Hockey and Mozart

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the second performance of the Edmonton Symphony’s “Mozart Effect”, a three-day classical clambake staged in honour of herr Mozart. Music Director Bill Eddins strode onto the stage in a funky silk shirt (not the usual and customary tuxedo), and carrying an Oilers puck for good luck (too bad it didn’t do any good). Eddins is the kind of director that polarizes symphony fans. He’s no pretentious stiff. The guy possesses a rare combination of informal hipness and pure class. He honours the night and the music, but keeps the mood light. The guy gets his mojo into every piece and it’s great to see and hear. In my books, that makes him one super-cool guy and a perfect antidote to the annoying pretensions of the symphony experience. Others (mostly the over 60’s) disagree.

The players opened the night with Mozart’s #1 and laid it out in fine, spine-chilling style. Eddins then hauled a friend from the crowd to the stage and then excused himself to watch the Oil’s power play. I can’t remember the friend’s name, but he burned up the keyboard with a swirl of Chopin craziness for a solid ten minutes while Eddins got his game fix. The first half of the program ended with a dazzling piano quartet that saw Eddins himself tinkling the ivories (amazingly so). Before he took hold of the grand black and white dame, he grabbed a woman from the crowd and deputized her as his page turner. Like I say, the guy’s not your typical tight-assed symphony director.

During intermission, all eyes were glued to the TV. We all watched with dejected sadness as Carolina racked up a three to nothing lead against our Oilers. Some drowned their sorrows with rum and Perrier. Others drank copious amounts of Big Rock. Some contemplated throwing themselves off the glass balcony. One old man in an Oilers jersey finally threw his hands into the air and walked off in disgust. By the time we filed back into the hall it was four to zip. It seemed that our worst fears were coming true. As we found our seats, I sensed that there was a bit of relief in the concert hall. When the first notes of the second half were struck, everyone seemed to settle in and enjoy the music.

Before launching into the second half Eddins remarked, “Well, the good news is that game three is on Saturday. Do you want the bad news? [pause] Didn’t think so. On to Mozart then.” The second half featured a group of serenades that were executed flawlessly. The evening’s finale, the fourth movement of Symphony #41, Jupiter, was incredible. The blurry hands of the players were everywhere. The piece took us somewhere else.

And so, The Oilers’ Cinderella story of adversity continues. Game three rolls on Saturday down at Rexall Place. It should be a barnburner. It’s a do or die moment – the most important game of the series, nay, the season. I’ll have my Mozart handy – just in case.