Culture Experience: In which we learn that kitchen spoons don’t make sturdy drum sticks.

I’ve been wanting to take Calvin to a concert, a play, or some other cultural event for a while. However, finding a child-friendly event at a good time of day, i.e. not at night, has been tricky. A couple of months ago I stumbled across Colorado Symphony’s Drums of the World concert. It was for the last Sunday in November at 2:30 pm, a good time if Calvin isn’t too cranky from lack of a nap. I put it on my calendar but didn’t get tickets in case we ended up traveling for Thanksgiving.

By the time I went to buy tickets, it claimed that there weren’t 3 seats placed together. Or, more precisely, the website failed every time I tried to buy 2 adults + 1 child but had no problem with 1 adult + 1 child. Jaeger seemed less than enthralled with the concert idea, probably fearing Calvin would throw a tantrum in the middle. I was also nervous at the prospect of taking a 2 1/2 year-old to a concert but it was specifically geared towards families so I figured this was as good a time as any to try it out. In the end, I just bought tickets for Calvin and I. Jaeger agreed to drive down with us and hang out in Denver during the concert then end the day at Watercourse restaurant.

The plan today was to leave for Denver as soon as I finished working, at 1:00 pm on Sundays. It did not start out auspiciously as Calvin completely refused to wear the outfit I thought was appropriate for the concert (think “business casual” for a toddler). In the end, we compromised on a Thomas the Tank Engine shirt with nicer pants. However, Calvin still wasn’t happy and protested the entire way to the car. Given the clothing fracas, we were running later than I hoped. However, we got to Denver in plenty of time. Jaeger parked the car and walked us to Boettcher Concert Hall before departing for The Tattered Cover.

When I bought the tickets, I was trying to avoid the balcony areas for fear Calvin would try to launch himself over the edge. So, I paid for orchestra level seating and was surprised, and a little nervous, to discover we ended up in the 3rd row from the front. Normally, I’d consider this great but I was nervous Calvin would find it too loud. My fears appeared confirmed as the babble of voices, pre-concert, were loud enough for Calvin to insist that I cover his ears with my hands. An usher stopped by and asked if we’d like earplugs but Calvin threw a fit when I suggested he put them in his ears.

I had brought a small backpack in with us containing essentials such as his potty seat, books, etc. I had that in “Calvin’s” seat as the seat backs were so high that Calvin couldn’t see over them. When I sat Calvin in my lap, he was barely high enough to see the stage. They did have booster seats available but Calvin isn’t very good with boosters. He tends to fall out of them because he wiggles so much. I tried reading one of the picture books to Calvin but all he wanted was to keep my hands over his ears. I made sure the backpack had all our stuff in it in case I had to grab it and go the instance the concert started.

The concert started with a piece called “Take That” composed by William Albright. The lights were dimmed with spotlights on two performers on the stage with 2 performers behind us in the audience. It was very dramatic and loud. To my surprise, Calvin uncovered his ears about half-way through the performance. By the second movement in “Threads”, by Paul Lansky, Calvin was opening enjoying himself.

I felt myself relax until a couple of movements later when Calvin started insisting he needed to go potty. Normally, when he tells me this, I race him to the nearest restroom, no questions asked. However, we were in the middle of a concert. I asked him if he was sure, he was. I asked him if he could hold it until the next song was announced. He agreed but squirmed during the rest of “Threads.” As soon as it was done, he and I raced, hopefully without too much notice, out of the concert hall to find the nearest restroom. I was amused to discover that we weren’t alone as at least 4 other families also headed for the restrooms.

Unfortunately, we missed the next piece which sounded like it was fun. However, we made it in time for a piece titled “Martian Tribes” by Emmanuel Séjourné. It was fantastic. Probably Calvin’s favorite. All four percussionists came out dressed wacky with knitted winter hats that looked like they had frog eyes on top. One person started playing the marimba and the others skulked around until their turn came and then they jockeyed with each other for space at the marimba. It’s hard to explain but this video gives you an idea of what it sounded/looked like.

After that, they played a piece called “Eine Kleine Tischmusik” involving, among other things, wooden kitchen spoons to bang against a table. It turns out that kitchen spoons aren’t as sturdy as drum sticks. Near the end, one performer was so enthusiastic that part of his spoon broke and went flying. There were several other pieces after this but I think Calvin was getting a little tired at that point. He didn’t complain or anything but he laid back against me and didn’t seem quite as into it as he had the first part. Of course, I thought he did very well for such a young child.

After the concert, we met Jaeger and went to Watercourse for supper. As usual, the food was great. Right as we were getting ready to go, Calvin lost it. I think the day had just been very long for him and he was ready for it to be over. We hurried him back to the car and had to forcible put him in his car seat. He hollered for a couple more minutes but then settled down. I was afraid that he was going to fall asleep but we managed to avoid this by finding an adulterated Thomas the Tank Engine story to download from the library and read to him (sometimes smart phones are worth their weight in gold).

All-in-all, I would say the concert experience with Calvin was a success. There were some nervous moments but it’s something I’m ready to try and repeat again.

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