The Boston Symphony Orchestra is a little bit special to Chinese. In 1979, it was the first American Orchestra to tour mainland China after the normalization of diplomatic relations. This May, they will visit China again, 35 years later.
“There is nothing like listening to a live orchestra.” The manager of the BSO gift shop once told me and he was quite surprised that the tickets for the BSO’s China tour could as expensive as 280 dollars.
I rarely had chance to listen to a live orchestra in my undergraduate years. To be honest, I was not quite interested in classical music then. Though I had fallen asleep in the glorious hall of the National Center for the Performing Arts, I must admit that the live orchestra was splendid.
Then I came here and found out that you could listen to nearly every concert in the BSO season with a college card, which cost only 25 dollars. Well…it’s free for a BU student to pick up one. The New England Conservatory holds more than 100 concerts every year, and they are all free. The rush tickets for the Celebrity Series is 20 dollars. You can access to the top artists here, in Boston, in a quite low price even we students can pay for.
But that’s not what I most appreciate. I admire people’s attitude towards fresh hand like me. I was a senior student when I first got interested at classical music, without any knowledge of it, expect some anecdote of the composers and musicals. People told me, “You cannot enjoy the music because you know nothing about it. You are not a professional. You haven’t learnt piano or any instruments in your childhood.”
Is that true? Only professional or experts can admire the “noble” music?
One musical hall in Shanghai will have Sennheiser, as its title sponsor. The experts say the Sennheiser name makes them feel sick. But how could? New York has Carnegie Hall and Tokyo has Suntory Hall, both named after corporations. They laugh at the beginners; they mock musicals who want to make change; they just want to keep the music in their small world. Only in this way, can they feel they are unique and outstanding.
The art is actually giving back. But these specialists are illiberal to give back.
I have met old ladies who serve this great orchestra voluntarily for 20 years, even 30 years. They are energetic and passionate for classical music. Catherine, who needs to drive for more than an hour to the Symphony Hall, is one of them.
“But sometimes it is difficult for me to appreciate it. I don’t have any professional knowledge.”
“You won’t need that” She answered. Having devoted decades into the music, I wonder they know more about the music than those so-called experts in China.
“Classical music has its own melody. Start with a short piece, such as a Brahms quartet, and you can get past the intimidation. Close your eyes and take this music with you. It’s just music; it’s not a dark hole. You can build the connection.”
The orchestra is trying to get more exposure to attract the young audience in. “Because without attracting audience, what’s the point of the orchestra? It’s like painting a picture and locking it in a closet.” “One of my goals is to demystify the classical music to people, to my generation, and to younger generations.”
Who could make more money? A concert pianist or a professional baseball player? Stupid question. A baseball player makes a hundred million dollars a year, while a lucky pianist maybe a hundred thousand. But in the 1960s, the answer was the pianist.
“You can always grab the old people. When I was a kid, classic music is part of the culture more than it is now. It’s important because it was all around. There are more orchestras, more performances,” the manager of the gift shop explained the declining of classical music, “In 1990s, it started fading away very fast. My daughters call it dad’s beautiful music.”
“Who loves classical music? Old ladies.” It’s not only a joke.
People say that the classical music is dying. Who can rescue it? Maybe non-specialists like you and me.