For months, my wife and I and our friends have been looking forward to the annual Christmas show, the “Holiday Pops” of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). We’re regular attendees of the Boston Pops, because we enjoy their music and they always put on a good show. We’ve been to over a dozen shows in the past few years, and have never had a negative experience or bad thing to say about them.
Until Saturday night.
The live performance we attended was telecast on PBS that evening and we had seats with two of our friends on the floor. The floor seating at Symphony Hall is unlike most orchestra seating — it’s cafe-style, with tables, folding chairs and food and beverage service. It’s usually a festive atmosphere, with families and people dressed-up for a special evening. However, as soon as the orchestra starts playing, people quiet down and respectfully listen. Sure, there’s the occasional whispering or quiet conversation that occurs, but most people understand that everyone is there for the music.
Except the drunk group next to us.
They came in a half-hour late and were seated in-between two musical numbers. Apparently the front of house staff could care less about seating an obviously drunk and disorderly group of 5 people. As soon as they were seated, they continued their conversation they were having. Over the music. In fact, throughout the next 40 minutes until intermission, their conversations continued on, non-stop. Sometimes they even tried to speak over the music so others in their party could hear.
Before intermission, my wife turned to them and asked if they could please be quiet, as we couldn’t hear the music over their talking. One woman, the alcohol fumes spewing from her mouth, said, “No, why don’t you mind your own business?” A small argument ensued and it became quickly apparent they were too drunk to care or change their behavior.
At intermission, we contacted Sid Guidicianne, Boston Symphony Hall’s long-time House Manager. We explained the situation to him, that this group of people were talking over the music and were inebriated and didn’t care. He came over to their table and spoke with them. Instead of a stern warning or such, though, he actually stood there laughing and joking with them. From what we could tell, they basically said, “Hey, we’re not causing any problems, we’re just having a good time.” His response was apparently, “Okay, have fun!”
After intermission and the useless exchange with Guidicianne, the group got progressively worse. They threatened to throw wine on my wife, and kept up their narrative about the show, about whatever it was that amused them, etc. through the entire second half. During quiet numbers, they made jokes about others seated around them or the conductor, Federico Cortese. My wife was in tears at the end of the performance because of this group’s inappropriate behavior and the BSO’s indifferent response to our plight.
Others seated around them shot nasty looks, but nobody wanted to cause any more trouble, especially after seeing the lack of any positive results from the house manager “intervention.” In fact, after seeing the situation deteriorate even further after intermission, most patrons just “grinned and bared” it. I guess we were supposed to too.
Today, we called the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) to complain about the drunken group of people next to us, and about the House Manager’s complete indifferent and flaccid response. We simply wanted a refund, as the performance was very much ruined by this group. Randie Harmon, the BSO’s manager of customer service, had this to say after talking to Guidicianne:
“I apologize for the difficulty you had at the Holiday Pops Concert. However our Front of House Manager and near by [sic] Ushers asked other patrons in your area if those patrons had been rude and everyone said no. […] If you would like to report these patrons to the Boston Police you are encouraged to do so.”
Basically, Ms. Harmon is calling both my wife and I liars. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seated around this group was upset. Two people at two different tables talked to us about the group and the situation. And if other ushers spoke to these patrons, we never saw it. The only person we saw who spoke to anyone was Guidicianne, and he only spoke to the drunk group once after we had complained. Apparently as far as the BSO is concerned, people who are disruptive and drunk are more than welcome to come to their events.
What the hell are the Boston Police going to do about a drunk group of adults at a symphony orchestra event two days ago? What a completely ridiculous suggestion.
Now, don’t get me wrong… My wife and I and our friends enjoy having a good time as much as the next person. We think it’s fun to hang out and talk and drink and be merry. But when you go to a show, you’re there first and foremost to listen to and enjoy the show. If you’re so drunk that the show just becomes background music and you’re oblivious to the disruption you’re causing to others around you, then you shouldn’t bother. Go to a bar or a rock concert or somebody’s house. Don’t go to the symphony just to make fun of the conductor or others around you.
As it is, we’ll not be attending any more Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) events any time soon. Perhaps others should boycott the BSO as well until they get their priorities straight about seating and allowing people who are drunk to ruin dozens of other patrons’ evenings.