I ran into one family acquaintance, who I’m not exactly acquainted with, during the intermission of a concert. She was greatly surprised by my going to concert alone. Without hesitation, she spoke to her companion (a total stranger to me) of me in third person: “He is still single! He is still single!”

I was taken back a little at first, then I started to understand the logic behind her spontaneous uttering: going to (classical music) concerts is either a  professional affair (she is a professional violinist herself), or a social affair, or a family affair, or for a date. Going to concert alone for the sake of music is unnatural and absurd.

In a way, she is right. In fact, just a few weeks before,  I had the luck to experience this kind of unnaturalness and absurdity explicitly. It was during a Toronto Youth Symphony Orchestra’s concert, part of TSO’s 2009-2010 season. Benjamin Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to Orchestra was to be played. I love the piece dearly and thought it would be great to attend a live performance. The moment I walked into Roy Thomson Hall’s lobby, however, I began to feel out of place, for everyone else were bringing their kids, most of them very small children. The concert hall, which resembles old folk’s home most of the season now looked like a kindergarten. The usual pompousness and solemnity and wine and 3 piece suites were replaced by the lovely noise of children and their colorful little shoes, little-T shirts and little skirts.

Britten’s orchestral showpiece was marvelously played by the young musicians on stage.  When the music stopped, the children gave a rowdy ovation – they liked it. And I suddenly realized that Britten actually wrote the music for them, not for me.