Spokane Symphony simply spectacular

21. Sep. 2006 – Sitting in the balcony of the Spokane Opera House (now dubbed "The INB Performing Arts Center") Sept. 17, I surveyed the crowd beneath me: a sea of grey coifs and bald pates. One would think, judging from this view, that classical music was solely the realm of the post-retirement set.


Then I took a look at the seats around me, on the mostly filled terrace, and realized two things. First, for all the quasi-homogeneity of the crowd, no small number of people old and young alike had turned out to enjoy the latest offerings of the Spokane Symphony.


Second, I was surrounded by kids of university age, who had taken advantage of the $5 student rush tickets offered before the show. We may not have the money for season tickets, but dash it all, we still fork out our cash for the chance to listen to the rousing orchestrations of Khachaturian and Tchaikovsky!


I am not being facetious; music of any sort is moving when heard live, and classical pieces benefit greatly from such a venue. An orchestra is such a complex organism that it is awe-inspiring to be able to witness such a grand-scale demonstration of synthesized skill. While Spokane's cannot quite measure up to the Philadelphia Philharmonic or other world-class orchestras, they are definitely worth a listen.


Each symphony concert includes a virtuoso performance by a visiting artist, which adds another level of individual talent to the stage. This past week, it was Terence Wilson, a pianist who is able to traverse the keyboard with rare passion and deftness. Watching masters at work is always fascinating, especially those who choose to grace our city with their presence for only one night.


Offstage, the stillness of the audience greatly increases one's appreciation for the music.


At a rock concert, it is easy to get caught up in the crowd mentality. While this is a terribly fun way to spend an evening, I often feel that I miss some of the nuances of a band's live performance because I am dancing or trying to weasel my way out from behind that tall dude in front of me. Symphonic concerts on the other hand are entirely about the music, and it is refreshing to feel yourself become engaged in the notes and the passion rather than in the electricity of those around you. Not nearly as adrenaline-creating, admittedly, but still a feeling worth cultivating.


There is something heartening about the fact that the arts are being appreciated by the Nintendo generation. It seems as if it is all too easy (even for me, a member of said group) to classify us as being too jaded, too underexposed, and too "cool" to enjoy the classical arts.


I love that at least some of us are attempting to prove that assumption wrong one $5 ticket at a time.


That is not to say that I, like many members of a demographic motivated by hormones and personal satisfaction, do not have an ulterior motive for attending this event. I love classical music, yes, and would attend the symphony regardless of any extra musical bonuses on offer, but there is definitely something to be said for the added pleasure of watching conductor Eckart Preu bop around for two hours. He is quite charming and very fun to watch: enthusiasm incarnate in tails.


Attending the symphony may sound like your grandmother's idea of a good time, but you might be surprised at how much it makes for an interesting and unique evening out on the town.


If nothing else, it gives you a chance to get spiffed up, makes you sound at least quasi-cultured, and it's cheaper than a movie.


This season's lineup includes everything from Brahms to Mozart to Duke Ellington. Concerts alternate Friday nights.


Check www.spokanesymphony.org for a complete listing. If you go down to the Opera House between 6 and 7 p.m. on the day of a show you can use your student ID to get $5 rush tickets.


It's worth it.

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