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Encore at Symphony Hall

Saving the best for last at a classic Brahmin redoubt

Author Lloyd Schwartz

BOSTON—It’s a wet, cold Friday afternoon and the atmosphere at Symphony Hall is getting steamy, but only in the literal sense. In the moments before the Boston Symphony Orchestra begins its matinee performance, an elegant if bedraggled gray-haired woman makes her way through the crowd, the hem of her fur-lined raincoat dripping. At Row Y she encounters a distinguished-looking acquaintance, who asks, “How was Sweden? Did you have a nice trip?”

Opened in 1900, Symphony Hall is only slightly older than the majority of those who attend its afternoon concerts. Many people here use wheelchairs, canes or respirators. Some have had subscriptions since they were children, their seat allocations handed down through generations. In a city known increasingly for being young, stylish and cutting-edge (nearby MIT is mounting robot operas), the BSO matinee remains a Brahmin stronghold.

Halting at Row Y, the woman slowly, carefully starts to remove her clear plastic rain kerchief. The question still hangs in the air—How was Sweden?—and some of the people within earshot lean in to hear the answer. “Oh, yes,” she says finally, setting down her gear and resting her knee on one of the leather seats. “Sweden was wonderful. No boots, no umbrellas, no raincoats. We were driven everywhere in a limousine. I loved it!” The eavesdroppers, satisfied, return to their programs.

Then, with cheery nonchalance, the woman adds, “When we got home, I said to my husband, ‘Dear, why don’t we use that Nobel money to buy a limousine of our own?'”


One Response to “Encore at Symphony Hall”

  1. Pertinax Says:
    December 25th, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Read this piece on a flight yesterday. It made me laugh out loud (as did a couple of the other “dispatches”). I actually took the magazine with me. First time I’ve ever done that.

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