Lenox — Like most folks, you’ve always figured the Boston Symphony Orchestra likes you — well enough. The relationship is cordial: The musicians perform, you smile and applaud, they smile and take their bows. It’s not a particularly intimate interaction, but it seems to work well for everyone. And yet, as it turns out, BSO musicians hold their audience in higher esteem than you — or even they — might have thought.
In live concerts, we enjoy every note the BSO plays, and yet we’re always left wanting more — not just more notes, but more BSO — more of the vital, real-time, human stuff. We always want more magic of the type that brings us into the closest possible proximity to the music’s spiritual essence. We want the players to channel the composer right before our ears and eyes — and they gladly oblige, night after night, summer after summer. And, until recently, it’s been easy to take future Tanglewood seasons for granted.
If you’ve ever imagined the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra taking you for granted, then a few words from BSO violist Kathryn Sievers (“What the audience means to me”) will help you understand the way things really are between you and the women and men of the BSO: “I didn’t think that I loved our audience the way that I do,” she confesses, “and it’s turned out to be a surprising part of what I miss in my life . . .”
If you can’t watch the video, here’s a transcript of Kathryn Sievers’ “What the audience means to me”:
“I listened to a podcast of Terry Gross interviewing Yannick Nezet-Seguin again, from the Philadelphia Orchestra, and he talked about the experience of playing one last concert for an empty concert hall the week that things shut down most places. The Boston Symphony was playing children’s concerts that week, and we had a concert the morning of the 12th, which was our — it turned out — last concert, and for a while it looked like we would be playing for about 25 people, and I felt very sad about that because there were more people onstage than in the audience, and I missed the rest of the audience, and when Yannick talked about what it felt like to actually play for a completely empty hall, I found myself unexpectedly moved and connected to that experience despite the fact that we didn’t actually end up playing for nobody. We had already recorded things for people to enjoy from that program and so we didn’t need to play for an empty hall, but it was really striking to me how important the audience is.
“I really miss my colleagues and my friends and the experience of making live music with people and hearing live music in an incredible space, and I didn’t think that I loved our audience the way that I do, and it’s turned out to be a surprising part of what I miss in my life, and I think of myself as kind of a shy person about the public sphere. I’m not super shy with my friends, but I’m very private, and I have always loved having my friends in the audience and playing for people I know and love and seeing people I know in the audience. But the general audience I didn’t think I felt really connected to, and I can’t wait to see everyone. It’s part of what gives our work meaning, and it’s not the only thing that gives our work meaning — the music itself really is vital in my opinion — and I have some really incredible memories from rehearsals — that we made something magical happen that I will always cherish. But I can’t wait to see the audience again. So . . . be well.”
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Here are three more recent videos from Kathryn Sievers:
A treasure trove of free BSO and Pops content appears weekly at bso.org, and checking it out would probably be the smartest thing you could do. However, some of the lengthier bits have expiration dates, so don’t wait too long to indulge.