Can we take the kids to a sold-out concert? (Yes, we can)

Anthea Kreston‘s musical life in Berlin is one surprise after another…



This past weekend I came home at 2 pm, exhausted from life in general, but more specifically from a morning of teaching at the University of the Arts, practising for this week’s work in the Berlin Philharmonic, and a (seemingly) narrowly-survived maiden voyage sleepover (at one point, all three girls were in tears – one was tired, one was hungry, and one was lonely – all sad despite my carefully planned egg-carton painting, popcorn making and pine-cone badminton).  As I entered the house, eyes drooping, I saw my husband, cello in hand, dressed for his concert, and the girls in all sorts of finery – purses, wedding shoes and golden headbands, clearly planning on going to the Gendarmenmarkt for the Konzerthaus Orchestra concert. 

I desperately tried a combination of winking and wide eyed emphatic talking to “explain” that his concert was sold out, we couldn’t go, I had a student, I was starving, couldn’t stay standing for much longer, please please can we not go, etc. It fell to deaf ears, as the girls were set on it, and Jason had already gotten tickets. 

Considering my 5 minute turn-around, I was pleasantly surprised to find a cold, half-drunk cup of coffee from that morning (I hope), and I grabbed some other nearly-eatables (half-finished PBJ from the table, etc) and off we went. A fresh coat of deodorant and a new shirt was going to have to suffice. 

As we drove, Jason told the girls the entire story of the Miraculous Mandarin (Bartok’s incredible work, originally banned for its controversial content).  It sounded just like one of his regular “stories from head” that he tells the girls. They have about 10 different serials that he makes up night after night – from Spacegirl Meerb and Alien Tzip to Super Sisters and even a period private eye series. The Miraculous Mandarin is filled with bad guys, a bad girl, dancing, robbers, a glowing huge guy, and a final show-down complete with a hidden choir singing wordlessly as the Mandarin floats in a cloud of green gasses. Just up our alley.

As we walked up the red carpeted 29 steps to the magnificent Konzerthaus, I knew that this had been the right choice. The girls were wide-eyed at the chandeliers, the light-blue walls – the busts of composers lining the rectangular concert hall. The first half was Sibelius – “Valse Triste” and the violin concerto, performed by artist-in-residence Patricia Kopatchinskaja.  After intermission, the Bartok. 

The girls loved it – they liked how shiny the flute was, how the violinist’s dress looked really old, and how her hair was all messy, and how sometimes she turned completely around in a circle. They loved trying to find the secret choir (only to be completely excited to realize they were in street clothes and hidden in the audience).  They loved eating ice cream that had cookie dough in it, watching Dada play his cello, waving at him, clapping loudly, calling out “dada” instead of “bravo”, and eating middle-eastern food after. When the soloist passed our restaurant, the girls clapped, and she stopped to talk to the us. Then she hailed a cab – which was equally exciting.  And the bathroom in the restaurant has soap that smelled so good, they each took 6 squirts.  All of these details had equal weight for the girls, and altogether made for a great evening. 

My exhaustion just melted away as I saw the experience through their eyes – I am so happy that I lost the winking argument. 

This week I play again with Berlin – in a concert with no violins!  What a concept. Brahms, Turnage, and Dvorak. Jason and the girls will come, and I am sure they will enjoy the Brahms as much as they enjoy choosing their cake and eating it with mom at intermission. 


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  • “…Jason told the girls the entire story of the Miraculous Mandarin (Bartok’s incredible work, originally banned for its controversial content). ”

    I’d like to hear that myself. Never been satisfied by the “official” explanation.

  • If it was a John Bortslap concert it would not be sold out. They would have to give out free tickets to fill the place up!

    • No, As he is a salaried academic with pension his income does not depend on being a jobbing composer like Haydn dependent on giving concerts that all died out 100 years ago! All new music will only be heard within academia where it gets subsidised by the tax payer. This explains why all that tuneless stuff is still being churned out regardless etc

  • Thanks for the BPO tickets last night!
    Hope the girls enjoy the Turnage more than we did 🙁
    Great to catch up, see you soon.
    us x

    • Looking forward to watching that BPO concert from Sydney via the Digital Concert Hall in the wee hours tomorrow.

      You write beautifully, Anthea!

  • Hello Holly – you have a keen eye! I think he probably has the younger daughters coat slung over his head, but, in general, he is a willing participant in any kid’s activities, being very open-minded and participatory. Perhaps because he is Canadian, or perhaps because he grew up in a very supportive and open-minded home. Thanks for chiming in!

  • I love it when I see kids at opera or concerts. So often we think they are too young to enjoy it, or last the distance. So glad you went along with your two. They obviously had a blast!

  • I just watched this concert this morning, but only the Turnage piece. I wondered how you all negotiated those modern pieces but the BPO plays them extraordinarily well. Is there nothing those musicians cannot play??!
    Only one complaint about the Digital Concert Hall, which will stop me subscribing for the next 12 months; the broadcasts are way over-produced. I like to see the whole orchestra, not just the sections playing their parts in each work. So, this has become a big annoyance for me.

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