A Cunning Blog

Long words. Short words. Words that say something.

Sydney Phil: the other side of the story

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The previous post tells the official story. If it’s a bit dry, apologies. I was rattled, and up against a deadline, so I thumped out the review.

Why was I rattled?

Because of the abominable behaviour of the person I was sitting next to.

St Mary’s was packed out for the concert. In fact, half an hour before it began there was a queue stretching back from the door for about 500m (snaking past the pop-up Masterchef restaurant, which had no queue at all…) Mass ran late, so we had to wait. No worries.

I was seated in a pew up close to the action, alongside some other musos. Shortly before the concert was to begin, when the choir were already on stage, a distinguished looking gentleman arrived and sat down next to me. He huffed and shuffled and turned around to greet people, and with each greeting he added a comment. “Awful piece, this one coming up. Might as well go and get a coffee.”

He was referring, of course, to Andrew Ford’s new piece, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’. 7 minutes of new music. Yikes.

Sadly, he didn’t take his own advice about the coffee, but instead sat down to endure. He did not suffer in silence. Several crunchy chords had him muttering ‘disgusting’, and shaking his head in pseudo disbelief. Then mid work he got up to take his coat off in the nave and slumped back into his seat. After the work finished he continued his commentary, turning to me to drag me into agreement. The only thing that shut him up was the start of the Rachmaninov.

I then spent the rest of the concert trying to think of smart rejoinders and / or respectful responses. What do you say? For a start, it’s common courtesy to listen and not stuff up someone else’s concert experience. But if you really are offended by a work (a pretty inoffensive work but, hey, it’s a free country) what should you do?

Over the years I’ve been variously annoyed / alarmed / bored / irritated / impressed / bowled over by new works. I’ve never yet felt moved to interrupt the performance. Maybe I’m just too polite.

Anyway, that’s why I didn’t particularly enjoy the Sydney Phil concert last Saturday.

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Author: harryfiddler

Harriet Cunningham – aka @harryfiddler — is a freelance writer based in Sydney. Harriet wrote her first novel, about a runaway cat, at the age of 7. In the forty year gap between novel 1 and novel 2 she moved from London to Edinburgh to Sydney, ran an opera company, played violin on the opera house stage and sailed from Gove to Darwin. She is now a music critic and writer, best known as the critic who got banned by Opera Australia. She still hangs out at the Sydney Opera House, is still trying to get that novel published, and still plays the violin.

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