As the unforgiving sun was lullabied by Mikhail overture to Russlan and Ludmilla and the remaining luminaries shared their last dance along the River Swan, the reality of my location began to set in. I was on the Esplanade as the West Australian Symphony Orchestra began dipping into it's bag of classic Russian overtures, surrounded by cultured families and music students. The Monopoly Man could have driven past and nobody would've blinked an eye. For me, it was an experience completely out of the ordinary, highlighted prominently by my freshly ironed button up and a quartet of styrofoam cups that had set up camp around a bottle of 2008 pinot noir. I was now 60 years old and loving every minute of it.
Myself, Joe, Kieran and Jack set up shop towards the back of the crowd in a selfless act of smoke-free adherence and central crowd avoidance. This was beneficial to us as much as it was to the majority of free ticket holders, should we have felt the need to smoke copious amounts of cigarettes and crack immature jokes about the people walking past us, which we most certainly did. As our commentary heated up, so did the symphonies as the WASO broke into Mussorgsky’s 'Night on Bald Mountain'. It was as if the conductor sensed what we were up to as our jabs were only equaled by the ferocity of the flames displayed on the tent above the musicians and the multiple climaxes of Fantasia's magnum opus.
We were sat in the middle of the farthest exit and as a result, had first class seats to everyone that decided to move around during the performance. We put up with it for the most part, but as a certain 'Stripe Shirt' made it his business to casually stroll through the catwalk we'd reached the end, and the beginning, of our wits. 'Stripe Shirt' was for the most part, a normal guy in a striped shirt. However, due to the effects of Alcohol and the strong nature of the stripes on this particular shirt, he may as well have jumped around the isles, waving glow sticks around whilst proclaiming his love for pissing people off. Being the respectful and worldly symphony connoisseurs that we are, we collectively came to the conclusion that 'Stripe Shirt' was trying to ruin Christmas for all of us. We could have jumped him, but we were watching Russian overtures on the esplanade and it wouldn't have gone down to well with the pregnant teachers and bearded scientists. The beauty of this situation was that he remained completely unaware of our accusations, but still caught our childish laughter at the end of it and learned a valuable lesson about correct symphony attire.
The interludes of Symphony in the City were handled by conductor Guy Noble, who could have made an equally successful career out of stand-up comedy. His jokes about Russian politics and drunk Russians appealed to the more mature patrons, whilst constant quips relating to Twitter and the iPhone kept the younger critics at bay. Even during the more sombre moments of the performance, this jack of all trades managed to remind the crowd of how unappealing Perth is, with sarcastic remarks about blowing the bell tower up and opening hours. The entire crowd embraced in a roar of laughter and cheers as it was once again re-affirmed that everyone in Perth hates Perth.
During Shostakovich's Dmitri Tahiti Trot (Tea for Two), i thought i'd sneak off for a quick toilet break and the purchasing of chips. As i entered the makeshift men's room i was overwhelmed by the nature of the conversations taking place within it's walls of moulded plastic. Where i expected either pure silence or educated opinions on Rachmaninoff's, Sergei Vocalise, Opus 34, No. 14, i was instead treated to complaints of 12 hour shifts, lazy apprentices and faulty cement mixers. I realized that not everyone at the show was willingly in attendance and these guys would have been quite content comparing drill bit sizes in the porta potty for the duration of the event.
Katja Webb's powerful depiction of Tatiana's letter served as the background music to another significant part of the evening, the no holds barred rape of my wallet by the food vendor.
"One regular chips and a coke please" i politely requested.
"That'll be one thousand dollars thankyou" the vendor announced.
I've heard of inflation before but $1,000 for some chips and a coke? That's an evening spoiler for sure. I mean, i know the kind of people that go to symphonies in the city are of the deep-pocket persuasion, but this was a free concert and this stall may as well have displayed deep fried extortion on the menu. I agreed to give her $12 on the terms that i don't complain loudly and make a scene and/or blog post about it. She freaked out and accepted my negotiation and i still felt completely ripped off. Regardless though, Katja tore the roof of it and bellowed out my personal favourite performance of the night. You could say she actually blew the ozone layer off it because of the outdoors location, but i'll save that for my next symphony review.
As the sea of Nintendo DS's lit up and the crowd became antsy, Guy Noble announced the moment we'd all been waiting for. Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture is arguably one of the most recognisable pieces of music in the history of music, but those of you that don't go and see live orchestra very often may recognise it from the conclusion of 'V for Vendetta' and various other montages of destruction. Due to time restraints and Perth's famous 9 o'clock curfew, the piece was limited to it's finale, but was not without it's charm. Whilst a full blown riot and the systematic levelling of Perth's skyline would have been an ideal end to the evening and a fitting tribute to the melody in question, it was just as nice to sit there in awe as the cannons were set off at just the right time and the bell tower proved it's worth by ringing in the background. $1.2 million dollars well spent.
As the performance came to a close we scoped a rather extravagant Christmas party closer to the river and decided to check it out. Where there are Christmas parties, there is free alcohol and Cocaine right? We were denied entry on the grounds that it was a work Christmas party and we all immediately regretted not working for the company in question. We found a break in the fence around the corner and all previous regret was washed away when we were informed that you had to pay for the alcohol at this particular Christmas throwdown. Great idea, host an outlandish gathering on the foreshore with flowers and fancy lighting and then charge your employees for drinks with their Christmas bonuses. We all decided we were glad we didn't work for said company and ended the evening with the communal smoking of a special cigarette on the foreshore.
As the water gently lapped against the limestone wall and we sat there in reflection of the evening's events, a single disgruntled heroin addict walked past us and started staunching the river as if it owed him some money. We waited until he was gone, laughed hysterically and decided it was home time.
The West Australian Symphony Orchestra's 2010 performance schedule is available here. Even if you aren't an avid follower of all things Russian and classical, their organisation promotes a large variety of music and I strongly suggest you go and check them out with empty expectations and a full bottle of red.