This morning, the school orchestra performed in the auditorium. First period classes were postponed, no excuses were accepted. Everyone went to the gym to listen.
The students sat in relatively straight rows, the parents had their cameras ready, and the orchestra sat on stage waiting for the conductor’s baton to descend. The brass instruments gleamed, every button on every orchestral uniform had been buttoned, every shoe lace tied, every hair on every head combed. The orchestra students had been practising for months – their big moment had arrived.
The music started. The orchestra certainly isn’t the London Philharmonic, but they’re not bad. I had expected the chatting to stop once the music started but it didn’t. If anything, it got louder.
The students in the audience squirmed and wiggled, and a few boys punched each other. The parents chattered, and some even busted out cans of coffee and snacks. Cell phones rang and were answered every few seconds. My co-T wanted to discuss the next day’s lesson.
“Umm…. didn’t we come to listen to the orchestra?” I whispered.
“Oh! Do you like music?” she asked, in a normal voice.
“Well, in Canada…,” I began, knowing that this was about to become an awkward cultural moment. “The students aren’t allowed to talk at assemblies. Everyone is supposed to be quiet and listen.”
“Really? But what if you are not interested?”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re interested or not,” I tried to explain without causing insult. “In Canada, it’s considered polite to listen.”
“Oh. But why would you listen if you were not interested?” my co-T seemed intrigued.
She did have a point. Still, it seemed odd that they would have gone to all the fuss of cancelling classes and getting everyone to the gym if nobody was going to listen…