The contrast was stark. Grim security checks discreetly and efficiently carried out by Symphony Hall staff in the ICC Mall, but once we punters were safely within the auditorium, the opportunity to enjoy life-affirming music-making of the happiest order.
Thursday's opening concert of the CBSO's 2017-18 prospectus was a joyous affair, the "new-created world" of Haydn's great oratorio The Creation bringing together Simon Halsey's fleet-voiced CBSO Chorus and a colour-appreciating CBSO under the enthusiastic and assured direction of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, here celebrating the launch of her first full season at the helm of an organisation which is continuing to boldly go into realms perhaps heretofore undreamt-of.
To begin with, the orchestral playing was totally appropriate to the period of this masterpiece's premiere. String sound was sinewy, vibrato-less (what a chilling Representation of Chaos!), brass were using natural, un-keyed instruments, and timpani rattled contributions which might have been ignored in big-band performances.
The choral complement was huge, but sang with a lightness of touch, Mirga mouthing every word of the English text off pat, foreshortening long notes in order to spice the rhythm, and with an exhilaration which could only enhance the exuberance of the proceedings.
There was a wonderful empathy from the official trio of soloists (Lydia Teuscher, Thomas Hobbs, Matthew Brook) -- now tender, now humorous (loved it when "the worm" dropped an unauthorised octave) in delivery -- supplemented in the finale by an unnamed alto picked from the Chorus and taking her bit-part brilliantly.
Continuo-playing was vividly despatched by cellist Eduardo Vassallo and Ayala Rosenbaum (wizarding surely at the fortepiano instead of the announced harpsichord), both players duly acclaimed at the end.
And so we come to Mirga, finding a perfect balance between the Handel-influenced mighty choruses and the Mozart-suffused solo arias (fantastic CBSO woodwinds), and always allowing Haydn himself to smile genially at us in a work whose performance here almost induced me to reject Charles Darwin and his theories.