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The Blue Hair Concert


Our first house in Arizona sat at the circular end of an extended cul-de-sac tucked away in a community of middle-class homes for young adults and their many young children. A mile or so away, the border of Sun City with its cookie-cutter homes for older adults and no children taunted us with visions of our future. At the time of our move, Peoria, our city, although founded in the 1800s, was fitfully emerging from its agricultural beginnings and lacked many amenities. Sun City, on the other hand, was host to opportunities especially if your preferences include those preferred by older people, in my case, classical concerts.

Hammered by moving expenses, kids in college, two mortgages, and only one job, we were on a tight financial diet. I was excited to learn that a noted university was offering a free concert at a church in Sun City on a Friday evening. Perhaps Mike and I could grab dinner afterward.

Mike and I learned that day of a tradition in Sun City—Sun Citians arrive at events no less than one-half hour early. Luckily we had arrived in time to find seats in a pew in the bright, spacious sanctuary. We passed the time by reading about this congregation. Mike could join the choir: it rehearsed on Wednesdays at 2:30. Afterward, they probably went out for an early bird special at the buffet. Alas, there were no youth programs for our son, ruling out our attendance.

As we perused the program notes, we glanced inquisitive eyes upon us. People smiled but questions in their eyes remained unspoken. I could see people perk up as a woman near us asked, “Do you have a son or daughter in the choir?”

“No, we live nearby and wanted to hear some good music.”

“It’s just that you are younger than all of us.”

Yep. Those were the days.


I call these blue hair concerts, referring to the bluish-white hair coloring popular with older women in the ‘50s. The audiences at matinees and early evening productions glowed with shiny whiteness. Mike and I are horrified that we now blend in, blue hair no longer being a thing and our bodies proclaiming our age.

The events frequented by seniors are not without humor. Cell phones ring despite the cheerful appeal to silence them prior to the performance, and they continue ringing until someone alerts the owner of the phone or it goes to voicemail. Members of these audiences, usually men, clamber over legs and purses in the middle of a piece, often more than once during the concert, responding to the call of nature that gives no warning at this age. The opera heroine emitting her final breath with a surprisingly powerful trill is harmonized with the whistling and chirping of hearing aids perceived by everyone except the person wearing them.

This year’s Phoenix Symphony Orchestra performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 6 “Pathetique,” one of my favorites, swaddled me in perfect sound—is this what Heaven is like? The Pathetique ends not with a crash of sound but with diminishing pure tones that conductor Tito Munoz stretched into the ether, the audience’s trance interrupted by gentle snoring terminating with a strident gasp and strangulated snort as the wife jolted the sleeper awake. That may be sexist, but my experience assures me it is usually men who fall asleep.

I relax and open my body to experience the audio vibrations of the music, ignoring people rising as the baton floats down for the final note, seats banging into place, murmurs of apology as people with poor balance who should not rush try to rush out of the middle of the row to beat the traffic. As if they will be late for work.

I thought the standing ovation was an Arizona thing having rarely witnessed it except at rock concerts where everyone is standing anyway. Recently, though, Mo Rocca featured the tradition on his podcast, Mobituaries. He wishes it would die, along with restaurant buffets and noise. I avoid restaurant buffets. It is impossible to avoid noise. Although I think standing ovations for every performance are ridiculous, I am deeply appreciative of well-played music and rise to show enthusiasm. That, and I stand to see if I can still move and prepare for the mad rush to the car to avoid the traffic backup.

After that first concert in the church, the night still young, in fact barely begun, we decided to stop for a piece of pie. Restauranteurs had already rolled up their carpet despite the bright late afternoon sky. We located a chain restaurant noted for its pie, probably Cocos. The parking lot was empty. I ran to the door to peer in, saw a waitress, and signaled to Mike to park. The waitress greeted us enthusiastically in the otherwise empty room.

“Are you open?”

“Yes, and you get a whole pie for the price of a slice.”

What a deal. Blue hair concerts might be okay.

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