Since being around Birmingham we’ve been hoping to be able to go to the Symphony Hall. Mick tried to get a cheap ticket whilst I was in Vienna, but the cheapest one for that nights performance was around £45, not cheap in our book!
Occasionally we’ve given the website a glance. A couple of days ago Mick noticed tickets priced at £13 for Schuberts symphony in C major. Where were these tickets? Well they were ‘Mystery tickets’ so we wouldn’t find out until we picked them up which we could do from a couple of hours before the performance.
We jumped at the chance. Firstly we both wanted to go to the Symphony Hall having heard great things about the acoustics (thank you Dimitrios from NB Galene) and secondly because of something Mick’s Grandfather wrote on the 7th September 1943 in a letter to his brothers and sisters.
Philip Chignell was the organist at All Saints Church, Hessle near Hull during the Second World War. From 1939 to 1946 he wrote 128 ‘BS’ letters a copy of each he filed away. In 1989 Marion (Mick’s sister) decided that they should be seen by more than just the family as they were a record of life in Hessle during the war. She edited and collated the letters into a book “From Our Home Correspondent”.
Schubert’s ‘Great’ Symphony was obviously one of his favourites.
‘I am given to understand that in the day of resurrection everybody will be playing golden harps and there will be no call for organists. Well. They can have their golden harps, I don’t want anything to do with a harp. I intend to go in for a bass trombone. I shall be able to play it straight away and I shall immediately put in a request for Schubert’s Symphony in C. What a joy that would be. I can see myself, clothed in white, of course, and playing that bass trombone and ‘jiggers’ to your golden harp. I prefer brass, it gives out a stronger tone than anything made of gold.’Philip Chignell, B.S.106 7th September 1943
So we crossed over the bridge and walked into the ICC where numerous people were quaffing bubbles at an evening do with What Car Magazine at the conference centre. We weren’t invited up the escalator but joined the shuffling masses heading into the Hall on the other side of the building.
Our Mystery Tickets were for row S in the stalls between seats of around £37 and £44. These were cheap tickets but not cheap seats.
The first half was Berg’s Violin Concerto, 27. The soloist Leila Josefowicz had had to pull out due to illness at short notice, so instead we had Ilya Gringolts. I suppose in such situations it’s a little bit like if an actor is taken ill and there is no understudy, people wrack their brains as to who played the part not so long ago and give them a call hoping that they are free and remember the lines.
The concerto was okay, I was never going to totally enjoy it as Berg was taught by Schoenberg, the twelve tone row master, have to say I’m not a fan. But at least this was mixed with more freer tonal passages.
At the interval we made sure we hunted out some chilled medication before returning to our seats. With several empty seats further along our row, we moved to a more central position giving everyone more arm room. Here we could relax more and listen out for those bass trombones!
Schubert did not disappoint, neither did the brass section. Juanjo Mena conducted accompanied by the chap in front of Mick, although he was very subtle about it. More tuneful and less discordant we both enjoyed it very much. I could understand Philips urge for the trombone.
One thing I did wonder though. All the men of the orchestra wore white tie and tails, most of the ladies wore black trousers and tops only one long frock was in view. Should their dress code be more universal? Either formal or less so for all sexes.
0 locks, 0 miles, 1 stand in, £13 mystery tickets, 2 conductors, 3 trombones, 2 chocolate medications, 1 very good evening.