The Year of Fun #9: The Orchestra
By far the classiest, most cultured edition of the Year of Fun so far – I went to see (and hear) the orchestra!
I’ve only been to the orchestra once before: the result of a spare ticket needing a taker, and I took it.
Honestly, the first time: I wasn’t super excited. I like live music, though I very rarely go to gigs these days because of, you knew, standing in a sweaty crowd of strangers, the worst of whom who have no ability to recognise that standing in front of a 5’3″ girl isn’t the most thoughtful thing to do when youre 6’4″.
But sitting in a nice theatre with lots of people who’s average age doubles your own? Heck yes: that’s my kind of fun on a Sunday afternoon.
Anyway, that first time I was in tears within 5 mins – I was overwhelmed with the magic of it.
Seeing these real people move in such precision & synchronicity to play music that is the auditory equivalent to the Mona Lisa… I mean, it was incredible.
So naturally I was pretty thrilled when I pulled this one out of the Jar of Fun last week.
For one: this really is a perfect thing for an over-thinking introvert like me to do on a rainy afternoon. Honestly I was in quite a funk all weekend, for no real reason, just feeling like a cloud of discontent, itchiness & apathy was passing overhead and the last thing I wanted to do was to sit at my laptop… But I didn’t want to see anyone either.
The orchestra provided a perfect respite from a – temporary – moodiness.
No demands to speak to anyone, perform or create: all of which I do actually enjoy, just at certain times. This musical break let me just exist, in my comfy chair, and be an observer .
Observing is one of my favourite ways to calm my busy mind- and I recommend it to any introvert who struggles as much as I do with traditional meditation.
Instead of challenging my mind: a kind of trap I fall into when I sit in silence & attempt to let my thoughts float by like clouds or whatever piece of shit advice you get on the Headspace app – instead, I let myself experience what’s happening around me and use that as a point of focus.
Before long, I’m far more present & mindful than I can ever get when I try to sit still and go blank.
And by the way – you don’t need to go to the orchestra to do this. I first practised this on a long distance walk on the South Downs. I started to pay a kind of unexciting game to distract myself from my achey legs: l started just noting the colour of everything around me.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t just saying: green, green, green – there were lots of colours to see, and it wasn’t long before I found myself in a zen-like reverie and not at all thinking about my sore legs.
Back to the orchestra:
Whilst I didn’t break down and start crying this time,
I was just as impressed by the performance.
My seat was amazing – first row of a balcony – so I could really see the whole team doing their thing.
The conductor was the star of the show, if I’m honest: at one point he jumped – both feet off the ground – he literally used his whole body to conduct. Amazing, especially when you’re working within an art form that is… well, formal – everyone has to dress in black and sit in a certain way and be about as regimented as an army platoon, with y’know, less killing people.
It also got me thinking about our position in life – whatever domain, whether it’s at home, or in school or in your career – we’re all individuals, yes – we all have our own piece of music to play – but we’re also part of this whole. That when you put us together, magic is created that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
Not the most unique of metaphors I know, but it really is perfect. It especially made me chuckle when I saw the guy whose job it is to play the triangle.
I mean, you look at these incredibly complex, elaborate, finely tuned instruments with lots of strings or pipes – and then you look at this seemingly simple, three-sided piece of bent metal. It seems kind of… juvenile, and out of place. Insignificant, next to it’s fellow percussion instrument: the cymbals. Whoah – they may be simple but everyone knows you pay attention to a clash from the cymbals.
That’s when I got a bit of a surprise. When the triangle got going, towards the end of one piece, it was unmissable. It’s distinct sound calling our attention, emphasising the beat and cutting through the entire strings and wind and brass section – it definitely gave the cymbals a run for their money.
So, another cheesy metaphor, but I can’t help myself – don’t underestimate the seemingly small, simple and insignificant parts. They DO make a difference and certainly hold their own.
Now I know getting to an orchestra may not be as easy for you as it was for me – here in Brighton, a considerably culture-friendly city – but I’ll bet you can make time to sit and just listen to a classic piece of music. It doesn’t need to be classical, but I would encourage it: partly because of the fun you can have in playing my noticing game.
So like I described on my walk, where I noticed the colours of all the things – try to notice the details in the music – what instruments can you hear? How does it make you feel?
One of the pieces played was ‘Night on a Bald Mountain’ by Mussorgsky – also featured in Disney’s Fantasia – definitely made me feel high levels of anxiety, probably because of that scene in the film etched into my confused childhood head – but even that was fun to see how my body was responding to the music in such a dramatic way.
Fun rating: 7/10
It really was a lovely afternoon, and I thank you Brighton Philharmonic for the entertainment.
Next week’s fun activity is…
Go to a car-boot sale!