Mar 1, 2024 - Culture

Lessons from a symphony dress rehearsal

A balcony view of an orchestra rehearsal, with players on stage.

A balcony view of a Columbus Symphony dress rehearsal in a seat that cost one-fifth the price of a normal show. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

I enjoy hearing the Columbus Symphony perform, but am often too busy to attend weekend concerts.

Why it matters: It is a mesmerizing experience to watch and hear true artists at work.

The intrigue: The Ohio Theatre was surprisingly crowded with retirees, families and student field trips. I even saw a well-behaved baby in the balcony.

  • My $16 seat, which came with complimentary doughnuts and coffee, would have cost $84 for a normal show.

What they said: "You know this is just a practice, right?" guest conductor Carl St. Clair joked to the audience.

  • "Most cities don't have this many people at a regular concert."

How it worked: St. Clair conducted each piece in full, shouting things to players like "phrasing!" that could be heard across the concert hall.

  • Musicians occasionally stood during the music to ask one another questions, while pianist Claire Huangci wrote notes on her tablet.
  • After finishing, the group ran back through a few trouble spots before moving to the next piece.

Between the lines: The rehearsal offered life lessons you don't often receive at 10 in the morning:

ğŸŽ¹ Tchaikovsky is still Tchaikovsky, even in jeans.

  • Audience members and musicians alike wore very casual dress — Huangci performed in a tank top and jeans — proving that great art trumps formality.
  • Classical music can feel stuffy, but the Columbus Symphony tries to make it accessible through pop culture tie-ins, family shows and performing in other communities.

😤 Haters are always gonna hate.

  • Tchaikovsky learned this long before Taylor Swift did. He first showed his magnificent Piano Concerto No. 1 to a friend, who dismissed it as worthless and needing to be rewritten.
  • But he published the concerto as is. Audiences in Columbus and around the globe are still paying to hear it nearly 150 years later.

❤ There's no substitute for live music.

  • Another rehearsal highlight was "Alone Together," a stirring piece from 2021 depicting life and death during the pandemic.
  • The shared listening experience, with all the memories evoked, was indescribably beautiful.

If you go: Three more dress rehearsals are planned for this season in April and May. Get tickets.

What's next: The group, which has played at the ornate venue for over 50 years, plans to build a dedicated performance space on the Scioto Peninsula that could open as early as 2028, WOSU reports.

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