Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen

Bach for Christmas: Jubilant

In the audience for Portland Baroque Orchestra and Trinity Cathedral Choir's Christmas Oratorio: For a music lover, it's pure pleasure

Story and photographs by Friderike Heuer

There are limits, but also advantages, to being a moderately educated music lover – like yours truly – rather than a professionally trained music critic. Good music critics bring an ear, lots of analytic skill, attention to detail, a huge memory bank and the ability to make connections to the table. Their verdicts help listeners to decide what music to listen to and what to be alert to; their feedback also helps orchestras, choirs, soloists to improve performance.

The richness of their experience is undeniable. But their experience is also focused and informed in ways that make their experience distinct from that of the average concert-goer. When professional critics attend concerts,  they need to get all of the performance details right, and their task to assess the performance induces a cognitive load which can be at odds with emotional immersion. They sit at the outside looking (or listening, as the case may be) in while the rest of us have the chance to experience a whole that is comprised not just of the performance but many other interacting factors.

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