In late September, we told Huntsville that the Huntsville Symphony was back – with a few modifications. And, in mid-November, HuntsvilleMusic.com decided to check these modifications out and report back so you, the lovely people of this weird rocket city, would know what to expect if you decided to hit up the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall at the VBC.
Our consensus on the modified symphony experience?
Our night kicked off with a few pre-show drinks at one of our favorite bars, the Poppy. Tom and I had both been to the symphony before, but we wondered aloud what it would be like in this COVID-cautious atmosphere. He guessed that there would be fewer musicians; I mourned the intermission, since we knew that the concert would be one full hour, start to finish, with no break.
After we warmed ourselves up with Guinness, we walked the short distance to the concert hall. Masks were a must, and we were in good company as we stepped inside, noting that the rest of the show-goers were masked as well. According to very clear signage, it was a requirement.
Another requirement was staying in your assigned seat since the seating is spread out to allow for deliberate social distancing. In between each group of audience members were at least two empty seats to ensure the health and safety of everyone in attendance.
We were helpfully directed to ours by an excited usher, who called out after us as we edged into our seats, “It’s so good to have you here!”
This level of cheer was infectious; you could tell that everyone around us was buzzing with excitement and had missed attending concerts put on by their beloved symphony. The greeters at the door had been just as peppy, with crinkled-up eyes that belied big smiles beneath their masks. (And all this joy with the concert hall’s cocktail bars closed!)
Even the musicians seemed more animated than usual: fidgeting on stage, jiggling legs, glancing out at the audience. The excitement was palpable. There was distance between them, too – each individual musician was spaced out from his or her fellow artists to allow for social distancing, and I whispered to Tom that I was curious how that would affect the sound. “Do you think it will be thin?” I asked.
But before Tom could answer, the lights dimmed, voices dropped to whispers, and it was showtime.
Music Director and Conductor Gregory Vadja took to the stage and, after a brief introduction, lifted his arms and rounded out a swell of anticipation that popped with the first clear, perfect note.
I can tell you – the sound was far from thin.
It was full and gorgeous and filled up the whole hall, all the way up to where Tom and I sat in the balcony. Our concert was from the Alps to the Appalachians, and I found that I didn’t miss the intermission one bit. Especially not when Aleksandra Kasman, the piano soloist who was resplendent in a gown seemingly made entirely out of winking, glittering stars, took the stage and poured her heart and soul out across the black and white keys.
After, Tom commented to me in a tone of awe, “I wish I could be half as good at anything as that woman is at the piano.”
The concert was punctuated with a tribute to all veterans in honor of Veteran’s Day: a medley of each military branch’s fight song, during which veterans in the audience were invited to stand and received a wave of applause in recognition of their service. It was a tasteful, uplifting tribute.
In short, even COVID-cautious the symphony makes for a remarkable night out. Whatever preconceived notions you have about symphony concerts, throw them out. It’s the perfect reason to dress up (or dress down – there is no dress code!), grab a drink or two, and sink into audible art that will take you to a completely different, stress-free reality. Something we could all use right now.
Grace is the Content Director of HuntsvilleMusic.com and lives in Madison, AL, which really isn’t that far, guys.
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