That was what the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra reminded me of at the final rehearsal of Mahler’s Resurrection in the QPAC Concert Hall last night. I heard the music, and at times I even felt it in my bones, but I saw an anemone.

The music was amazing. Who am I to suggest otherwise? There was definitely more than one moment that literally gave me shivers. But it was what I saw that excited me the most.

The movement of the conductor, the movement of the individual players, the movement of a collection of players in a section, of the entire collective – it was that which struck me and held my attention the most. Would it be a complete travesty to admit that the music formed almost a background soundtrack to what my mind was thinking and processing about the physical movements of the orchestra?

Post-rehearsal I am glad that I was able to attend the final rehearsal instead of the actual performance. To be able to listen to the energetic, passionate and charismatic Conductor Simone Young speak to her orchestra, and to the choral performers was so engaging. (Even thought most of what she said was in German). To see them all dressed as they are, rather than in the customary black clothing of actual performance. To watch the ‘rehearsal-only’ interactions between the musicians, cheeky glances, sneaky chats… I doubt that a lot of what garnered my attention would have actually taken place at an ‘official’ performance.

All that aside, it completely amazes me to hear a symphony, and to imagine it all being ‘thought of’ inside a single composer’s head. To think of the knowledge, the skill, the mind’s ‘ear’ that Mahler must have had in order to be able to create such a thing. It is truly amazing.

My reaction to the music itself surprised me. I had thought that I would be more taken by the quiet, peaceful moments in the symphony, but it was the most intense, the loudest, the most spectacular moments that really grabbed me. Like Chorus Master Emily Cox had said, the piece had “major tingle factor”.

I have to admit that I did struggle to maintain interest at times. All that I had experienced before this final rehearsal, all that I had heard and learnt during the Conversations Series and at the chorus rehearsal did mean that I sat and appreciated so much more of the artistry, the aesthetic, and the intent of the music. However, I think that perhaps symphony just isn’t quite for me.

Thinking about when I have attended a performance by a contemporary artist, one that I would play on my iPod, or in my car, I remember the excitement that boiled up inside of me. I remember feeling physically moved, inside of my ribcage. I remember my conscious mind becoming cloudy, falling beneath my feelings, beneath my emotions, and beneath my imagination. That phrase ‘carried away’ takes a physical presence within my body, even after hours of listening, when it is music that ignites my heart and mind. I am carried away when I am watching the performer or performers who created the music, and thus who created that feeling inside of me.

I’m not sure if one day classical music will be able to have that effect on me. Intellectually, I will enjoy it so much more after my Hamburg experience, but emotionally it still doesn’t quite touch me the way that other music can.

I’d like to be deferential and suggest that my distinct lack of sleep, that the time I spend up with my six month old son between the hours of midnight and five A.M. have a lot to do with my physical, emotional and intellectual response to this performance of Mahler, but I think I’d be doing this blogging project a disservice.

In all honesty I’m not sure it’s within me to feel really connected to classical music. I certainly appreciate it. I have been exposed to it at varying intervals during my life, as a singer, a high school musician, an audience member and most recently during this project. As I learn more my appreciation grows, but my emotional reaction does not.

So, let’s add some context. Let’s take classical music, some Wagner for example, and add a human story. Let’s add mermaids, and giants. Let’s add a narrative of love and greed. Let’s get dressed up in Black Tie and go see Das Rhiengold tonight!

Mermaids and giants? I like the sound of that.

My First Symphony: The Creation of an Anemone

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