(Be patient and watch to the end!)
This video was taken last night as I was walking to the bus on my way to a concert by the OSM (Montreal Symphony Orchestra). All the seats were pretty much full; most Montrealers just deal with the weather and do what they were planning to do anyway. At the end there was a standing ovation, and the conductor, Kent Nagano, who is relatively new to the city and already beloved, addressed the audience. "This is a special day for me," he said, "because I have never seen so much snow in my life!" He went on to say that it made him feel like Christmas, and offered a beautiful encore -- Beethoven's Egmont Overture - to the audience as a gift.
I'll probably go to a couple other concerts during the season; my ticket, in the balcony, cost $22.50 which is enough that I/we don't go often but feel we can if there's something we really want to see. Access to cultural events is, obviously, one of the things I most love about being here. Last night's concert included a pre-performance discussion; Arnold Schoenberg's Symphonie de chambre no. 1; Mozart's third violin concerto played by guest soloist Hilary Hahn (the main reason I went); and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Nagano is programming all of Beethoven's symphonies during his first two years here, and even though it's so well known and I've heard recordings so many times, this was a really excellent, exciting performance; I don't think I've ever heard it performed live before.
When I arrived, I found my seat next to a man who was alone, and reading L'Art du Bonheur, by the Dalai Lama. I didn't interrupt him but took out my own book and read until the concert began. After the Schoenberg it was clear that there would be a wait until the rest of the orchestra took their places, so I decided to try striking up a conversation and maybe get some French practice. "Que pensez-vous?" I asked. He smiled, and we began talking about modern music, how much concentration it took to listen to it, and about our own musical backgrounds. After Hilary Hahn had played and the intermission began, we continued talking about the Dalai Lama, Montreal as a city, and eventually about where I had come from. All this in French; I was pleased and a little curious because he didn't switch into English; I was getting a good workout in both speaking and listening.
"Oh," he said, finally, still in French, "you speak French well, did you learn back in Vermont?" I rolled my eyes, since I know that's not even close to true, and that I had been blundering along all evening, making plenty of mistakes. I told him I had studied the language in school but that had been a very long time ago; I was trying to improve and slowly it was getting better. "Vraiment," he said, "vous parlez très bien; je le sais, je suis professeur du francais à McGill!" At which point I wanted to fall down through the balcon, mezzanine, corbeil, and parterre into the underground! Instead I laughed, and from then on we spoke in both French and English, finally saying goodbye as I went off to the metro to go home, and he took off on foot. "Vous êtes au pied?" I asked. "Oui, je suis à pied," he answered, without emphasis on my mistake. I nodded and repeated, "à pied!"