I’ve personally never been all that fond of New Years. Sure, I enjoy the friends, the food, and the champagne, but to me it always seems like less of an occasion to celebrate, and more of a time to lament another year lost down the tubes of history in our steady trudge towards old age and death – I am a BLAST at parties – and I’ve never understood the point of it. My wife and I have no set traditions for the holiday, but we’ve had some good times over the years; from shelling out large sums of money to get dressed up and take pictures of ourselves with a group of rowdy strangers, to hunting for an open burger joint after watching freezing cold fireworks over Navy Pier in Chicago. This year we stayed in with friends and ate until it was hard to get off the couch, which is my preferred celebration method, because it costs you next to nothing, and you still get to hang out with people and make fun of the terrible countdown hosts. I also drank too much, which anymore, isn’t all that much at all, though in this case my glass was full from roughly 8pm to midnight (I believe I was sabotaged), and by the time my wife drove us home, my eyebrows, jowls, and chin all felt like lead. It was as though my entire face was trying to escape by sliding off my head, and my general feeling was, “Whatever. I’ll deal with it in the morning.” However, in a cruel twist of fate, the world spun violently around whenever I closed my eyes, so I was forced to keep them open for as long as possible. New Year’s Day was rough, especially with a 2-year-old with no concept of sleeping in, but by the second I was feeling a lot better, and it was a good thing, because my wife had gotten me tickets to the symphony!
Let me just say that, for a guy who exists on a steady diet of microwave meals, giggles at fart jokes, and rocks out to Selena Gomez, I am unexpectedly moved by a live orchestra. I do feel a little out of place at times, like “Bonzo goes to Town” or something, because no matter how nicely I dress, I still have the David Letterman tooth gap, and it always looks like my hair was done by angry squirrels. For the most part, though, it’s dark during the performance, and no one but the people in my immediate vicinity can see me looking goofy and picking my nose. They have my sincerest apologies. Insecurities aside, it’s always a lovely evening, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra does not disappoint. I say that without reservation in spite of the fact that my wife and I once had to abandon one of our vehicles in a restaurant parking lot in order to make our show time, only to return after 10pm to change a tire in a sketchy neighborhood in dress clothes. No one was mugged or beaten though, so the evening was still – thanks to the symphony – quite lovely.
However on this particular night there was no worry of having to abandon the car at a restaurant, because thanks to our son, we don’t really get to eat out anymore. What’s worse is that we’re typically running late as well – and I hate being late more than I hate squash…or socialism. This evening was no different, and instead of a calm romantic dinner on the town, we ended up shamelessly snorking down some pathetic macaroni and cheese in front of the teenage babysitter before grabbing our coats, apologizing profusely for leaving her with a wailing child, and tearing out of the driveway fast enough to leave “Back to the Future” style skid marks.
We managed to find parking and hurry in just before the show was about to start, and I’m glad we made it, because it was a classic that we did not want to miss – you may have heard of it, it was called, “The Adventures of Grandma Squeezebox & Director McDancyPants.” I think it’s by Brahms. Haha! No, I am kidding, of course. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is far too classy to play such a suggestive piece – you’d have to find a group of musicians with much looser morals if you wanted to see that show – like, say, the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra and Showgirl Review, or Justin Bieber and Friends. What we actually saw was ‘Ratatoullie in Concert’, though my title is more descriptive, and better captures my favorite parts. I’m sure your more seasoned symphony connoisseurs would scoff at this show, believing it to be the symphonic equivalent of Dr. Seuss, but we rather enjoyed it – especially that accordion player, who was a friendly looking old lady in the back that was probably approaching 80, and was still able to capture the true essence of French life, coaxing convincingly lazy and condescending tunes from the bellows of her accordion. It was like we were THERE, eating crusty bread, smoking, surrendering – it was all terribly romantic – which is surprising, given that the movie is about rats in a restaurant kitchen (spoiler alert!).
The show had a unique format, wherein the orchestra played the score for the movie as it ran above them on a giant screen. I’d never seen a show like that before, but my friends had recommended them several times, so we decided to give it a shot. While it wasn’t perhaps as moving or technically challenging as a traditional symphony, it was a lot of fun, and I would definitely do it again. It was a little difficult in that I like to watch the musicians during a performance, and my attention was torn between the orchestra and the happy little rodents scurrying around above them, but it did make me much more aware of the musical score, which I would not have otherwise noticed. I was also impressed by the number of children that were in attendance. The hall was filled with families, and everyone was surprisingly well-behaved! We heard one unhappy child during intermission, but that was really it, so either they were all swept up in the magic of the orchestra, or the symphony folks do a good job of covertly removing trouble-makers under cover of darkness – either way, the atmosphere was perfect. Had my child been among those in attendance, he would surely have been the first drug out by security, but it was nice to see kids being introduced to the symphony at an early age. Hopefully they’ll grow up to support it, because again, it’s always a lovely evening. I only hope old Grandma Squeezebox is still around when they’re old enough to appreciate her, because you don’t find a lot of accordion players anymore (they were all beaten up in high school and switched to drums or smoking), and she seemed like a fun lady.