Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Ritter/Hahn Recital at Oberlin

As a surprise, I told Katie that the Josh Ritter/Hilary Hahn showcase was sold out about a month ago (that's not the surprise). But for her birthday, I miraculously produced a pair of tickets. So it came to be that we wound our way out of Cuyahoga County and into the verdant fold of Oberlin College. Now, typically for a show, there would be the usual congregates of young folksters, indie kids and the occasional middle-aged couple, rekindling their more adventurous (relative) youth.

So it was with some surprise that what greeted us upon first pass of Finney Chapel, the stately statured edifice just off the main square, was a large, and I mean inordinately large, parade of gray hairs. Thinking that perhaps there was a vespers ceremony before the show, we proceeded to debate the least likely spot to get towed from until venturing inside approximately ten minutes to show time. Apparently, far too late to claim any sort of preferred seating in the joint. As we stepped up the walker and wheelchair strewn aisle, we were shocked to see what looked more like a Billy Graham revival.

It occurred to us that perhaps these fine octa- and nona-genarians were drawn by the billing of Hilary Hahn, the grammy winning violin virtuoso who at 27, is widely considered one of the foremost performers in the United States today
(and therefore, not Mr. Ritter, whose off-kilter neo-folk rock inspires a rather smaller percentage, and younger demographic 0f fans).

So, we found ourselves to be in the (vast) minority. Thankfully, Mr. Ritter served as the opening act, sparing us the pain of eight variations of something called "Andante". (Reader's Note: Some more cultured readers will inevitably accuse me of unapologetic ignorance and despise my blithe rebuke of Ms. Hahn's efforts; they will be correct. I did not come to see a classical recital, I came to hear some rock, dammit.)

Opening with the haunting 'Wings' and following, in a patchwork melange of his own songs and other traditional offerings, Ritter played 9 songs, the finale being the aptly and unsurprisingly placed 'Thin Blue Flame'. The stylization of the performance was what was most striking: typically rollicking and in full regalia on stage, Mr. Ritter played a subdued and exquisitely enunciated set (assumingly for the benefit of those in the Miracle Ear camp in attendance). It was enjoyable, and I was even entreated to dance in the aisle at one point, albeit in slow fashion. In fact, I believe we may have been the only attendees moving at all at that point.

I do not mean to belabor the audience, because indeed there were more than a fair share of Oberlin students up in the balconies, but it just made for such a mundane affair that we had to cut our attendance short and head out for more lively entertainment.

My apologies to Ms. Hahn, of whose performance we heard approximately 45 seconds (though 45 fantastic seconds, to be sure), the maligned senior citizens of Lorain County and my readers, who (if they made it this far) were led on through a rather dull post. We will be sure to read the fine print, or at least between the lines, before we embark on another well intentioned concert adventure.