Listen: The strange joys of a live orchestra performance

CONCERT: Sydney Symphony Orchestra

A concert performance provides a welcome chance to see people in evening wear working really hard.

A concert performance provides a welcome chance to see people in evening wear working really hard.

I love classical music, but I'm by no means an expert. I love Bach, Handel, Corelli, Telemann, Boccherini – anything that sounds like the theme tune of a BBC costume drama, basically.

I especially like it live in concert. I like seeing people in evening wear working really hard, especially men in white bow-ties and tails. I also love the chance, vanishingly rare these days, of being forced to sit still for long periods of time, without talking, with no device to distract me. I find myself thinking new thoughts – highbrow thoughts like "Is the cymbal dude going to screw up, like Roger in The Far Side card?" or "If I were a classical musician, how would I do my hair?"

Recently, my classical music-viewing world was immeasurably enhanced by a series of tickets to the Sydney Symphony. They're right on the side of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, virtually level with the orchestra.

They're cheaper than stall seats, and far better. They're better because you can see as well as hear. You can see the actual faces of the wild-eyed conductors; the occasional tiny, subversive eyerolls of the strings. You can see the usually invisible percussionists, who all look as mild-mannered as Clark Kent until they suddenly bang the crap out of a drum the size of a cannibal cooking pot. And you can see the long line of brass, blowing the hair of the oboes and flutes into their eyes.

The brass, of course, are also the ones who empty their spit onto the floor in dull moments. I must admit this does slightly gross me out, but then, they're not the only ones. Think of football, whatever iteration you like. Everyone's spitting everywhere, and you love that, right? You'd love this, too.

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