It'll be all white on the night

Tomorrow evening is a big test for Dunedin.

It is a big test for a city of embarrassingly dressed men and women who would not know a smart suit jacket and a well cut pair of pants if that apparel dragged them into an alley and made fast and loose with their modesty.

It is a big test, because the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is coming to town to play Beethoven's 7th Symphony.

They are coming to town, it will be a big night out, and if I see that fellow with the beige pants and Fair Isle jersey and the brown shoes with scuff marks I saw at the last orchestral event I will take to him with my walking stick, by God.

It wasn't always this way.

In times gone by it didn't matter where you were from, you wore a smart overcoat and a hat, and you wore a tie even when you were working in the garden.

So let's get this right.

It is unfortunate that legendary conductor Bernard Johan Herman Haitink, CH, KBE and the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest (also known as the The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra) are not performing the wonderful 7th Symphony on the Arts Channel before tomorrow night.

If the performance were not being broadcast on December 5, some of the more embarrassing Dunedin orchestra-goers might have been able to have a look at how such events go down overseas.

Beige pants are - conspicuously - not worn.

Woolly jerseys are not in evidence.

Take a clue or two from Bernard Johan Herman Haitink, CH, KBE.

He enters the Concertgebouw on his 80th birthday, climbing the steps to the stage in a manner most dignified, with the help of a walking stick.

He places the stick beneath the conductor's podium and stands erect, in his full 80-year-old glory.

He has a white bow tie.

He has a white baton.

He has - get this - the most superb white cummerbund.

It is that sense of dress - that attention to every detail sartorial or otherwise that puts him in such a commanding position in front of the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest.

It may be why at 80 years of age he is happily married for the fourth time.

The old devil.

Then, of course, there is Beethoven's 7th.

Not the first movement, which is good.

But the second movement - the allegretto - which is sublime.

It soars.

It is majestic.

It is triumphant and euphoric, an ocean of deep yearning set to music.

And everyone who goes to see it dresses - or should dress - respectfully.

And I will be there.

With my walking stick and a skinful of cheap sherry.

Be warned.

- Charles Loughrey