Change #101: Listening to Aaron Copland and Ludwig Van Beethoven


It began as it always begins with me.

You know the story, so often told here in this blog: woman buys tickets for some event months in advance that seems like a good idea at the time, until the night stealthily creeps up on her, and she wonders through blurry, tired eyes,  what have I done?

Our National Arts Centre (NAC) is situated in the downtown core of Ottawa a few blocks from the Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill. As we live far enough away from the city, this meant we had to give ourselves at least 1 HR to commute there and find parking. For these reasons, our departure time would need to be no later than 7 PM from our home. Poor Mr. Hershey would not get his walk before we left, as I routinely arrive home most nights from work a little after 6 PM; post-Beethoven’s 9th, I would be walking LBM after 10 PM, if I had the strength to do it at all.

I was already tired from working 4 days and from one late night out on Tuesday, when hubby and I dined together at a restaurant where we celebrated my birthday. Nonetheless, a grumpy me arrived home on Thursday and I continued to frown  at my husband as I gobbled left over birthday cake down, followed swiftly with baby carrots.  (Hey, it’s my birthday week. I can do whatever I want.)

After this, I raced to my bathroom and grabbed my makeup brushes splashing on eye shadow and eye liner for the first time in months due to ongoing, persistent allergies. Once I was satisfied with how I looked, (better than usual, but not great) we waved to Hershey as we closed the door behind us departing to our scheduled event.

As hubby drove, I entertained myself by scrolling through my phone. At that point, something unique happened. The miserableness that consumed me when I arrived home that night, began to lift.

I was excited about this event. Whether or not I would like Beethoven, was yet to be determined.

By the time we arrived at the NAC  I was bouncy, and giggly at attending an event on a school night. Was it ill-advised for someone my age? Would I pay for it the next day?

Yes, and probably.

Did I care?

Not particularly. 

The NAC was renovated over the last year. Now when you walk up to the doors, the 1960’s brown brick has been replaced with a beautiful front glass entrance that greets you. Once inside, white marble floors are under your shoes.

It’s a well-designed, improvement to our National Arts Centre.

Except, that’s only the front part. The other side, the part where I remember waiting for events to start before, still have the dated red carpeting, and brown wooden walls and doors. (I like red carpeting, but really, that needs to be replaced. As for the wooden panels and doors, they need to be restored. That’s just my opinion.)

We grabbed a quick drink, were handed some books on the way in, and then took our seats. I surveyed the other attendees and realized there were a few people most likely in their 20’s or 30’s, but most of the other people were in the 50 plus age bracket.  I began to wonder if I had made a mistake. Everyone was well-dressed and they sat quietly in a contemplative state as the music began.

As the music started, I thought I was in for an evening of only Beethoven. Some may disagree, but as the first song started to be played by the orchestra, it reminded me of the opening to the movie, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

Not completely. Not all of it.

But some parts.

My husband looked at his book and pointed at a name. It said, “Aaron Copland, Fanfare for the Common Man.”

Then I realized we were listening to someone other than Beethoven. As I looked down the list I saw another song that would be played by the orchestra that was titled, “Appalachian Spring (Suite)”.  After the intermission would be, “Beethoven Sympony No. 9…” and that would last for 30 minutes.


As I glanced around at the players of violins they were focused, but played their part delicately. (We were pretty close to the front, so all I could see were several rows of violins and the conductor. For that reason, I have no idea what other instruments were in the back.) I watched as the musicians in front of me played their violins with hands that slid effortlessly across the strings creating incredible sound.

It occurred to me, this is what it must be like to work in a team effectively. Each person’s part is important. Each part matters. But each person must restrain themselves no matter how passionate they are about the music in front of them. Because in order to create the right sound, they needed to work together. No one could be a trailblazer, and jazz up the music. No one should play the music in a different key.  If they worked together, they would effectively create the right sound, and please the audience.

I was in awe. I love violins. I don’t know what it is about the sound of it. It can be dramatic and choppy, or sweet and loving. It can be heartbreaking. It can be jovial. When I think about something so small, it seems impossible it could create so many different high’s and low’s.

And yet, it can.

The two songs played by the orchestra that were written by Aaron Copland, I absolutely loved.

But Beethoven, I don’t know. It went on, and on, and on…and when you thought it was done, it went on…..

For 30 minutes. Multiple high’s and low’s. With those holding the violins tightly in their hands, hair flapping up and down, and strings that flew through the air as they frayed, the music was slow at times, and quick, and angry.

Then, I found myself nodding off. But this happened even with Aaron Copland’s music and it’s not an indicator I don’t like something. In truth, music that can relax me, probably means I like it. But if it makes me so angry that I want to reach over and turn the volume down, or switch to another song before it’s over, I probably don’t like it.

Beethoven’s 9th was long, and it felt like it. Also, there were people that sang near the end. (I did not know that.) If Beethoven was playing on my phone, I would definitely have changed songs.

Given this, was it worth it?

I loved the two songs written by Aaron Copland, and I had an interesting night out listening to old music that was new to me. As I sit here, I’m wondering if I can purchase a full CD of music by Aaron Copland.

Yes, it was worth it. 

Only two questions remain:

  1. Do you think the conductor ever goes home in a bad mood? Our guy looked like he was having sooooooooo much fun. 
  2. What doth my brain play the next morning in my head: OMG, is that Beethoven?

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