Thursday, November 16, 2017

Roll Over, Beethoven

Let's be real here: making it to five years is an accomplishment.

If you can also score $10,000 on your fifth anniversary, there's even more reason to celebrate. No, no, I'm not talking about relationships here (though I could) but about the little music organization that could. And did.

After a delightful day in the warmer environs of Norfolk, I got home with barely enough time to shower and make it to the Hof in time to score a ticket for Classical Revolution's Birthday Bash with Beethoven's 5th.

The first people I spotted were Beckham and Beauty, but since I hadn't known I was coming, they hadn't saved me a seat in the front row with them. And by front row, I'm guessing they could have seen the fillings in the cellists' teeth if they'd yawned, they were that close.

I found a seat two rows behind them and chatted them up from there - given our shared affection for South Africa, they were the ideal friends to share the Post write-up about Stellenbosch Vineyards Four Secrets Sparkling Shiraz I was reading - as the crowd wandered in and the room began to fill up with music lovers and the 40 musicians who were about to dazzle us.

Surprisingly, I only spotted a few people I knew: the museum director, the Man About Town, the former neighbor and his main squeeze. While I read the rest of my newspaper (Roy Moore is clearly the serial pedophile from Liarsville), DJ Rattan played his always excellent music choices, nailing Latin gems, obscure foreign pop music and the random Steely Dan song, in that way he does so well.

Once the room was standing room only, Classical Revolution's director Ellen took center stage to talk about the non-profit's original mission to get classical music out of concert halls and into everyday life, where they've succeed at playing in bars and bookstores, cideries and galleries, breweries and theaters, even a pedestrian bridge.

I'm truly sorry I missed that last one. Sounds right up my alley.

She went on to issue thank yous to sponsors, the musicians volunteering their time and talent, supporters and, especially, those who'd showed their love with cash. A local couple had issued a challenge that if CR could raise $5,000 during the week of their anniversary celebration, they'd match the amount.

Today, she said, they'd surpassed their goal, so she turned toward the couple, also in the front row, and joked, "I'm going to take you up on that!" as the man extended what looked like a folded check. Real or not, the crowd went crazy hootin' and hollerin' about the good news.

After reminding the crowd that this was a raw performance - everyone was sight-reading music and there'd been no rehearsal - she introduced conductor Daniel Myssyk. He took up his wand, looked at the orchestra and turned back to us. "The beginning is very tricky, so I need to have this very brief conversation with the orchestra musicians."

Take as long as you need, Daniel. In what seemed like no time, he whirled around and said, "Easy!" and the performance began.

The beginning of Beethoven's Fifth is so instantly recognizable (come on, even cartoon fans know it) that right away, people began reacting.

More than a few closed their eyes, several with their heads back. The Hat followed the music's movement with his entire head. A redheaded woman smiled broadly as she watched. A young girl sat folded on her chair like a pretzel, busy reading a paperback rather than watching the orchestra.

Everyone experiences Beethoven in their own way. I vacillated, sometimes closing my eyes to let it wash over me and other times, focusing on a musician, section or Myssyk, who, by the way, gave good conductor face. No guitarist could have done better at guitar face.

Unlike at a more staid Richmond Symphony concert at CenterStage, this crowd, diverse with Baby Boomers, Millennials and everything in between, wasn't shy about clapping in between movements. The first time, the conductor looked surprised, but he adjusted.

You can't very well play in a bar and not expect some spontaneous reactions. The standing ovation at the end felt as much about the pleasure of hearing the music as a celebration of what Classical Revolution has accomplished in five short years.

Walking out with Beckham and Beauty, we encountered a distraught-looking woman who said in an accusatory tone, "They towed my car!" Without a word, we nodded together in sympathy and kept walking, with Beckham murmuring our thoughts, "The way to prevent that is to park legally."

We'd barely turned the corner when we saw an older couple standing in a business lot and he was testily identifying his missing car to the person on the other end of the line. "It was a Ford FAIRLANE!" No need to shout, sir.

No doubt it was a hell of a buzz kill after that fabulous performance to come out and find your car gone, but like Beckham said, there's ways to prevent that.

Kind of like there's ways to celebrate having made it five years. As a man once told me, "Five years with you will never be enough. I'll need at least 25!"

I say we raise a glass of Sparkling Shiraz to Classical Revolution's next 25 years.

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