Free concert for freeloaders

We arrived at the public library at exactly 2 pm, just when the concert was to begin. It was an old habit from my conservatory days —- never arrive too early to have to wait, but arrive just before it’s to begin. In this case, we had been cycling through colorful neighborhoods visiting open studios of artists. It was a beautiful sunny day, and giving up 1.5 hours (from our open studio journey) to a concert seemed almost a waste.

Except it was free. That made it worthwhile. The open studios were free. We even had a free lunch provided by one of the artists. Had it not been written in our plan, we would have skipped the piano concert and spent the rest of the afternoon on our bicycles.

There were many leaflets on the table in the concert hall. We grabbed the single A5 sheet program and the library newsletter.

A black grand piano stood on wheels on stage. From the sign “Please do not play the piano” it would appear that the piano lived there. It was not rented or brought into this space for the occasion. As a pianist, it’s my second nature to locate venues that have resident pianos, especially grand pianos.

A man welcomed us to the concert and announced the name of the pianist. We clapped and watched a young lady try to open a heavy door from the side. Out of courtesy and respect for the young pianist, we clapped until she arrived at the piano bench and bowed.

While she played, I started to hear other sounds.

The shuffling of paper.

The opening of candy wraps.

The sucking and popping of candies.

The movement of chairs.

When the music got louder, the ladies behind us started to talk. “Is this Chopin?”

I got so annoyed that I decided we should move our seats during the intermission. We waited. Just before the second half, we made a dash for the front row. We were no longer sitting in front of the candy-slurping ladies.

The second half was several decibels louder than the first half. Whereas the first half was lyrical, the second half was deliberately fast, furious, and intense. The audience sensed it. This gave some the license to talk, move, and annoy us even further. The lady behind us began to open, squeeze, and close her old plastic bag. I cringed.

The Korean pianist was excellent. She played selections from Albeniz, Grieg, Chopin, Tann, and Beethoven effortlessly. She even gave an encore of Chopin’s famous Scherzo. I couldn’t wait to talk to her after the concert.

The audience? I gave the audience an F. I couldn’t wait to get away.

But how could I possibly complain? It was a free concert after all. The audience could do as they please. I daresay this was probably the main reason I chose to organize concerts in my own home. Such audiences are not welcome. I set the rules.

No shoes.

No leaflets.

No candy wraps.

No plastic bags.

And you have to pay for the privilege of attending a house concert.