A day I've been waiting for a long time. This is no Pops concert. This is rock-solid, hard-core chamber music. And not awkwardly squeezed into an available church with difficult sight-lines, but on the magnificent stage of the Waterville Opera House. I feel sure the Opera House will smile to itself that night, with a warm glow in its belly as these compositional delights are channeled through time and space to be as fresh and new as the night of their debuts.
Busy Reality Limits Virtuality
I haven't been prattling on as much here on The (non)Daily Consternation because I've been working hard on making arts and music happen in the real world. It's very exciting that many of my dreams are actually becoming reality.
First, I organized a classical concert June 29 at Common Street Arts. This has come about through the ripening of a number of factors. 1) My involvement with CSA. 2) My casual discussions with my daughter's cello teacher. 3) My law partners' willingness to sponsor the event. 4) My increased familiarity with various online event calendars. 5) My ongoing discussions with Atlantic Music Festival and Daponte Quartet. And there's a whole lot more subtle discussions, conversations, and research, but suffice to say all these simmering ingredients have finally cooked themselves up into a real manifestation of musical goodness. It was a wonderful evening at the gallery, with great music, but more than a little residual stress for me. I learned a lot during this first concert experience and have ideas to make it smoother and less laborious next time.
I feel like I've realized and am at peace with the concept that, at my age, I'm never going to be the musician or be the artist. But it seems my lot in life, and where I can really be useful, given my skill-set as a lawyer and problem solver - but one who happens to have had a 4-year art education and has a BFA and a self-taught love of music and theater - is to be a patron of, advocate for, and organizer of musical events. Essentially, a friend of the arts.
To that end, my service on the Board of Directors for Common Street Arts has been very personally rewarding, and I feel I'm in for the long haul, with no real eye on any horizon for not being involved. There's so many exciting opportunities for enhancing this community and it's downtown and economy through CSA that I can't imagine not being a participant. I find it comes naturally to launch into a prolonged and passionate advocacy speech on behalf of CSA - genuine and spontaneous - reflecting to me and presumably others my sincerity (or insanity?).
Atlantic Music Festival is the other organization I have great enthusiasm about helping to become a bigger factor in Waterville. I have been helping out on a small basis with providing local information to the artistic director about venues, fill-in musician contacts, junior high and high school music directors, housing possibilities, and other "local knowledge" kinds of issues that have been difficult for AMF to sort out due to their remote headquarters in New York City. Their presence here each summer strikes me as a gift and an incredible fluke, and I would hate to see them choose to locate elsewhere because they felt unwelcome and unappreciated in Waterville.
If I can weave together the strands of CSA, AMF, downtown revitalization, and my historical pursuits, I'll really be at the nexus of all the things I want to be.
Atlantic Music Festival 2013
Well, I'm pretty darned excited because Atlantic Music Festival has returned to Waterville. Time for classical music concert binging. Each year I've learned more about the festival; learned more about music instruments; their voices and capabilities; developed new-found love for various composers I was only slightly familiar with; and discovered new composers. It has also been impressed upon me that the best audio recordings really can't capture the magic of live classical performance.
As part of my webtivism, I've been corresponding with the festival's artistic director and sharing some of the digital resources I've developed, like my roster of online event calendars originally developed as an offshoot of my "put Waterville's restaurants on VisitMaine.com" project and my Arts Calendar. The same roster has been serving Common Street Arts also. It would be great to have a kind of "Friends of Atlantic Music Festival" group of locals to help with publicity when they fly in each summer. I envision the Kennebec Classical Series of CSA might serve that function, as well as fostering year-round classical performance here in the Elm City during the rest of the year.
Anyway, I encourage you all to explore one or more AMF concerts. The musicianship and enthusiasm of the players is dynamite. Because the events are free, it is a great way to explore classical music, expand your exposure and knowledge, introduce youth to classical, and just enjoy up and coming superstars of the classical world without any financial risk at all.
Though I will miss the first one or two concerts this season, I plan to beat my 9-concert attendance record from last year. There are a whopping 20 concerts scheduled at press time.
