I live near The Anthem, the concert venue at the Wharf in SW DC. They have a seating capacity of nearly 6,000, and I’m often amazed at the lines of concertgoers waiting for admission—a line that can stretch for nearly half a mile.
I also live near Nationals Park and Audi Field, and regularly see hordes of sports fans on their way to enjoy the ball games. Why can’t we in the arts world generate similar crowds?
It’s not the ticket prices, or the lack of beer, or the parking, or post- pandemic laziness. I’m afraid it’s the fact that serious arts have a smaller and smaller profile in our cultural life. I think the solution begins with education and continues with social awareness and appreciation.
I’ll give you an example. Even though I went to Walter Johnson High School, a school named after a great Senators pitcher, no one taught me to appreciate baseball, but I did grow up with music, dance and theater. Take me to a ball game, and I drown my boredom in (expensive) beer. Take me to a concert, and I’m transported.
This past week, I decided to embark on a mini-cultural marathon.
First stop, Arena Stage to see Holiday, a 1928 Broadway comedy of manners.
Next to Strathmore Music Center. Washington Performing Arts’s Orchestra Series is in full swing this season, opening with the exciting City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with two musical stars, conductor Mirga Grazinyté-Tyla and cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason in Elgar’s Cello Concerto.
The following evening, Gianandrea Noseda was conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in another British cello work, Britten’s Cello Symphony written for Mstislav Rostropovich, and featuring NSO principal cellist David Hardy.
The next day, I heard The Thirteen Choir perform Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, a transformative experience.
Each performance was greeted with standing ovations and cheers. But they were not full houses. We say it so often, “there’s nothing like a live performance.” It’s true. We can listen to the radio and recordings, and stream our favorite shows, but none of those experiences can compare to the joy of being part of a community sharing art together—something baseball and soccer and rock fans understand.
After my eventful cultural marathon, I’m not tired, but energized. My mission today is to encourage you to go to a live event—take the kids (the National Philharmonic has free tickets for children). Many concerts are free, many have easy parking. But get out and feel the joy, and support the arts while you’re at it. And if you’re a baseball fan, by all means, enjoy that too!
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