Not Sleeping at the Symphony · 4 January 2014

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I can sleep pretty much anywhere, but despite what I might say below, I was not sleeping at the symphony.

We went to see a matinee of Handel’s Messiah on the Sunday before Christmas. It was a marvelous performance by the Seattle Symphony and Chorale. The soloists were amazing and the message was beautifully performed. I listened with both reverence and musical appreciation.

There were times in the performance when I was mesmerized as I watched the musicians and the singers. I swayed as the violin bows moved up and down. I was entranced by the fingers of the viola and bass players moving gracefully along the strings. I chuckled a little to myself at the puffed cheeks of the bassoonists. I was stymied as I looked all over Benaroya Hall for the trumpets I knew were there but could not see until some small hand pointed upward toward a balcony. I scanned and panned my head back and forth as the chorus sang their melodious parts. And I watched and listened intently as each soloist expressed the music rather than just singing the words.

There were also times in the performance when I had to shut out the visual nature of the auditory experience. I closed my eyes to the movements of the conductor and his performers. I closed my eyes to the audience and I listened intently. I let the music permeate my body and soul. And I relaxed.

As I sat there with my eyes shut, I found myself relaxing to a point where I nearly fell asleep. Twice. I was engrossed in the music, but it took me to a place of peace and calm. To a state near sleep. In truth, I might even have dozed off a couple times because the music, even the music of ridicule, death, and torture of the Messiah, was soothing to my soul. The music sang me to sleep. Or at least it was close.

I had to open my eyes to the beauty of the movements of the musicians. I had to concentrate on the words and their meaning. For a couple moments in the matinee, I had to wake myself. I had to re-engage with the performance.

I know it sounds strange. That I could be enthralled by music that nearly put me to sleep a couple times. But I thoroughly enjoyed Handel’s Messiah. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of being at Benaroya Hall with my family listening to the life of our Lord in song.

I would highly recommend that anybody who loves music go to see the symphony, whether it be Handel’s Messiah or any other performance. It is a visual and auditory experience like no other. And despite what you may have seen had you been near me (or what you read above), I was not really sleeping at the symphony. At least not very much.

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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