Robert Schumann (Wikimedia Commons)
Staid, is the only adjective one can apply to the audience at the regular chamber music concerts held in Jerusalem’s august YMCA auditorium on a monthly basis. The average age is pulled down sharply by anyone under sixty, and there aren’t too many of those.
The concerts, under the auspices of the Jerusalem Music Center (www.jmc.org.il), are invariably of a very high standard, and bring immense pleasure to the few hundred regular and occasional members of the audience. The acoustics of the auditorium are excellent, and the ambience and décor take one back to the first few decades of the previous century, when the building was erected by people of good will who believed that the activities conducted within it would serve to bring harmony and mutual understanding to the peoples of the region.
Be that as it may, that was not the case at the recent performance given there by the Jerusalem Trio. The program, which consisted of a piano trio by Israeli composer, Michael Wolpe, as well as piano trios by the more well-known composers, Beethoven and Schumann, looked inviting and as the audience gathered everyone was eagerly anticipating the evening’s performance.
As we entered the auditorium we were told at the door that there would be a delay in the start of the concert as one of the artists had encountered a problem with his car. We waited patiently, and for the most part in silence, some of us checking our mobile phones (you’re never alone with an iPhone). At one point a young lady strode resolutely up to the stage, sat down at the piano, and—presumably in order to help us pass the time pleasantly—proceeded to give a spirited rendering of Schumann’s Kreisleriana. We applauded, and continued to wait.
Eventually, after a delay of about thirty minutes, the three young men who comprise the trio strode on to the stage and took their places. They did not begin to play, however. Nor was any apology for the delay delivered.
Instead, the cellist, while at the same time trying to arrange the music on his stand, launched into a long and occasionally amusing account of the violinist’s frantic phone call to him to tell him that he had a puncture in one of his tyres, he did not know quite where he was, and when told to check this with Waze or Google Maps on his mobile phone found that he was at ‘insufficient memory.’ The violinist nodded his head in good-natured agreement as the saga of his technical inadequacies unfolded.
This was fairly entertaining, and the audience listened without demur for a while.
Suddenly, however, a portly gentleman in the row behind me shouted. “Enough of this nonsense! Is this a concert or a stand-up performance? I’ve paid to hear a concert, and that’s what I demand!”
“Well, you’re welcome to go to the ticket office and get your money back!” the
cellist retorted, not to be outdone.
This led to what can only be described as a slanging match between the portly gentleman and the cellist, something which obviously made the rest of the audience feel distinctly uncomfortable.
There were cries of “Silence!” “Enough already!” etc., directed at both of the protagonists, until eventually someone started to clap, whereupon everyone joined in, thereby silencing them both. The discussion concluded, the music began, and everyone settled down to enjoy the performance.
The trio played beautifully, but the cellist was obviously not content with the way matters had ended. And so, when the first part of the concert ended and the artists were leaving the stage for the interval, he stood up and indicated that he had something more to say.
Everyone fell silent, as he focused his gaze on the portly gentleman. “No one has the right to insult us even if he does buy a ticket,” he proclaimed. Everyone applauded and filed out for the well-earned break.
In the ladies toilet, where as usual there was a queue, the general consensus was that the portly gentleman had been rude beyond measure, however justified he may have been, and that it is extremely unwise to upset artists before a performance.
The second half of the concert proceeded without incident. But by then the portly gentleman and his wife were no longer in their seats.