I have been watching news of PechaKucha online, via Facebook, for quite a while. I watched one or two presentations online and was intrigued. Then I came to know Tammy Rabideau, orchestrator-in-chief, through our mutual involvement with Common Street Arts. Her passion for PKN (as it is abbreviated to avoid the awkwardness and insecurity of pronouncing it) convinced me to take her invitation deeper to heart than many invitations I receive. Thus, I overcame the fatigue of a Friday night after a hell of a disjointed week, and the gravity of one daughter to be picked up from a school dance, and two other exhausted family members cozily schlumping out at home. Much as I longed for a recliner, I installed myself in my car and ventured forth, up the long hill to Colby College, to try to find, in the dark, a venue I've not previously been to up there - Ostrove Auditorium.
After researching the campus map online and planning my route and parking location based on landmarks I do know, I found the building readily enough. I had to park a good distance away, but the weather was kind and so the stroll to the building was comfortable enough. The lobby of the Diamond Building was very full, and I recognized only a handful of the other attendees. I stood still a bit and gauged the scene. There was a nice blend of elderly, middle-age, and college age people. Some snacks and synapse-lubricating alcohol were available. I myself eschewed the hooch, since I was still on a steady diet of cold medications from the Acadian Death Cold that had been plaguing me for 20 days. In fact, during my solo stroll to the building I engaged in some vigorous half-intentional power-coughing in an attempt to clear my lungs to sit silently and not be the most annoying man in the auditorium (which I probably only half-succeeded at). Anyway, while a beer sounded good, I didn't want to risk the paranoid delusions I once experienced in college due to an unwise combination of otherwise innocuous cold remedies and alcohol.
After perusing the informational table, which only made partial sense without the benefit of the upcoming presentations, I entered and selected a seat. Ostrove is a fine, modern, comfortable venue. Plenty of legroom I was delighted to find. There's a lot of negativity and contrariness in the air of this nation and town due to election-season. PechaKucha provided a much-needed antidote.
I was in for a night of inspiration and celebration of the human spirit. As follows:
Inspiration #1: The 180-seat Ostrove Auditorium was filled - in fact, there were people standing - for an event that is described by Tammy as "a symphony of ideas." Smart people with open and creative minds. Heartening to say the list.
Inspiration #2: Izzy Labbe, the 14-year old emcee, was dynamite. Her age would suggest she be referred to as a girl. Her poise at the podium, her command of the crowd, and her sense of humor demand she be called a young lady. I would easily have believed she was a college freshman rather than a high school freshman.
Inspiration #3: The format. Each speaker was well-rehearsed to keep their presentation in line with the 20 images they were permitted, each displayed for 20 seconds. Really. 20 seconds. The speaker could not control it. This format is awesome because it keeps the momentum rolling, ensures people are concise, protects the audience against tedium and tangents (though I assure you I detected no such trends), and gives a fantastic rhythm to the event.
Inspiration #4: Margy Burns Knight's (mother of Emilie Knight of Common Street Arts fame) germinating idea for a project examining statues of famous women throughout the country in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment. I was astonished when she displayed a statue of a Native American woman from the Yavapai tribe in my hometown of Prescott, Arizona. What are the odds?
Inspiration #5: Gift Ntuli, an unassuming, kind, and genuine Colby student from Zimbabwe, who matter-of-factly described how he is bettering the lives of orphaned children in his homeland by coordinating the acquisition and delivery to them of solar lanterns so they can study after dark. Their days are consumed with school and survival, since most of their parents have died from HIV/AIDS. The lanterns permit them to study and perform additional chores after night falls. I was moved nearly to tears at how this young man happily described how he has put this project together, and how he intends to continue it and expand it.
Inspiration #6: The friendly, warm, beverage-sipping speech of James Chute describing his project of making drawings while interviewing over 50 female artists. His drawings were juxtaposed with images of representative works by the interviewees.
Inspiration #7: The whimsical-yet-questioning relief and installation art of Barbara Sullivan. She called them frescoes, but to me it was more relief-like in nature. All of it insightful and tinged with humor, her work reminded me of why I've come back to seeking art after a couple of decades out of touch with it.
Inspiration #8: Chatting with librarian Sarah Sugden about the so-called "creative economy" in Waterville and it's potential to invigorate Waterville, during which we got that delightful fervent head-nodding "you're so right" kind of effect going.
Inspiration #9: Tammy Rabideau publicizing and talking up Common Street Arts and, when she asked how many people in the audience had visited the gallery/studio, seeing half the hands in the place go up.
Inspiration #10: Laura Lessing's presentation of the mysteries confronting a curator at Colby Museum of Art.
Inspiration #11: The humble, revelation-packed enthusiasm of Rurik Spence for beekeeping.
