Stephanie Burgis
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I know, I'm definitely running out of title ideas...but it's been a great weekend, lovely, relaxing, fun and stress-free--what a combination! Patrick's on holiday until Tuesday the 21st, and wow, am I enjoying it.

Last night we got free tickets to go see the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra play at Leeds Town Hall, conducted by Ilan Volkov. When we got there, I realized it had been about 3 years since I'd been to an orchestra concert--ouch! This might not seem so strange or unusual to most people, but since I attended a high-powered music conservatory for my Bachelor's of Music Performance/History degree, it's pretty strange for me. I spent 5 years of my life attending between 1-5 concerts a week, along with spending 6-7 hours each day in individual practice and orchestra and chamber music rehearsals. Since graduating (and effectively giving up the horn), I've continued to go to opera performances as often as I can, because I love opera more than anything else...and because I have no mixed feelings or guilt about opera performances...

It was really hard to make the decision not to try to be a professional musician, after a decade of devoting everything to the preparation. I made the right decision for myself, but for a long time, I couldn't go to an orchestra concert without feeling big jabs of pain, guilt and (despite everything) a bit of envy. (Dumb, yes; inescapable, also yes.) I kept going to concerts anyway during my master's degree (in straight academic music history), mostly because I had wonderful friends whom I wanted to support, but every time I did, I tasted that same little mouthful of poison. I really did need those three years off.

But I loved, loved, loved the concert last night. And it's finally been long enough for me to enjoy orchestra concerts wholeheartedly. I kept my eyes and ears tuned to the french horn section throughout, of course (and since a Bruckner symphony was on the program, replete with seven horns and massive, glorious brass choruses, how could I not?), but it actually made me enjoy the concert more. And, sitting next to Patrick and two other friends, I felt secretly delighted at how decadently nice it felt to be able to relax in the audience while the music played, without the seething panic and fear of being onstage, desperately afraid of screwing up. (This is why so many orchestra musicians have been famous for experimental tranquilizer usage during performances, usually with bad results...)

And hey, the concert hall in Leeds Town Hall just made me happy in and of itself. It was Yorkshire! This is an absolutely overblown mid-19th-century Victorian concert hall, overflowing with gold leaf, brightly painted frescoes of baby angels, statues of gods and goddesses and mythical beasts and wonderfully tasteless salmon-colored marble pillars--and, on the walls, upright moral sayings! Between the pillars and the griffins, huge letters sternly announced: "Honesty is the Best Policy"! Somehow this combination made me really happy. It sure isn't Vienna...or's Leeds. I really, really like living here.

Half an hour ago, spurred on by memories of the concert, I finished typing in Chapter Twenty-Two of The Music of the Stars. Either two or three more chapters to go--we'll see! I'm gunning for the end of next week as a finish date.

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