A Little Night Music...

I am a very competitive person by nature, so this is very hard for me to admit, and if you ask me later I might deny it, but my boyfriend just might be smarter than me. At the very least, he is open to a greater realm of experiences than I am. Not only does he enjoy the opera and possess a greater appreciation for the avant-garde, he also likes classical music. In fact, if the atmosphere I've observed at his parents' house (where classical music is a constant background accompaniment to all forms of activity) is any indicator, he was probably reared on the stuff. I, however, do not share his fondness.

I know, because I've been taught, that classical music has complex structures, reoccurring themes and motifs that you can follow, and all manner of other intricacies to be admired, but I just don't get it. My favorite part of listening to music is the craft of songwriting, and hearing how different artists combine words to not only sound harmonious together, but to evoke very tangible emotional responses. Therefore, to be blunt, I find classical music boring. Without words to focus on, my mind starts to wander, I zone out, and eventually I start to drift off to sleep. I can't seem to help it.

Hence, when Justin's parents went out of town for the weekend and left him with a pair of tickets to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra they weren't going to be able to use, I hesitated when he invited me along. Wanting to spend every possible moment with him, however, I decided to overlook my disinterest in the event and go. After all, Justin is always such a good sport about doing things I want to do that I figured the least I could do was return the favor.

Besides, the concert was at Ravinia, the outdoor concert venue mere blocks from my parents' house, that draws a range of (fairly sedate) musical acts all summer long. In addition to being the summer home of the CSO, Ravinia plays host to adult contemporary performers like Rufus Wainwright and Jennifer Hudson, retro acts like The Moody Blues, Deep Purple, and Hall and Oates, midday children's concerts, and a variety of vocalists performing show tune revues. It's not exactly the hippest lineup around, but it draws a fairly robust suburban audience, and it is particularly popular for its so-called "lawn seating" where you can bring a picnic, a set of lawn chairs, and sit under the stars with your friends and have a little party while you enjoy the music (that is when you aren't being eaten alive by mosquitoes.)

Although you can often hear bits of the Ravinia concerts from my parents' backyard, I hadn't set foot on the grounds since I graduated from high school in 2003 (the amphitheater is the preferred venue for many North Shore high school and middle school graduations), so I thought it was perhaps time to give it another shot. Additionally, I couldn't remember going to an actual concert there since I was very young, when my mom would take me there once a summer to see Peter, Paul, and Mary, the 60s folk group whose music I adored as a child. It seemed like high time.

Don't worry, I've been dutifully informed that it is terribly uncouth to take photos at the symphony. My bad.

The program for the evening featured two pieces, Brahm's Violin Concerto in D major and Beethoven's 3rd Symphony in E-flat major, also known as the "Eroica" Symphony. To me, the first piece seemed interminably long, though I was impressed by the violin solos performed by concertmaster Robert Chen, who performed the entire piece from memory with no sheet music. Logically, no musician gets to that position without having some serious talent, but that guy had skills, no joke.

I enjoyed a bit of a nap during the Brahms, but managed to stay awake for almost all of the Beethoven piece, though I did divert myself somewhat by reading through the Ravinia program book. Justin is apparently quite fond of Beethoven, and, bless his heart, he thought I would enjoy him more than Brahms, but no such luck. Rather than focus on the music, I spent much of the performance watching the musicians on the projection screens, trying not to burst out in laughter over a particularly animated flautist whose eyebrows rapidly raised and lowered in time with the music. I think Justin was worried my head might explode from having to hold it in.

At least Justin seemed to enjoy the concert, which is all that really matters in the end. For me though, the highlight of the evening was this:

The music might have been too high-brow for me, but I was happy just to be spending time with the man I love. Justin's presence makes a wide variety of events I would ordinarily find miserable infinitely more tolerable, and it almost doesn't matter what we're doing, as long as we're doing it together. I guess love will do that to a person...

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