Sometimes you have to take one for the team.
And that’s just what Patty and I did last night, when we went to the Kansas City Symphony concert instead of staying home and watching the third game of the World Series.
Our friends Tom and Pat Russell had invited us to the concert weeks ago, and we accepted, having no idea, of course, that the Royals would still be playing and that the event would fall on a World Series night.
There was no copping out or turning back, of course, and, besides, the program looked great: Richard Wagner’s Overture to The Flying Dutchman; two pieces to be performed by the Symphony Chorus, backed by the orchestra; and a Felix Mendelssohn symphony.
Now, you’d think that it would be difficult to build a bridge between the World Series and a symphonic concert, but our genius of a music director, Michael Stern — a true Kansas City treasure — made it look as natural a combination as mortar and brick.
Actually, the bridge building started with Symphony executive director Frank Byrne’s introduction. He knew that just about everyone in attendance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was thinking about the game, which began slightly less than an hour before the 8 p.m. concert. So, his first words after “Good evening” were: “You made the right choice.”
The house — peppered with empty seats, even right down front — erupted in laughter. He didn’t divulge the score, saying he was deferring to some people who were recording the game to watch it later — but gave a hint: “Things are going well,” he said, or something to that effect. The score at the time, of course, was 1-0 Royals.
Then out came the irrepressible Stern who has led the Symphony for 10 years and has shown himself time and again, especially at the Union Station Memorial Day Weekend concerts, to be a man of the city.
He began by talking about what led him to select the musical pieces that comprised the night’s program, talking about connections between one composer and another, and then he added, titillatingly: “But stronger forces were at work.”
At that point, he launched into a boisterous spiel that culminated with him shouting in German: “Twenty-nine years is too long! Twenty-nine years is too long!” The crowd erupted again, before he took off on another concocted “connection,” which ended with him quoting someone yelling in German, “Beat the Giants, beat the Giants!”
Next, Stern struck up the 160-member Symphony Chorus into the most rousing rendition I’ve ever heard of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The result? A standing ovation, even before the Symphony had thrown its real “first pitch.”
At intermission, people streamed to the lobby, checking their cellphones. When we first left the seats, the score was 3-0 Royals in the top of the sixth inning — which told us that Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was having his way with the Giants. But by the time intermission ended, it was a different story. The Royals were leading 3-1, but Kelvin Herrera had been brought in to relieve Guthrie in the bottom of the sixth, and the Giants had runners on first and second with no outs. Yikes!!
But then the ushers started playing the portable chimes, directing us back into Helzberg Hall. Weighed down with unease, we returned to our seats. As I sat nervously in my seat, I kept telling myself there was not a thing I could do about the game and that I should do everything I could to put it out of my mind and enjoy the music. I would find out what happened soon enough.
Fortunately, the post-intermission piece, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, was a blockbuster. It had a red-faced Stern vigorously punching the air at various points, eliciting smashing musical exclamation points, and featured an enrapturing solo by principal clarinet player Raymond Santos.
And, yes, the music did what I had hoped, sweeping me away from the torturous thoughts of whatever might be going wrong for the Royals at AT&T Stadium in San Francisco.
Stern put the capper on the show, when, after the first round of a standing ovation, he returned to the stage wearing — what else? — a Royals jersey.
As we filed out, we saw, happily, that the Royals led 3-2 in the eighth inning. After a long trek to the car, on the lowest level of the Kauffman Center garage, we immediately switched on the radio, to hear that the Royals went down in order in the top of the ninth.
That brought up Royals’ maestro Greg Holland, to handle the bottom of the ninth. We hung on every pitch, as we listened to Denny Matthews’ low-keyed call of the game and waited for traffic to clear to get out of our parking spot. One-two-three, down the Giants went, and, as we high-fived in the car, the parking garage resonated with a victorious chorus of honking horns.
And then we concert-goers went out into the night, going our different directions but all thinking the same thing: Our Royals are within two wins of taking the World Series.