I realized last night how blessed I am — and how spoiled.
My high school alma mater had a rich musical legacy; 240 in the school, 110 of us were in band – and we brought “I’s” home from contest all the time. We played collegiate and light professional literature. My wife and I have attended some great concerts through the years; the type where you dress up a little bit -or a lot- to attend. Our kids went to a Wisconsin high school with award-winning large groups and ensembles. I loved attending KM’s concerts both as a parent and as a musician.
Last night I dressed up a bit and went to the Christmas Choir Concert at our local high school, anticipating a nice evening. My only job last night was to enjoy and applaud to encourage. Our church’s concert was last weekend so I anticipated taking it all in, not being in charge of anything but my posture and how I folded my program.
From the edge of the stage forward it was a good high school choir concert. From the first row back, not so much.
A couple of upperclassmen read “Ten Rules of Concert Etiquette” before things began. Too bad the mic wasn’t loud enough. There was feedback, though, maybe from the mic on the other side of the stage? The first choir filed onto the risers, the sounds of high heels and dress boot heels reverberating through the room and over the speakers overhead. The director went to a mic and instructed the anonymous technician which slider to push which way so the feedback would go away. It finally did. The first song was pretty good. A few measures into the second song it occurred to whoever it was in the tech booth that they should probably turn the mics over the choir on! (oh-my). I could hear my choir director from when I was a freshman calling across the decades: People – this is not that hard!!
Last night would probably have gone better if they would have powered down the sound system and gone acoustic.
Last year at these concerts I sat in a part of the auditorium where people whispered too much during the concert, so last night I tried the other side of the auditorium. Big mistake. The family in front of me was in and out and in and out all concert-long. I couldn’t figure out if their Schnauzer was having puppies in the mini-van outside, if they were keeping track of Monday night football, kept getting leg cramps or what exactly.
Students sat in front of me and to my left. I sat within earshot of three guys who chatted and text-messaged the whole night. (Never again will I accuse high school girls of being chatty.) These three didn’t whisper, they just — talked. Have you ever listened to a girls’ choir sing while adolescent baritone voices drone on and on in non-stop conversation a few feet away? It’s a bit like sprinting with a track shoe on one foot and an overshoe on the other.
At one point I counted nine cell phones in active texting mode, their owners paying no attention to the the people making music on stage. I thought about taking a picture with my cell phone and posting it here so you’d believe me but I couldn’t bring myself to be number ten.
I finally had to say something. I’d moved over a seat but the distractions were still way too much. I leaned forward between the third and fourth choirs. “Are you guys going to talk and text all night?!?” The guy wearing a 2011 t-shirt turned and looked at me, an innocent ‘oh, I’m sorry, are we bothering you?’ look all over his face. “If you are,” I continued, “the lobby might be a better place. You’ll have better light and these singers won’t bother you with their Christmas music.”
He put his phone away – till a text arrived from his buddy two seats over.
So yeah – from the edge of the stage forward it was a good high school choir concert. From the first row back, not so much.
P.S. I noticed on my way out that the sound room is behind a big window at the back of the auditorium. No wonder they can’t hear what’s going on! That’s easily remedied, though. Throw a metal chair through that window so you can hear next time. Just make sure you throw it from inside the tech booth so the glass lands in the aisle and not all over the sound board.