"Festa Muti" took place in Millennium Park (see my previous 2010 post: "Picture of the Month: June) and was attended, I found out on NPR this morning, by 25,000 people. There were so many people in fact that the area was gated off and about 10 minutes after we got there, guards stopped letting anyone in in order to prevent a safety hazard. As my eyes travelled across this great sea of humanity I had visions of a possible stampede...in the event of a sudden panic, could a mass of classical music buffs be capable of trampling people on their frantic way to an exit? Considering that people have been trampled to death during various religious gatherings worldwide and in Walmart at Christmastime, I decided that pretty much anything was possible and that if push came to shove, symphony heads could potentially be just as dangerous as rabid soccer fans or wild congregates at a death-metal show.
We found a place at the very back of the seating area among a bunch of people who'd spread blankets over the concrete and were nibbling crackers and imbibing various beverages. Seeing the stage would obviously be impossible, but I was assured by a rowdy but friendly young couple, Mike and Meredith, sitting nearby that the sound system was "kickass" and that we'd be able to enjoy a rich nuanced performance despite being out in the open air.
If you Judge by the general stereotypes, Mike seemed to be about the last person in the world you'd expect to see at a symphony concert...voluntarily. He plowed through several cans of bud lite and about half a dozen cigarettes during the show and was constantly up and about yelling stuff like "Go Bears!!!" and pulling mini pranks on passersby...nothing malicious...in fact the people he hassled would usually move on with a high 5 and a quiet chuckle. Mike said that he'd just started taking violin lessons 3 months ago and loves it. "All my friends were learning guitar, but I was like, I wanna do somethin' different, and violin rocks! You can do so much with it...classical stuff, and like, the Irish music and everything. Classical music is so awesome! I love it!" It was pretty refreshing to hear his story. It seems that a lot of people talk about learning an instrument later in life, but will rarely follow through...then there's this guy, a trucker with no musical upbringing at all, who is totally jazzed about violin and classical music...go figure. His fiance, a nurse, said she used to play the flute--maybe she played a part in influencing his decision.
The orchestra played:
Verdi...Overture to La Forza del Destino
Tchaikovsky...Romeo and Juliet
and a personal favorite of mine...
Respighi...The Pines of Rome
The orchestra sounded glorious and Muti's interpretations were infused with passion and sensitivity. After each piece the park erupted into thunderous applause and thousands waved little white "Festa Muti" flags that had been passed out free to all by volunteers before the performance began. As evening approached and the sky began to darken behind a featureless blanket of gray, lights in the windows of at least three nearby skyscrapers were lit up to celebrate the occasion. It was thrilling to see such spirit for the "home team"!
After the final booming notes of "Pines" drifted away into the city glow, the sky was suddenly lit by an ecstatic burst of fireworks and the multitudes cheered!
As our group meandered through throngs of concertgoers on our way out of the park, Maestro Muti got up on stage once more to say some brief words of "thank you", put a plug in for the CSO's exciting upcoming performances, and remind everyone that "the orchestra can sound even better inside the concert hall".
"Yeah, but it's not free!" I heard someone retort.