Having seen and heard so much of the outside of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, we finally got to see and hear it from the inside last night for the first time with a pair of tickets I had ordered back in October to closely coincide with my fiancee’s birthday (today: Happy Birthday, Susan!) and a chance to hear organist Thomas Murray give the hall’s lauded 6,134-pipe organ, a good workout. Or not.
After heading up two escalator flights, then an elevator ride up a couple more, followed by a ramp leading into a corner that looked like it would bring us to the entrance of a utility closet rather than the balcony, there we were a few minutes before showtime trying to get comfortable in seats clearly built with short, skinny and armless people in mind and garishly upholstered for or by the colorblind. Now, it’s not that I have an affinity for the cheap seats so much as an affinity against paying the much bigger bucks for seats nearer and dearer to the ground. And I was soon to discover that I’m also allergic to ushers who reprimand me for taking the non-flash snapshot seen at right when there were several others in the vicinity who were setting off their cameras’ bulbs with abandon and impunity. Dutifully, if grumblingly, obliging the usher’s polite demand of No Photos Allowed, I stowed the camera and urged him to go after the other far more flagrant scofflaws as well (I can understand and respect no pix taken during a performance, but 15 minutes before showtime? Sheesh!).
In short order Murray took to the stage, and man was I looking forward to some kick-ass accoustically perfect fortissimo-ing ó not the entire show, of course. But you know: I expected he would occasionally give me something comparable to the opening overture from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Phantom of the Opera.” Instead what Murray showed me with his academic selections from Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Grieg, and Schumann was that while he’s an obvious technical master of such a complex instrument, he had neither clue nor intention of putting the pedals to the metal and cranking that sucker up to 11. It was like he’d been given the keys to a NASCAR rocket and rarely got it out of first gear. Not that anyone else (other than Susan) in the crowded house agreed with me. The ovations at intermission and the end of the performance were rousing and sincere. But to me, when he came out for his encore and tapped out a short and sweet and tender little piece, I just shrugged my shoulders at him missing another opportunity to send me and my baby back to earth on a high note.