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Me and Mr. Mozart

My bloggy friend Andrea invited me out on a date to check out some Mozart. A night on the town is always welcome, but I was also really interested in this new orchestra performance format that the NAC has recently adopted.

Produced by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, this  format is called “Beyond the Score: Classical Music Exposed.” It’s been extremely well received by Chicago audiences and naturally the NAC is looking to replicate some of this success.

Here’s how it works: In the first half, the context of the music is shared with the audience–its place in history, the artist’s life at that time–and interspersed with sections of the music performed. Then, after intermission, the audience returns and hears the music played in its entirety, without interruption and with the benefit of the knowledge they gained from the first half.

For a newcomer to classical music like myself, this seemed like the perfect way to get initiated. So Andrea and I arrived to the NAC, and we were welcomed by Jennifer Covert (aka the NAC’s cyber-marketing department). Jennifer is also trying out a new format for audiences too: Blogger Night.

What Blogger Night meant was that a number of Ottawa bloggers were given complimentary tickets to that night’s performance. In addition, we bloggers were able to share two complimentary tickets with our readers. For the evening itself, we were treated to a pre-show chat with the NAC Orchestra’s Artistic Planning Manager Daphne Burt. And then after the show, we were invited backstage to have a meet and greet with the show’s one and only actor, Ottawa local Pierre Brault (who was assisted by a narrator, CBC Radio’s Bill Richardson).

So, the show.

The Stage

We’re in great seats; the performance begins. I swear it wasn’t more than ten minutes into the show when I started to wonder if I had Adult ADD, or perhaps worse, I was just too superficial to “get” classical music.

And here’s why. I looked about me, I see others gazing attentively at the stage. They look utterly consumed with the content, the visuals, the music. But me? Here’s what my brain was doing:

Oh, this is interesting seeing Mozart as an actual person, not just a name attached to music. Hmm…did I eat dinner tonight? I’m a bit worried about that deadline, but I’ve still got two days, it should be fine. Stop worrying Julie. Gawd, did that woman bathe in her stinking perfume? Julie — FOCUS! Focus on the performance, darnit. Yes, I can hear that bit about the “rogue D flat.” That guy’s head is really flat on the top, it’s like a sideways flat-head syndrome. Uh, I seriously think I’m going to get a headache from that perfume. I wonder if Andrea is concentrating? Don’t look at her Julie! Look ahead. Huh, is that a man or a woman up there … hard to tell. The conductor is kinda sexy. Is that weird that I think the conductor is sexy? I wonder if the musicians think so? Wow, the women wore such beautiful dresses then. It’s nice to have these visuals. Perhaps it’s the power that makes him seem sexy? If I put my hand up against my face, I can smell my hand more than I can smell the perfume. That kind of works. My legs are getting stiff; these seats would be pretty small if you were a tall man. Julie, FOCUS! Okay, close your eyes, that might help. Oh yes, that helps …

In my original post on this event, I noted that I’m always more attracted to music with words rather than classical music. Now I know why. It’s because the words make my brain concentrate on them. When I listen to the words of the music, I don’t drift off to other thoughts. It’s the same thing for getting myself to sleep. To turn my brain off, I need to focus myself on the words in a book. Otherwise, my brain will ramble on and on.

But it really did make a difference when I closed my eyes. Oh, the music just flooded my senses when I did that! I felt carried away. That must be why people who love classical music really love it.

Backstage after the show

What a sensation, a release really. I want my children to be able to experience this. So I’m going to pick up some Mozart music–and whatever else I can find, for that matter–and play it around the house. Also, for my daughter, who’s seven and often finds it hard to get to sleep, I’m going to get her a portable CD player for her bedroom and let some classical music carry her off.

As for me, I think me and Mr. Mozart have made a connection. It’s not strong yet, but it holds promise.

P.S. If you’re already a classical music fan, you won’t want to miss Yo-Yo Ma and the rest of the interesing (from what I can tell!) line-up for this season at the NAC.


  1. A great story, so refreshing to read what a person really thinks. Classical music is a gem, you are well on your way to discover its magic.

  2. I too have always felt there must be more to classical music than I can hear, because it has endured for so long. One morning on my way to work, I heard a piece of music that totally transported me (not just to work, but to a different dimemsion) and as soon as I got to work I put on my earphones, found it on Grooveshark, closed my eyes and enjoyed it all over again. It is “The Flower Duet” from the opera Lakme by Delibes.( It has words (which you might like)-though they are in French and I can’t understand them but it doesn’t matter. Put on some headphones, turn up the volume and close your eyes- it is an amazing experience. I made all my kids do that and they each sat completely entranced for the whole thing.

  3. Jennifer Covert says:

    I agree with you Julie–I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself about your attention flipping all over the place–there was a LOT going on with the images & the fortepiano and the fabulous outfits and the soloists & the mimes… I’m exhausted just remembering it! :)
    I enjoyed getting a sense of the context in which the peice was created and was really looking forward to hearing it performed in its entirety after the first half.
    Great post and looking forward to seeing you again soon!

  4. I’m not sure what it is about NAC patrons and perfume, I can remember many an occasion where I was sitting around dying from someone marinade in their perfume.

    I love music, and I find that listen to music is an activity in itself. Plays… my mind wanders in plays and movies … every one gets into it but me. Alas. (Happens.)

  5. I think it’s okay for our mind to wander!
    But it is hard to be still for that long – physically and mentally. And yes, the perfume was definitely a deterrent.

    Maybe we need to take a couple yoga/meditation classes together? :)

  6. Marg (Mom) says:

    Julie – so busy lately I am just catching up on your Oct. blogs. As a long-time classical music lover (and somewhat beleagured fan in this family)it was ‘music to my ears’ (sorry for the pun) to see you have been touched by it. It simply gets to my soul and lifts me away.

    Not sure I have ever mentioned this but Stella LOVES classical. On a couple of our playdates I have zipped though radio stations to let her pick and she says STOP on the classical one. One time she told me it made her think of a butterfly going between flowers. Gotta’ love that girl!

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