I love watching the symphony play because every time I see classical music performed live, I feel soul-fed. It´s like some inexplicable therapy session that totally destresses me, and as I enjoy all that alone time to think and digest my day, my life, the future, I actually feel calm inside instead of pressured or worried. Its probably one of the few times where I´m actually not daydreaming about travel, and instead totally infatuated with the lead violinist or the piano soloist.
In the last few weeks I´ve had some good soul food servings, and nicely varied with 3 different symphonies and one church choir. In March I watched the San Francisco Symphony play at Davies Hall in downtown San Fran and just the venue itself already creates a reverent atmosphere preparing you for the meditative experience you´re about to have. The soloist was a Swedish mezzo-soprano, Anne Sofie von Otter, who sang a Brahms serenade and a selection of Scandinavian songs. Taking in the view from the 3rd floor balcony over Civic Center and Van Ness Avenue during intermission is an important part of the Davies Hall experience, as is being the one of the youngest people there by 40 years.
A few weeks later I watched the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra play a Russian-themed concert matinee at the Orpheum. This is an extraordinary venue only from the inside since there´s almost no way to know which building the performance hall is actually in from busy Granville street. Indie musicians, rock bands and jazz artists all share this stage, and besides the symphony I´ve seen Nina Simone, David Gray and Sigur Ros all play the Orpheum, but still the symphony best suits the building decor. A classy afternoon with my family listening to Rachmaninoff symphony no. 2 and some Prokofiev had me daydreaming about Rachmaninoff´s piano concerto that was meant to be played but somehow got switched.
Since being back in Iceland, I took advantage of one of the last symphonies to be plaid by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra at the University of Iceland since they are going to be housed at the brand-new, world renound Harpa Concert Hall opening next month in the Reykjavik downtown. Its located in the harbour literally ontop of the ocean with beautiful views and an unbelievable performance hall. But, for now, they play at the movie theatre with mediocre acoustics and uncomfortable seats, but tickets are only 1700kr for students and an all-Tchaikovsky program still impressed. It was conducted by a very flamboyant, 50-something year old Swedish guy, famous for being a trombone virtuoso, but will forever be remembered as the conductor in way-too-tight pants and a purple satin, bamboo print, made-in-China blouse that he managed to totally sweat through as he jumped and danced his whole way through the program with more energy than everyone else in the house combined. The program opened with Capriccio Italien, followed by Tchaikovsky´s violin concerto performed by the very young, Armenian Mikhail Simonyan who later joined the 5th violinists to sight-read through Symphony number 5.
The most spiritual soul food I´ve had lately is definitely listening to the Hallgrims Church Choir sing a Bach program for passover/easter. Hallgrimskirkja is a typical protestant church with no decorations and a hollow, concrete interior that gives the choir an even more angelic sound. The natural acoustics, the epic organ, and the sun rays shining in through the windows giving each choir member its own halo make everything come together for the sweetest sound, and the experience of listening to all this with a live orchestra and a few soloists singing the story of Jesus´death are bound to bring you either to peace, to tears, or a little chat with God.