Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ravinia vs. Children in Church

Last night the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus did a gig at Ravinia--Beethoven's 9th.

Ravinia is the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (albeit a lot of substitutes played last night. Kinda resembled the "Esplanade" Boston Symphony group.) In addition, the Ravinia venue hosts shows in various genres: rock, country, jazz, blues, avant-garde (can-banging (!?) girls...) throughout the summer.

It's a splendid facility, initially an amusement park operated by the first owner of the Chicago & Milwaukee Road railroad--who went broke building the tracks--then taken over by private interests and still operated privately. The railroad is about 30 feet from the main gateway to the park.

If you took about 90% of the asphalt from the Summerfest grounds, replaced it with grass, landscaping, and trees, reduced the food/beverage stands by 80%, and put it all in (say) Whitefish Bay, you'd have an approximation of Ravinia.

During the afternoon rehearsal, and right through the first part of the concert (Bruck's Violin Concerto,) the cicadas were astoundingly loud. I'm used to them--they inhabit portions of my home town, as well--but these were steroid-enhanced cicadas who evidently consisted of multiple generations and multiple families--all at full-throat.

In a conversation with one of the Chorus members, he observed that 'bugs and birds are just fine,' to which I responded 'not at a concert.'

The exchange brought to mind the almost strident objections made by some to babies and young children at Mass, who often display vocal abilities matching Wagnerian sopranos (although the gist of their thematic material is often similar.) To those who complain I usually offer the rejoinder that 'children are just fine.'

But there IS a difference, of course: at a concert, the people are present to hear the performers (the ones on stage.) At Mass, the people are present to worship God.

And who's to say that God isn't playful, allowing His voice to articulate through a plaintive "Mommmmmeeeeeee!!!"?? dropped in precisely when the sermon is getting too long--or when a good screech is just what the music really needed?


Anonymous said...

Having been at Ravinia the night the Milwuakee chorus (splendid!) appeared, let me take the children-in-church analogy just a bit further (and include adult behavior as well):

My guess is that there were at least 4,000 in attendance at Ravinia at an outdoor, classical music concert last evening. The majority of those were seated OUTSIDE the pavillion (i.e., outside the area ov covered, auditorium-style seating). They were seated on lawns, enjoing picnics of varying degrees of elegance (some bring candelabra!). There were people of all ages there: high schoolers, middle schoolers, college kids, and little ones in strollers were not rare. There were people of many races there as well. Despite the large crowd and the festive atmosphere, there was absolute quiet from the crowd during the concert. Occasionally, one saw a Ravinia employee carrying a large sign reminding people to silence, but the presence of those signs seemed completely unnecessary. These people knew why they were there.

Which set me to musing about the behavior of people during Sunday Mass at my local Catholic church. Despite the attempts of liturgists and musicians at "inclusivity" and "diversity" there is neither. Despite the fact that we come together to celebrate the sacrament of our unity, there is rancor (thank you, liturgists and musicians). And, as a result of the appaling lack of catechesis over the past couple generations, not many seem to really know why they are there. The result? Behavior befitting a Rotary Club meeting (though I suspect the Rotarians have better order).

Perhaps the Church can learn a lesson from Ravinia, if only they were willing to connect the dots.

Dad29 said...

Thanks. We did 10 hours of rehearsal for that show.

Other estimates range from 5,000 to 10,000--about 2000 under cover alone.

You're right--the audience paid attention, and the purpose was known.

And you're also right in that the purpose of Mass attendance is a bit cloudy to many---

Ah, well. The Great Things will always be missed by those who are not looking to find them.