An Invention: For Concerts of Classical Music

This is something I do at home alone to the music called “Classical Music”. It is good exercise. It is participatory. It demonstrates to me, myself, and I how much I appreciate, love, and revere that kind of music, ever since I was, oh, maybe, six or eight years old, when I found the large records of Mme. Schumann-Heinck hidden in an old, 78-rpm Victrola at a lake cottage in the 1930s. And that smell of oil lamps burning is remembered even today, in my olfactory sense dating way, way back. (Regarding “smell”, I once “complimented” a girl, much to my chagrin, as I danced with her, that she reminded me of the wonderful smell of the barnyard in the country farm I was privileged to visit once — with never an invite for a return visit. Same for the young lady. On reflection, I am mortified. (Simple, naïve, ingenuous, innocent, honest, tactless, etc. But I do love that smell, amended by hay.) The girl shunned me ever after. Pretty, too.

Are There Such Beings as “Closet Conductors” Out There?

I have no other musical skill, save this here described. I sing, whistle, hum, and wave hand and body a lot, aloud or sotto voce in crowds

I commend this as an audience-participation event at any concert once a season or every other season. The orchestra will play “Finlandia”, for example, announced in an article well before the concert. The audience is invited to come forward as guest conductors. I am sure very few will do this. But, perhaps, it might be arranged in advance to have one or two persons to come forward. As “plants”? Just a few to start the ball rolling. If the plants see that a few are doing it as instant volunteers, then the “plants” might not come down. (If such a stunt were successful, then the orchestra could safely drop the “pump-priming” bit. Such a concert might prove successful and need no “bit”. It might flop or it might be eagerly anticipated. Eh? I am thinking simply of people “getting into the act” and suggesting it as another form of “exercise”, of body, of mind, of fantasy.

The volunteers (I hope that there would be at least two) should be invited to come forward, face the audience and begin with conductor’s downbeat to improvise their interpretation of gestural commands to the melody and harmonies and orchestrations, and of all and sundry of orchestra directing for the music selection chosen by the regular director. The “director” in everyone should have its day! Could it be a crowd-pleaser? Should the audience applaud the “winner”, as determined by a hand above the head of each performer. It must be the audience-participation event of the year. Everyone may get into the act.

This would demonstrate how deeply classical music can get into the blood and body of a person. I know, by heart, hundreds of melodies and harmonies and orchestrations attending to the sections of string, woodwind, brass and percussion parts taken into memory from music called “classical”, operas, arias, ballets, symphonies, string quartets, concertos, songs, tone poems, marches. I have never heard a concerto for juice-harp, or kazoo, or penny-whistle and orchestra.

This is my “wild hair” for the day, a wanna-be conductor given the performance chance of a life-time. There may actually be seen some very fine and nuanced and seemingly expert and very dramatic acts of many who have never had that opportunity, until NOW! From someone who shines shoes for a living. Or throws pizza dough into the air. Or whistles classical melodies a lot, along with the accompanying orchestration of string, woodwind, brass or percussion ditties.

I must tell you this. At around the age of twelve, I took part in an amateur contest for youngsters in the elementary and junior high level, to be held in the auditorium one evening, so parents might attend. I won second place. The first place winner went on eventually to become first chair of the violin section, and concert-master for the South Bend (In.) Symphony Orchestra. (Rocco Germano) What was my talent? I “imitated” the famous selection, the “Waltz of the Flowers” from the “Nutcracker Suite” by Tchaikovsky, jumping from featured orchestral instrument to instrument. The second prize was a blue, Kodak box camera. I could not afford to buy the film for it and got only a few pics from the demonstration film that was in the camera when handed to me. To tell it now, it seems very unlikely. But thus spake the judges.

It sorta fits this essay about anyone and everyone wanting to “conduct” a large symphony orchestra. I’d bet there are many who have that fantasy, turning on the radio at home and waving their hands artistically. If you don’t, it’s not really in your blood.

This is my snowball-in-hell contribution for the day.

I must say this: I have become very proficient at following, with my hands and arms flailing, all of th movements that go into and with the orchestration of the music, my mimicry evoking every nuance of emotion to be extracted from the orchestral parts, exactly what the composer has reached for and hoped would be perceived.

HOWEVER!!! (Some time later. NOW: 3/12-2015) Since I wrote the preceding, I have had a brainstorm to further this concept. I believe that there are “closet conductors” out there, who like to gesticulate along with the classical music piece to which they are listening with a very high level of involvement. For instance, the “New World Symphony” has very familiar passages, for great melodies to hum. I would ask the conductor to invite “guest conductors” in the audience to stand and “conduct” with phrase-appropriate hand and arm movements, just as if they were leading the orchestra, standing on the conductor’s podium. An audience-participation concert! It would be fun to watch such an exhibition of people getting “bodily” into the spirit of the music. I do it at home, where I can nuance every familiar orchestral passage, just having to express the depth of my feeling of the music. I catch the orchestration pretty well. It’s fun. (Good exercise, too.)

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