Submitted by Susanne Bacon
I come from a music addicted family and married into another music addicted one. For both branches that means a history of concerts, wherever we were able to grab one. And yet, our experiences could probably not be more different.
I grew up on almost only smooth jazz and classical music. I saw my first opera in Stuttgart, Germany, at the opera house when I was eight. We were all dressed to the tees and after the doors closed, everybody just sat and listened in awe. It was an easy opera to watch, Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Haensel und Gretel”, and the stage set was marvelously traditional. After that event, I started saving up pocket money for buying classical records.
Looking back, my circle of friends was all stage-struck in the traditional department as well. I was probably the only one who didn’t have regular private musical lessons due to any lack of ambition until I was 15. Some of my friends were avid piano players or even ballerinas. In my mid-teens, my music teacher told me I ought to be trained professionally and hooked me up with a concert singer. My perspective changed big time from being the rapt girl in the audience to being a soloist up front on stage or organ lofts. I learned how many rehearsals go into one tiny piece of less than five minutes, until all the orchestra instruments corelate with each other and the singer. Until the acoustics have been figured out and the tempi and volumes are adapted to the location. I ditched my social life as an evolving teenager to be on stage, to maybe become a professional singer one day, to breathe music four to five hours a day at home, not counting music lessons at school or with private singing and piano teachers.
Well, I didn’t become a professional opera singer, as we all know by now, but I was able to make use of my knowledge in my first year as a journalist. I wrote for a local paper’s culture section. Thanks to my dancing friends, I knew enough about ballet to appreciate pirouettes and lifting figures, jetés and pliers danced to the music of any era. Talking to opera stars and prima ballerinas, jazz musicians and actors after shows became my every weekend enjoyment. It didn’t matter to me whether they were big stars or fervent up-and-coming artists. They gave their all. That was all that counted. That is why I am still stage-struck whenever I sense somebody giving their heart and soul to their performance.
I met who would become my husband over the guitar-music and voice of an Irish singer-songwriter in my hometown. We were both enjoying the tunes hugely, and our first encounter was actually a remark about the amazing quality of that artist. The rest of the conversation was about music, books, movies, and our life philosophy – but music definitely started it.
I visited my first rock concert the summer I arrived in Washington State. Rock music had never been on my concert list anywhere before. I was a bit tense at first. It was a little like going to the opera for the first time. I had no clue what kind of a crowd I would be surrounded by. My husband had introduced me to the music we’d be listening to via records and playing the guitar, explaining texts and watching interviews with the band. And then, one balmy summer night, we actually were out there at the White River Amphitheater in Enumclaw. It was a happy crowd we plunged into, one generation along the next, people singing along, playing air instruments. The stage show was colorful and enjoyable. I found myself humming along with one or two songs to my own surprise.
Since then, we have been to jazz concerts and musicals all over the place. We have seen and heard rock stars that I grew up with only on the radio. And I have admired amateur stage productions around here that had the same ambition as the big names – to satisfy their audience. And they did.
We love to listen to classical music on the radio every once in a while. I still sing a lot, opera or oratorio arias and lieder, sometimes still at a church or social event, but mostly to myself and when I’m doing the dishes at home. Still, the best moments to me are when my husband grabs his guitar and rocks it. That always reminds me of our first encounter and of how much music – no matter what kind – can bring different worlds together.