In the weeks leading up to my venture here in Kansas City (I was a KC virgin up until my arrival yesterday afternoon), I've had numerous people give me their impressions of this city, which have been unanimously positive. I didn't know much about it beforehand, except that I had some very good family friends and a couple of wonderful colleagues who hailed from here. In recent weeks, as tomorrow's concert loomed closer and closer, people have described it as one of their favorite cities, and they've ordered me to go to a variety of places to eat barbequed flesh of various sorts. One random preview that made me smile was when a friend showed me this video from the local news over drinks at another friend's house. I would be so overjoyed if this woman came to our concert tomorrow.
Anyway, in my less than 24 hours here so far, I am totally charmed by the place. Upon my arrival at the airport, my driver even offered to give me a short tour of downtown before he dropped me off at my hotel – something I've never experienced from someone who works for a car service before. I've been impressed by the happy, easygoing, and welcoming atmosphere every moment since.
Last night, after a drink and quick dinner with the conductor and horn player, I ran to see some friends perform in the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's fun production of Pirates of Penzance. As I took my seat up in the top of the balcony of the almost sold-out theater, the person in the seat next to me started up a conversation. He asked me where I was from, and I told him that I flew in from New York City that morning. A little while into our conversation, he rolled his eyes and said for some not-so-evident, self-conscious reason, "Well, I mean, Kansas City isn't quite as cultural as New York." Taken aback, I looked around me at the multitudes of audience around us and pointed out that the crowd indicated that Kansas City was doing just fine on the culture front. About an hour into the performance, hearing the audience's uproarious and uncontrollable laughter and applause after each number, I wondered when the last time any classical music venue in New York was sold-out with an audience so clearly and naturally enjoying themselves on a Wednesday night. People here quite obviously genuinely enjoy their culture just fine. I'm quite impressed, Kansas City, quite impressed.