Last night, the missus and I were invited to attend a holiday concert.
And not by Alvin and the Chipmunks or the Peanuts gang, either. Those are the sorts of concerts you might expect that I’d be invited to. Not actually attend, without a bazooka to my crotch, but invited to? Sure sounds likely.
Luckily, this invitation came through my wife’s contacts, who are a bit more, shall we say, civilized about their holiday extravaganzas. And so, we ventured downtown to watch Handel’s Messiah at Symphony Hall.
With not a chipmunk or crooning cartoon child in sight. Hallelujah.
The concert was beautiful, of course. A magnificent orchestra, an angelic chorus, and a sublime quartet of solo vocalists who took turns belting recitatives into the audience.
“It’s not like I learn this sort of information from ‘A Very Chipmunk Christmas‘ or ‘You’ve Had Way Too Much Eggnog, Charlie Brown‘. I’m trying to class the joint up here, for once.”
(And yes, I had to look up a few of those words in the program. Like ‘orchestra’, and ‘chorus’. And ‘solo vocalists’. Hey, I wanted to make sure I had my terminology correct.
Don’t give me that look. It’s not like I learn this sort of information from ‘A Very Chipmunk Christmas‘ or ‘You’ve Had Way Too Much Eggnog, Charlie Brown‘. I’m trying to class the joint up here, for once.)
So, the performance was very enjoyable — and very impressive, from the singing to the playing to the antsy-pantsed shimmying of the conductor. How that man stayed on his feet through all those gyrations is a wonder. He must practice the Conductor Sutra.
The only thing was — and there’s always an ‘only thing’, when I’m involved — I didn’t especially know what the concert was about. I’d never seen Messiah before. Didn’t run across the Cliff Notes for it back in college. And VH1 never did a Behind the Music on it, as far as I know. So I was a little in the dark as to the subject matter. And while the singing was gorgeous, with the deep basses and sopranic trills and lilts and such, I couldn’t always understand exactly what they were saying. So I interpreted, as best I could.
Which as it turns out, was not very well. At all.
Somewhere during ‘Part the First’ (of parts the three), I would have sworn I heard the men and women in the chorus singing back and forth, almost in a round:
‘It’s burnt! It’s light! It’s bur-urnt! Light! It’s bur-uh-urnt! It’s liiiiiiiiight!!!‘
Naturally, I thought they were talking about toast. Christmas is all about food, right? Made perfect sense to me.
Later, in ‘Part the Second’, there was a huge rousing chorus number. They brought in trumpets, and a guy to play big bass drums. I fully expected Linus to take over on the harpsichord at that point. And for the conductor to do the Snoopy dance. It was a big number, is what I’m saying.
And I was convinced this was some sort of food opera when the chorus stood and shouted out:
‘Ah! Lasagna! Ah! Lasagna! Ah, lasagna! Ah, lasagna! Ah, la-ah-san-ya!!‘
At least, that’s what I thought they were shouting. And everybody in the audience stood up then. I thought maybe they were giving out free samples, so I stood up, too. But there was nobody going through the aisles serving, so I whispered to my wife:
‘Pssst. Are they giving us pasta now, or what? You think I could angle for some stuffed shells?‘
A few rather heated whispers later, and she’d sorted me out. She pointed me to the page in the program where the lyrics were printed. It was all a bunch of quotes from the Bible. They weren’t saying, ‘it’s burnt; it’s light‘; it was ‘his burden is light‘. And they weren’t singing the praises of baked Italian pasta; it was ‘hallelujah’.
I don’t know. Personally, I think I’d have preferred the food theme. Especially if they were handing out samples.
The rest of the concert was less confusing, though just as beautiful to hear. Any time I thought I heard something odd — ‘O Death, where is thy Buffalo wing?‘ — I could consult the program and set myself straight. No need to bother my wife. Which was good, because I’m not sure she was speaking to me at that point, anyway.
(It’s one thing to screw up lyrics you hear on the radio. I guess it’s another to mangle the meaning of a song written 250 years ago, with words nearly 2000 years old. Or so she says.
I think she’s just still mad I can sing ‘The End of the World As We Know It‘ and she can’t.)
Eventually, the performance wrapped up with another big chorus number, the men and women trading off singing ‘Raaaa-men!‘ back and forth.
(Oh. Sorry. That’s ‘A-men!‘ My bad.)
And then it was done. A standing ovation and a few ‘bravo!s later, and we left the symphony hall. And grabbed a nice dinner, thank goodness. Because by that point, I was starving. All that talk (that I thought was) about food was killing me. If I hadn’t needed the program for reference, I probably would have eaten it halfway through ‘Part the Third’.
So let this be a lesson to you holiday concertgoers out there. In one very important way, a Christmas show or pageant is just the same as a trip to the grocery store: ‘Never go on an empty stomach‘.
I’ll say ‘Ramen‘ to that.Permalink | 1 Comment