When a colleague gave my wife tickets for a prenatal concert this past Sunday morning at the Beijing Concert Hall, I thought it must be a joke. I know many parents take music appreciation seriously when it comes to parenting, but somehow a concert for children before they are even born struck me as taking the concept too far. Then again, who am I to turn up my nose at a pair of tickets with a RMB 1,160 price tag?
When we arrived at the concert hall and took our seats in the cozy auditorium, I couldn’t help noticing the enormous screen being used for a backdrop; something I’m not accustomed to seeing at live performances of classical music. For some reason, most of the musical pieces were scores featured in various movies. And since these pieces had been featured in films, the producers of the concert decided to show scenes from the movies while the orchestra played. The only problem was that the soothing music being played to nurture a love of music and encourage the playing of classical instruments was paired with films like Pirates of the Caribbean, The Godfather, and True Lies. As inconceivable as it may sound, we listened to beautifully crafted music while watching scenes of pirates and the undead hacking at one another, mobsters shooting each other, and Arnold Schwarzenegger snuffing out terrorists while dancing the odd tango. Mothers in the audience could be seen covering the eyes of small children while no one seemed to consider the emotional (and hormonal responses) of an audience full of pregnant women trying to rectify the live performance with the unavoidable on-screen visuals。
Thankfully, the movie clips gave way to still photography in the second half of the concert. During the highlight of the show, a solo performance of a Vivaldi Violin Concerto in G Minor from The Four Seasons played on an accordion, even the guy controlling the visuals didn’t know what to show. Yes, the orchestra had an accordion player and he sounded so good, it was as if a couple of tiny violinists were hiding inside the bellows of his instrument. I was so stunned that midway through his performance, I had to video his performance just to prove it was real.
All in all, the concert was a quintessentially unique Beijing experience that I hope they repeat. As near as we could tell, the twins loved the performance as Savvy could feel them both playing the air-violin and air-accordion inside the womb.
Photos by Christopher Lay.