August 20 we spent a delightful evening at the Minnesota Orchestra Guarantors Concert at Orchestra Hall.
We’re long-time subscribers, so the superb music was no surprise. Beginning Friday night, August 27, 2010, the same Minnesota Orchestra performs in London at the famed BBC Proms – the only American orchestra on this year’s Proms list.
Over the years we’ve seen lots of conductors and guest conductors at the podium at Orchestra Hall. They are all leaders. But they are part of a team – an orchestra – extraordinarily talented musicians who work together to bring to life music composed, most often, by long-dead composers. Friday night we listened to Barber, Beethoven and Bruckner. (Minnesota Orchestra is a union orchestra, but this adds to its functionality. Conductors and union members work within the rules to fashion brilliantly presented music.)
A few hours before Saturday’s concert, thanks to a couple of tips, I went to page 288 of the September 2010, issue of Vanity Fair magazine to read a long article, “Washington, We Have a Problem,” outlining the extreme dysfunction of our current political system in the United States.
Sitting there in row four directly behind Conductor Osmo Vanska at Orchestra Hall, I couldn’t help but compare/contrast the performance of a superb orchestra against our own U.S. of A. as played out by its leaders in Washington and, most especially, the huge lobbying corps behind the scenes.
One might say that we in the U.S. have selected a conductor for our national orchestra. He is called “President of the United States.”
We bring our conductor to a podium, facing an unruly mob of orchestra members (we can call them “Congress” and “Senate”), many of whom have no interest in anything other than the conductor’s failure. Within this orchestra are people who not only do not practice the music for the performance to come, but feel it is their right to play whatever tune they feel like playing during the concert, if they even bother to show up. There is hardly any discipline in this motley crew; they are “hired” by voters often with little interest in other than their own limited parochial issues. Some see their sole role as sowing discord.
Meanwhile, out in the audience of this national “orchestra,” we’re chatting up a storm, texting, cell phones out and at the ready, arguing with the people in front, behind and to the side, some of us trying to listen, but most of us immersed in our own worlds and needs. We feel no need for restraint or cooperation. I want country western from that bunch up there; you want 70s light rock; somebody else actually came for the dreadfully boring music we’re hearing up there – old, dead music. And we have to pay [taxes] for this?
What I describe isn’t much of a recipe for “success.”
Yet we extol our system of government as being the best that ever was or will be: a shining model for the world.
Friday night’s concert at Orchestra Hall was superb, as expected.
And likely, at the BBC Proms in London on Friday night, August 27, our Minnesota Orchestra will be a superb representative of the very best that is America. Follow the tour here.
We deserve better from our own government.