I had a bit of a scare at the start of this afternoon's wonderful Berkeley concert by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. No sooner had I settled into my seat than a young family — mom, dad, and 4-year-old son — trooped down the aisle and settled into a pair of seats in the center section of Zellerbach Hall.
Uh-oh. In my experience, 4-year-olds aren't generally too great about concert etiquette, and not being on the aisle made any possibility of a hasty exit even more problematic. Plus, the kid was sitting directly in front of The Opera Tattler
, who I knew — even if he didn't — would open up a can of tattle-ass on him if he got out of line.
Turned out the danger was somewhere else altogether — in the left-hand balcony, to be specific, where some chattering toddler, out of sight but perfectly within earshot of everyone on stage and in the house, began commenting as soon as the orchestra filed on stage. There were some cries of "ssh!", ignored by the cretinous custodial parent. Richard Tognetti, the orchestra's leader and artistic director, tried a little ironic reverse psychology but misjudged his target. Fortunately, though, he held off starting the performance, which gave the house manager enough time to remove both parent and child — evidently with a crowbar.
And what about the potential problem child across the aisle? Well, he sat through a Haydn symphony and a short piece by Australian composer Roger Smalley leaning forward on his mother's lap, his gaze as rapt and unblinking as that of a normal kid watching Saturday morning cartoons; he dozed off when Andreas Scholl sang Handel; and after intermission — his cultural thirst evidently slaked — he was gone. A perfect angel, with wise and praiseworthy parents.
Moral of the story: Know how much classical music your kid can take, and act accordingly. Which I suppose is yet another subset of the Unified Field Theory of Good Behavior, namely, don't be such an asshole.