Guest blogger Mandy Meisner rings in 2018 at Orchestra Hall.
I can’t remember the last time I went out on New Year’s Eve. Even in my youth, when the allure of all that glitters was strong, being amid a crowd on this holiday never appealed to me. I much prefer to stay at home, puttering in the kitchen and sipping a good red wine. But, as my love for the Minnesota Orchestra has grown this past year, so has my curiosity—and I decided to welcome 2018 in style at Orchestra Hall.
We hearty Minnesotans didn’t let 30-below windchills keep us away. We come bundled in down coats and wool scarves; underneath we’re bejeweled and well-heeled, modestly and practically attired. The lobby is aglow with a 16-foot Christmas tree, and in the Target Atrium oversized star lanterns drip from the ceiling in white light. From somewhere on the second balcony, bubbles float down in shimmering waves.
Instagram photo by @johnpanning
The Orchestra musicians walk onstage, dotted with bold dashes of fuchsia and teal, burgundy and sequins. Osmo Vänskä gives the downbeat, and Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dreams Symphony starts as light and crisp as the first snowfall. At times the music is as quiet as a whisper, and we lean forward with our breath held to listen. Dancers from Minnesota Dance Theatre garbed in gossamer and velvet dresses flicker across the stage periodically, pale outstretched arms and long lines of leg accenting the music. It ends with the stunning energy of a dying star.
We know Tchaikovsky’s Serenade will be different from the beginning. The strings stand alone, unconducted. They sway and slant to lengthy romantic phrases as the music moves from lush to delicate to fiery, as deep and broad as the Mississippi River. We marvel at the beauty of it.
Inon Barnatan looks a mere mortal as he walks onstage to sit at the grand piano. When he starts to play the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1, he is transformed into something else entirely. Instantly we are mesmerized by the famous opening measures; later we become breathless at his complete mastery of the music’s tenderness and virtuosity. His physicality is captivating. He bends over the piano with fierce intent, only to look up and away in peaceful repose as the piece shifts. His fingers release the notes as light and fast as fireflies in peals of unbelievable music. When it ends, we are standing on our feet, our hands getting weary from the appreciation.
If we were getting tired, then the energy of the lobby soon revives us. Various morsels are offered on silver trays, hats and bobbles are quickly grabbed and put on in festive delight, and glasses of Champagne float about in steady hands. We fill the balconies and hang from stairways to listen to Belle Amour croon out jazz. And the Orchestra musicians mingle all night shaking hands, posing for pictures, graciously receiving adoration from their fans.
Belle Amour performing in the lobby.
We wait together for midnight, and as the New Year arrives, hundreds of gold streamers slink down on us from high above. And for a lovely pause, no matter what kind of year we might have had, we are open and joyful, completely in the moment of what is possible.
A clean slate granted to all.
Mandy Meisner, center, with first-time concertgoer Tracy David at right.