There is something exhilarating about opening nights. The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra began it’s 2017-18 season this past Saturday evening. My FHB and I decided this past summer to do something which somewhat followed in the footsteps of my parents. We became season subscribers to the symphony. My parents had tickets to the New York Philharmonic for many years. Like season ticket holders to the Red Sox, after a period of time you get the opportunity to get the better seats and you become part of an elite membership with a common passion for music, or for baseball, sometimes both.
The symphony welcomed a new conductor who brings energy and creativity and marks his territory for the future of the orchestra. He started with a contemporary piece which was whimsical and surprising. The second selection was by Leonard Bernstein and listening to it revealed other pieces I was more familiar with that were his signature works. We had seats that gave us a full view of the orchestra and although my mind wanders and relaxes in a certainly mental harmony, I was very present in the venue. My FHB took in the music with his eyes shut. We both moved to the rhythm of the pieces.
After the intermission, the full orchestra began to play what I quickly realized was a piece I knew and heard repeatedly, if not weekly, growing up. I never was particularly good at remembering which symphony was what number , or whether it was Mozart or Beethoven or Mahler. I did not inherit my father’s almost savant ability to know a classical piece after a few notes. It often bordered on obnoxious as he would then reveal the orchestra and conductor, and his accuracy was remarkable. Mahler was one of the composers he always taught us (my sister and me) would become someone who would “grow” on us. He could talk of the composer’s development over time from early pieces to later ones. As soon as the first minutes of Mahler’s 1st Symphony was played, I realized that I could hum each movement because it was imbedded in my memory after hearing it over and over, and over again. It was like coming home. I could not stop smiling as each note was played with precision and clarity. It was just beautiful and such a gift. It evoked memories of many moments of learning about classical music with my father as my teacher.
My sister has a memory for lyrics as did my mother, and my youngest son is able to know composers, much like my father. My older son knows classical music from his familiarity with it being played in movies and cartoons. MY FHB knows who sang what song from the oldies (and he is more oldie than I am). My musical acumen is in the area of knowing where I heard a song and being able to hum along, whether it is rock, pop or classical. I don’t know who wrote it, or who sang it or what movie it was from. The opening of the symphony found an opening in my mind and heart. I don’t think anyone around us heard me hum along with Mahler, except perhaps my father who might have been sitting in what appeared to be an empty seat right next to me. At least I would like to imagine he was there.