I’ve lived in Utah most of my life, I’m a pianist, and I have never watched any of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. Even when I lived a few blocks away and qualified for the dirt-cheap student tickets, I never took the chance to go. I think it was because it would require me to find out when, where and how to get tickets. That sort of thing was a huge obstacle for me in those days because it meant I would have to call somebody and ask them questions! All I can say is, thank goodness for Google.
This week, I shelled out for the non-student tickets to see one of the days of the semi-final round of the competition. I watched four hour-long recitals given by some really good and some really amazing pianists, including Artem Yasynskyy, who went on to the finals (several times as he played, I found myself sitting straight up in my seat, thinking, “How is he doing that?”). It was a great experience for me as a listener savoring the music (two exquisite partitas! Heavenly!!), as a teacher noticing technique and interpretation, and as a performer who knows just how grueling an hour recital can be to prepare. It was well worth the effort to get there and I’d love do it again.
Here’s the thing, though. Every time I go out for a public event, I start to think maybe I should never, ever leave my house.
Because Other People.
Much of the audience was made up of older people and the competition was right during prime nap time (I felt it, too), and they do schedule back-to-back recitals which means you’re sitting in the same dark room for two hours straight before break time, and some of the repertoire choices weren’t terribly exciting. I understand how it goes, but I also know what it’s like to be on stage and to be able to hear every little sound from the audience. Those snores were LOUD and I don’t think it was just one person. I think they took shifts.
The Stats Guys
You know how irritating it is to be around a couple of guys trying to show how much they know about sports stats or cars or home improvement? And there’s this constant game of one-up-man and chest-thumping where each has to demonstrate his superior knowledge and experience to the annoyance of all those around them? Yeah, those guys. They’re at piano competitions too: “I’m pretty sure it was the high F# that was out of tune in that last one…(after tuning)…so I’m right? It was the high F#? I knew it.”
Ladies Who Hum
Stop it! We get it – you’re familiar with this particular piece. You’re so swept away while listening that you can’t help but hum along. Stop it! It’s so rude! Seriously, stop it!
I overheard this conversation between two men in the row ahead of me. They knew each other from one of the previous days of the competition and were discussing some of the performers they had heard. It seemed like a pretty friendly chat until:
Man 1: I appear to have left my program at home. Do you think I could look at yours once in a while?
Man 2: Sure.
Man 1: Actually, maybe to make it more convenient, would you mind if I scooted closer to you?
Man 2: Well, if I can be honest, you smell as if you bathed in raw onions this morning. I would prefer if you stayed over there.
Man 1: Oh, do I? Well, you certainly have an acute sense of smell. I apologize.
Man 2: It’s probably safer to stick with strawberries and cereal for breakfast like I do.
Lovely, Man 2. You are obviously a Class Act.
When you’re at a performance and someone starts talking or doing something else distracting, there’s a sort of unofficial way to signal your displeasure. You know, first the very subtle sidelong glance with minimal head motion. Then, if the action is repeated, the glances become progressively less subtle until hopefully the offender catches the hint and shuts up.
Well, there was a man sitting right in front of me who had smuggled a sandwich and bottle of Diet Coke into the hall. Not a mint or cough drop – an entire sandwich wrapped in deli paper. He was periodically taking the sandwich out of his pocket, unwrapping the loud paper and taking a few bites before rewrapping the loud paper to put it back into his pocket.
Because I was on the back row, the glance-to-glare progression was not an option so I just sat back and observed. First offense: woman in front of sandwich guy glances subtly. Second offense: first woman does full chin-to-shoulder head turn and two more women start step one. Third offense: first three women glare, three more people turn around. Fourth offense: seven people simultaneously either put their fingers up to shush him or mouth the words, “stop that!” I looked across the aisle to the usher/bouncer to see what she would do, but she was sleeping soundly through the whole exchange. (I guess it was her shift.) I think the guy even managed to finish the whole sandwich.
It wasn’t until yesterday that I noticed they offer live streaming of the competition. That’s a really tempting alternative, but I know it wouldn’t be the same. So hey, world, I’m trying, I really am. I’m willing to venture out and join the rest of you occasionally, but you just have to meet me halfway. Please, leave your sandwich at home.