Having gone on a cruise around Norway last summer, one concert on the Fallbrook Music Society’s program caught my eye –
"Northern Lights," featuring the music of two Scandinavian composers played by the Redlands Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 26. For several months, I looked forward to attending the concert and extending my experience of Norway. However, as musical talent does not run in my family and music was not part of my education, this was to be the first classical concert I had ever attended and I did not quite know what to expect.
First, I discovered that arriving early would have been a good idea. January 26 turned out to be a particularly busy day on the Fallbrook High School campus and the parking lot was full. (My sister Suzy and I had to park down by the football field.) Aside from saving ourselves a long walk, allowing for more time would have enabled us to read the program before the concert started at 3 p.m.
We enjoyed the concert, but the program notes with their background information on the composers, (Jean Sibelius and Edvard Grieg), and the music would have helped us to understand what we were listening to, if we had read them before the concert.
Nonetheless, the concert started with music that needs no introduction, "The Star Spangled Banner." It was the first time I had heard our national anthem played by an orchestra in a theater and it had never sounded so grand before. (Ann Murray, the music society’s executive director, later told me the acoustics at the Bob Burton Center for the Performing Arts are among the best she has ever heard, near perfection.)
Our seats were in row F, the sixth row back and about one step above stage level, so we had a good view of all the stringed instruments. The sight of the musicians playing their instruments in unison was as impressive as the sounds they were making; they were all dressed in black or gray, making it easier to see their gleaming brown instruments. Next time, though, I plan on sitting higher up so I can also see the other instruments being played.
Being visual learners, Suzy and I both imagined pictures to go with the music which reminded us of movie sound tracks. I also thought of ice skaters skating to the music, and could see a series of nature scenes corresponding to the music, including a swarm of bees darting through the air at one point.
Having learned about some of the history of Scandinavia with my Daughters of Norway lodge sisters, and having been to Norway and Denmark, I was already familiar with the nationalism movement in those countries and, looking back at the concert, can relate to the struggle for a national identity that is a theme for much of the music we heard. I concluded that music tells a story, in a language different from the spoken or written word, a language that not all of us understand.
A few parts of the pieces that were played sounded familiar; I knew I had heard them before, somewhere. So, I also realized that classical music is not foreign to me – I have heard it in movies, in commercials, in the Olympics on television – it is used for many different purposes. For me, seeing it played in person made it even more enjoyable.
The concert lasted almost two hours, with an intermission halfway through the program giving everyone a chance to stretch their legs. The Fallbrook High Band Boosters sold refreshments in the lobby as a fundraiser for the band (food and drink are not allowed in the theater) as part of the band’s new partnership with the music society. Some of the band members were also present, taking tickets at the door and guiding us to our seats, before watching the concert themselves.
The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy the concert, clapping quite a few times during the performances and giving first the featured pianist and then the whole orchestra standing ovations. The amount of training the musicians have done, and the obvious stamina they displayed, puts them on par with professional athletes in my opinion.
In an effort to make their program a part of everyone’s lifelong learning, the music society offered a pre-concert seminar an hour before the concert. A third of the concert-goers, as well as the high school band members, attended this seminar, which conductor John Robertson gave on "The Art of Practice." While I did not attend this one, I hope to attend a future one to expand my limited musical knowledge.
The next concert, on Feb. 16, will feature German pianist Alexander Schimpf in a solo recital including music by Chopin, Bach, and Schubert. The music society has a new program of special offers for first-time concert-goers; anyone interested in attending their first concert can call (760) 451-8644 for more information.