro Arie Lipsky in the program. Opening night proved he was serious as we listened to Overture to Candide by Leonard Bernstein, with it’s full and lush orchestration bouncing between classic and crazy, to full on crazy with Commedia for (almost) 18th century orchestra by William Bolco, and back to sweet traditional sounds in the “Unfinished” Symphony No 8 in B Minor by Franz Schubert. And that was just the first half.
After intermission we were immersed in Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a pounding, intense and relentless dance telling the story of a pagan rite; sacrificing a young girl who dances herself to death in order to placate the god of spring. The music is difficult, to play as well as to hear, yet it is also impossible not to be drawn in, not to hold your breath, not to let it sink into your being.
As I listened I thought about all the wonderful music that has been heard and absorbed in this place. And I wondered whether hints of all the music that has come before has somehow been preserved in the crevices of the ornate ceiling, in the dark corners of the upper balcony. Maybe entwined in threads of the velvet curtains up on the stage are bits of notes from past concerts. I image late at night all these remnants of concerts past mingle in the air creating a collage of sound. That makes me smile.
As usual the audience was on it’s feet as the last bits of music exploded above us. We were on our feet as the season opened singing with gusto, and on our feet as the evening closed showing our appreciation. And in between we were transported; nodding our heads, tapping our feet, holding our breaths and letting them out in a big exultant sighs of joy. Yes we are so lucky.