Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Kiddies

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.


At 4/27/2009 3:16 PM, Blogger Stephen Smoliar said...

Resorting to Field Theory is a bit of overkill. Classical thermodynamics is all you need. Everyone knows the bad behavior is entropic!

At 4/27/2009 11:43 PM, Blogger anzu said...

I dunno. How do you expect to have kids build up a tolerance of sitting through these things if they don't practice? I'm not saying tolerate total squirminess and disruptiveness, but we went to a ballet of the Firebird w/ a 4-year old. It was the children's matinee version, so I guess to an extent, they were expecting levels of chatter. Anyway, this kid was very excited about the program, but parts of Stravinsky sound scary (to a 4 year old), and this was his first real concert. So he asked a lot of questions. This didn't bother me one bit, but I imagine that others might've been annoyed by this. He was otherwise rapt w/ attention, and a very good audience member, but he is only 4, and we did need to explain the scary parts. Would he be considered a miscreant?

Personally, I'm much more tolerant of 4 year olds asking occasional questions during a performance than say, teenagers who should know better yammering through an entire performance of OSJ, or two geriatric types whispering LOUDLY enough that it's really not a whisper, during the orchestral portion of an opera, b/c they think it's not really part of the opera. Grrrrrrrrrr.

At least the 4 year old has the excuse of not knowing any better.
But when grown ups do this during concerts, I want to strangle them.

At 5/05/2009 2:00 PM, Blogger Lisa Hirsch said...

Joshua, this is hilarious, and right now.

Anzu, I'm with you all the way on talky adults. I think kids build concentration for music the same way they build concentration for anything else: practice. Kids' concerts are great for this; outdoor concerts where some chatter is expected; performances in the schools...oh, wait, that doesn't happen much any more. Surely, also, kids display their different abilities at home, and if parents pay attention, they'll know how long their children can stay put and be suitable quiet.

At 6/06/2009 8:49 PM, Blogger DataPrivacyDude said...

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