“Don’t go to that concert without knowing what to listen for.”

March 18th, 2014 § 0 comments

I remember the situation quite well.  It was just before 8 a.m., and while I cannot recall the classroom number, I recall sitting towards the far right side of the room.  In one way, I was a typical college student, drinking far too much coffee, but in many other ways, I was not.  On this particular day, I was talking to some of my classmates about my upcoming plans to attend the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.  I did not realize it, but my music history professor, Dr. Gross, had overheard this pre-class conversation.  He darted from the classroom, and in what seemed like a flash, he was back, placing two things on my desk: the score and a 78 recording of Missa Solemnis.  He said, “Don’t go to that concert without knowing what to listen for.”  From there, he started class and we went about our business.


Despite not discussing it any further with Dr. Gross, I accepted his generous lending of the score and recording, and for the week prior to the concert, I spent a tremendous amount of time listening to the great masterwork, following along with the score and becoming engrossed in the music.  When the time came for me to take my nosebleed seats in Chicago’s Symphony Hall, I knew better than to simply take in the performance as a 90-minute sound experience, but rather to listen closely to Beethoven’s masterful weaving together of orchestral and choral writing.  I understood how Beethoven used the music to express some of his deeply complicated beliefs and ideas of spirituality.  My brain and my ears were prepared to understand this monumental work, and unlike any experience I had prior, I could more fully understand the music I was hearing.

Two opportunities exist in the coming weeks for you to enjoy a similar preparation experience in advance of the HSO’s performances of Mozart’s Requiem and Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1, “Jeremiah.”  Begun in 2013, the HSO offers a series of presentations called Tune-Up Talks, intended to help interested patrons “tune up” (just like the orchestra does) to maximize their HSO concert experience.  In partnership with the area’s community colleges and adult education programs, these interactive presentations help to provide attendees with a “road map” of what to listen for and how to more fully understand the music they will hear.


This spring Tune-Up Talks presentations around the Mozart-Bernstein concert are being offered at both Tunxis Community College (Sat., Mar 29 at 10 a.m.) and Manchester Community College (Monday, April 7 at 7 p.m.).  Through the respective college’s enrichment and non-credit offerings, interested patrons can pay a modest fee of $25 for the lecture-presentation, and in doing so, receive a voucher which qualifies them for the student ticket price ($10!) at the coinciding performance (in this case, April 10-13).  More information and links to the hosting colleges’ registration pages can be found at the HSO website:


If you think you might be interested in “tuning up” before you hear Mozart and Bernstein, consider registering soon as space is limited and deadlines are looming!

Know that if you attend one of these presentations, I will not simply show up and plop a score and recording in front of you.  Through listening and learning about the composers and works that will appear on the upcoming concert, your ears and mind (and maybe even your heart) will be prepared for a rich and rewarding concert experience.  Whether in the Farmington Valley at Tunxis or east of “the River” in Manchester, I hope you will join me for one of these upcoming presentations.  In the words of Dr. Gross, “Don’t go to that concert without knowing what to listen for.”

Update:The music sites need special functions from high speed hosting in order to have better results.

Jeff Martin

Director of Community Engagement & Education

Hartford Symphony Orchestra

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