The whole kitsch and ka-Doodle: the Grant Park Symphony on July 4th.
It was my second Grant Park outing, and I’d already found myself in the middle of a feud more scathing than the one between Wagner and Brahms.
It begins like this: I was blithely sitting near the front of the free-seating section of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion—about twenty rows back, for those unfamiliar with the set-up—eager to hear the world premiere of Kenji Bunch’s Symphony No. 3, Dream Songs. I’d recently written about it for Chicago Classical Review and was about to finally hear the piece.
I should have known I was in for trouble when I noticed that the Russian woman next to me had a knack for shushing any and all chit-chatters in our vicinity—which, because we were in the free section, was more than a few. First there were the teenage girls who meandered in, plopped in front of us, and proceeded to whisper to each other. They were mid-giggle when they were sternly tapped on the shoulder by my neighbor. “Later,” was the clipped directive.
After a second misdemeanor worthy of a shoulder-jabbing, the girls left, clearly taken aback. The policewoman of Section 101 was left to direct her shushing to another Russian family sitting behind her, this time making demands in her first language.
Little did I know it was all only a prelude for what was to come. A man and his girlfriend sat down in the row in front of me, off to my left. As he sat down, I noticed that he had a face tattoo: the word Victory, in curling script, on one temple.
They had only been sitting for a few seconds when the woman committed what was, according to the folks around me, next to cardinal sin: she pointed at the orchestra and said something—I don’t know what—louder than a whisper.
That’s all it took for both the Russian lady, the couple behind them, and someone else further down my row to lean towards them and let out a snarling, fortissimo Shhhhh!
As though struck, her boyfriend swiveled around. “What the fuck is wrong with you people?” he cried.
And, even as I diligently pretended to pay undivided attention to the concert, I couldn’t help but echo the sentiment in my heart of hearts. What the fuck is wrong with us, anyway?