09 July, 2010

Give us once a drink!

I was in Boston, Massachussets, the other week to attend the 20th Symposium and Forum of the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association. It was a very interesting conference with some thought-provoking ideas to ponder the future of agro-industries.

I tasted the famous local lobster and clam chowder but I really want to share my musical experience of the Boston Pops. I was looking for a concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the great American orchestras. Unfortunately, they were not playing during my stay in town. On the other hand, the very popular Boston Pops Orchestra was giving a concert at Symphony Hall so I turned up at the concert hall and bought a ticket.

The objective of the Boston Pops is to allow the audience to enjoy popular classics, famous film musical excerpts and other popular music artists. That evening, I enjoyed two pieces from ballets by the American composer Aaron Copland; there was also the Boston première of a piece specially written for an electrifying string trio. In the second half, the Boston Pops accompanied folk legend Arlo Guthrie who looked very much alive and well despite rumours of his demise. I had never heard of Arlo Guthrie but my older American friends told me I was extremely lucky to hear him. I must admit that I found it a bit odd to listen to folk music with a symphonic accompaniment.

The Boston Pops uses the same Symphony Hall as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but the hall was custom-built at the end of the 18th century to allow the room to be modified for the more popular works. All the orchestra seats are removed and replaced by tables and chairs, which creates a very fitting setting for a café-concert. The more expensive seats allow one to enjoy the concert at a table while enjoying drinks and snacks to order from the menu. Ushers are quickly replaced by waiters and the drinks flows.

It must be most pleasant to enjoy a moment of popular music while sipping one’s favourite drink. I did not know about this before so I had purchased the cheapest seat at $20 (right at the top and back of the hall, which was still very good with an unencumbered view of the orchestra). The one downside: from the upper balcony, I could hear the shuffling of the waiters on the wooden floor of the hall, the clinks of the wine glasses and the rustling of cracker packages being opened, which made the musical experience slightly less enjoyable. But I guess I’m snotty classical purist.

Give us once a drink, Thomas Ravenscroft
Pro Cantione Antiqua, Purcell in the ale house, Apex

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