Going to the symphony has long been a luxury reserved for royalty, noblemen, and aristocrats. In short, people who aren't students. But now, thanks in part to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, things have changed.

Since 2001, the TSO has offered tsoundcheck, a cheap ticket programme for those between the ages of 18 and 35. This is a sort of revolution in the experience of classical music, akin to, say, Schoenberg’s atonal technique. Going to the symphony is suddenly the same price as going to the movies. Not to mention, it makes for a much better date.

The tsoundcheck programme has been successful both in sales and in making the TSO audience one of the youngest and most diverse in classical music. The same could be said of the orchestra itself, which has a sizable contingent of a younger players. In fact I had spoken to flautist Leonie Wall moments before a recent show, who had just finished biking to work.

Also unencumbered by convention is the selection of the TSO, which prominently features music from a wide variety of genres and eras. From the sublime heights of Beethoven to the whimsy of The Wizard of Oz, all brands of music are represented. The only thing a prospective patron has to do is pick a programme to enjoy.

But can you enjoy the music too much? When asked about the taboo practice of enraptured applause in-between movement breaks, horn player Gabriel Radford responded by saying that adherence to such decorum was, from the perspective of the pit, “the last thing on our mind.” Radford added that knowing their playing is appreciated only helps them.

Of course not every piece played will move you to fits of rapture, though it certainly helps to listen to the programme beforehand. But even when a piece isn’t beloved, there is something majestically tender about the unamplified sound of a 100 piece orchestra reaching out to an audience. And when the TSO is on fire, the experience is incredibly electric, even exhausting, like a type of sonic yoga. It’s no wonder some people pay full price for this.

tsoundcheck is free to join and tickets can be bought either online or at the Roy Thompson box office for $14 each. The upcoming Christmas season includes numerous performances of holiday favourite, Handel’s Messiah.

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  • Subtitle: Taking your date to the symphony will get you to third base
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