Snow Day
23 Mar 2011
Inside the Classics

In addition to getting ready for our Inside the Classics concerts (almost sold out, by the way, so if you want a ticket, you’d best get on it) this week, the orchestra is playing a set of Young People’s Concerts with Courtney Lewis on the podium. YP concerts, as we call them, are quite a logistical undertaking for our staff under the best of circumstances…

…but on a day like today, with several inches of snow and sleet having descended in the overnight hours and metro traffic at a near standstill, we had schools calling in cancellations for this morning’s concerts left and right. Now, in all the time I’ve lived in Minneapolis, we’ve only canceled concerts due to winter weather conditions on two occasions – once when we were scheduled to play in some far-flung town in the southwest part of the state and the interstates were closed by a blizzard, and once this past December, when we had that… well, you remember.

So there was no way we were canceling this morning’s back-to-back concerts over a few measly inches, but as 10am approached, and I poked my head out  from the wings to see how many kids and their minders had managed to straggle downtown, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. With less than ten minutes to go before showtime, a point at which our 2,450-seat hall would normally be packed to the rafters with whooping, hollering young ‘uns, there sat about 20 utterly silent kids and their parents, scattered broadly around the room.

It was a crowd made up almost entirely of home-schoolers, from what I could tell, which only makes sense. Coordinating a family outing in the snow is less complicated than coordinating a multi-classroom field trip. Besides, I’m guessing that once you, as a parent, have committed yourself to being teacher, principal, school lunch lady, and recess monitor to your own children, a little thing like snow probably doesn’t rank as a major hurdle in your book anymore. (It should be noted that, when I pointed out that we were basically about to play a private concert for the home-schoolers of the Twin Cities, the two home-schooled violists in our section became noticeably giddy and may or may not have high-fived.)

The crowd filled in a bit in that last ten minutes, to the extent that it’s possible (though I’m not at all sure of this) that there were more people sitting in the audience than on the stage by the time the lights dimmed. I grabbed my phone to get a quick shot, through traffic, of what things looked like from our perspective.

Ironically, this particular concert might be the biggest thing, visually speaking, that we’re playing this season. The theme is “water music,” and there are brightly clad dancers whirling about the stage to music of Debussy, a percussion-heavy tribute to Jacques Cousteau, and about a dozen gigantic colorful jellyfish hovering in midair all over the room. It’s a concert designed to fill up the considerable space in our hall, regardless of how many people are there to see it.

So there we were, and the literal dozens of kids and parents applauded like nothing was askew when Roger Frisch walked out to tune the orchestra. Since fewer than 100 people applauding in a room meant for more than 2000 sounds pretty weak, we took advantage of the opportunity to give Roger a rousing ovation of our own, which did not go unnoticed by the families in the seats. In fact, for the rest of the morning, whenever a new performer took the stage or we finished a piece, there was as much whooping and cheering as our diehard audience could muster – it was both hilarious and adorable.

In the end, everyone involved – orchestra and audience – seemed to have a great time making the best of each others’ situation. (There was much glee from the kids when a couple of late-arriving musicians who had been stuck in traffic tried to sneak onstage between pieces and wound up causing an enormous chaotic mess as the second violin section tried to figure out who should be sitting where, and poor Courtney tried to keep the speech he was giving at the time from being derailed.) It certainly put me in a better mood than I would ordinarily be in during a late-March snowstorm. Speaking of which, I hear the snow shovels and rock salt calling my name…

<February 2020>

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