Sunday, July 17, 2016

Coughing in Concerts

One of the two first CDs I ever owned was a recording of Felix Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Italian Symphony”. When I was a teaching assistant at Holy Cross College, a student had been kind enough to lend me a radio, because I did not have any music playing devices in my room. When he brought it over he said, “I hope you don’t mind, it comes with a CD player.” I did not mind, but I did not have any CDs, so next time I got to go off campus I bought two CDs. The one by Mendelssohn, and the other was Keith Jarrett’s “The Köln Concert”.
I have no idea why I bought the Jarrett-CD, because I did not know the recording before that, but it certainly turned out to be my favorite CD for a long time. (I did buy a few more before the year was over.) I still have it, and should it ever wear out, I would definitely look for a replacement.

Jarrett’s solo concert CDs have been an important part of my life since, and my husband is a great admirer of his quality as an improvisor as well. He knows much more about music, musicians and recordings than I do anyway. So he was the one who happened to find out that Keith Jarrett was to be make a rare concert appearance in Munich, and managed to get us tickets before they were sold out within very few days after opening of sales.
Yesterday was the date. There had appeared an article in the newspaper reminding people of how much Jarrett insists on the fact that no-one should cough or make any other interfering or disturbing noises during the performance. There was a leaflet deposited at every single seat in the huge concert hall stating in German and English how quiet you were to be because it was all being recorded, that Jarrett requested to turn off and put away all portable devices for the entire length of the concert, and not photography, please. And the manager appeared on stage in person and repeated the whole thing in so many words. Everybody understood that this was a serious issue!

My husband was well prepared – neither of us currently has a cold, but he brought cough drops nevertheless, the kind where you don’t have to unwrap anything, because that can cause distrubing noises as well.
As the lights were dimming, a cacophony of coughing started, which turned into a whole concert hall laughing, as everybody was trying to get the coughing done with beforehand. Never before had I experienced such a profound stillness between the artist sitting down at the instrument and the first notes being played! Perfect silence, not a single cough at that point. Marvellous. It can happen. Why can’t it be like that every single time at any concert?

To be honest: there were only about 20 coughs throughout the entire concert. (But every single one I noticed and was disturbed by, because I thought perhaps Mr Jarrett would now interrupt and stop playing... Overall that’s a pretty good – but it is summer, no coughing season... why any coughs at all? And too bad that people usually started applauding even before the last vibrations of the final notes had completely passed. At one point one woman even yelled “bravo” before the applause. I was a bit scared somebody would shoot her. And unfortunately somebody must have flashed during the encores because Mr. Jarrett took the pains to give a little lecture ‘to those who don’t understand’ about respecting the request to not flash during playing, asking them “Why did you come?” He even used the word that starts with an “a” and ends in “-holes” several times. I wonder whether that speech is going to be included in the CD when it’s released, or whether that will be edited out. In any case, when “Munich 2016”, or whatever will be out, it is well worth to buy that CD, if you like that kind of music. And you can hear me applauding – though not coughing, nor shouting that disturbing ‘bravo’, which can't be edited out.

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