With that, I had to reluctantly break away before the last presentation to drive across town and pick up my daughter from the junior high dance. But on my way, I replayed the creative and positive displays of the night in my head and was infused with the warmth of hope, and the conviction that, yes, I would really like to do one of these myself one day. In the meantime, I hope to attend again. And should you attend PechaKucha? Yes. I firmly believe you'd find the presenters interesting, illuminating, and thought-provoking. And even if there is a dud, it'll pass in 400 seconds.
PechaKucha Waterville on the web
PechaKucha Waterville on Facebook
The Recovery of the Dreamer
With a bad cold and a broken-down car, and a generous helping of other chaos, my dreamer's mind has been shut down for a while. Well, maybe I'm feeling a little better today, because, while downloading a free album of songs by Maine musicians, sponsored by Bangor Savings Bank, I stumbled across the story of St. Lawrence Arts, in Portland, which rescued and old church from ruin and turned it into a performing arts venue, just like my Gymnopedie fantasy. Cause for optimism? Sounds like their building was in even worse shape than Gymnopedie by far. Cause for pragmatism? Looks like the efforts to get where they are have taken about 20 years; and Portland has a larger population and is artsy-fartsier. Here's the link to the history of St. Lawrence Arts. Next up, they have a plan to add on a second larger theater to the complex.
Something's happening in downtown Waterville. Something wonderful.
Saturday night, Olas brought Arabic-tinged flamenco dancing and singing to downtown Waterville. Gathered in the intimate space of the Common Street Arts gallery, we witnessed amazing musicianship and dancing. I do believe The Magic Portal was opened once again for a span of two hours.
One of the first things that caught my eye when I entered the gallery was the lute-shaped music case on the floor that housed an oud. It is the ancestor of the lute. I was stunned to see one in person, since I had built a fake lute as a prop for Winslow High School's Production of Once Upon A Mattress last year (a lute, I might add, that did not get the billing or stage time it deserved, given the creativity and time consumption of my design - but I digress).
Prior to the performance, audience members visited and took in the photographs and paintings on the walls, of the current gallery show.
Olas quickly created a fantastic synthesis of three disciplines. I've never quite witnessed such interplay between instrumentalist, singer, and dancer. At times the oudist (is that the right term?), Tom Kovacevic, was staring intently at dancer Lindsey Bourassa, and it seemed his instrument was actually a remote control by which he was controlling her body movements. At other times the multi-part clapping rhythms required the musicians to observe each other intently to ensure each part fit perfectly to create an overarching gestalt rhythm.
The oud sounded ancient and exotic. Kovacevic was an intense player, seemingly melding with the instrument, at times hunched over, staring at his own fingers flying up and down the fretless neck. With something on the order of 14 strings, he had ample room for expression.
Singer Chriss Sutherland's voice was powerful and exotic, sometimes reminiscent of a muezzin, sometimes a soft falsetto. There were growled dark passages, as of a half-drunken mournful man, and half-spoken repetitive mumbles like being at a table with a with friend confessing something. His rich and expressive voice conveyed joy and sorrow with undercurrents of Iberian grandeur. Iberian grandeur? Tom, what the heck are you talking about? Well, watch the videos below (but keep in mind, my little iPhone microphone doesn't really do justice to the nuances of Chriss' voice).
And of course the most dramatic element of the evening was dancer Lindsey Bourassa. I myself am a bit shy about dancing in front of others unless the room is dark, I've had a couple of Colorado bulldogs, and preferably everyone else has too. But she was not daunted by the presence of spectators mere feet from her, and danced with conviction and boldness. I have a pretty good idea boldness is a mandatory element of flamenco dancing. The creative multi-color finish-plywood floor of the gallery provided the perfect surface for her percussive footwork. Rapid tapping with stomping punctuation commanded the attention of the viewer and emphasized the patterns and rhythms woven by the musicians backing her.
My favorite moment was when Lindsey was in the center of the room, accompanied only by the clapping of the band members. She was in full flamenco mode with rapid footwork, skirt flourishes, clapping, snapping, and elaborate posturing. Outside the large glass windows of the gallery, I could see some people emerging from the darkness of Castonguay Square. Revealed by the light from the gallery, I could see expressions of wonder and "what the...?" on their faces. They had just exited an event at the Waterville Opera House across the square. They were drawn to the nearer sidewalk. I saw some of them take a few steps back or sideways to scan the windows and door for signage indicating what this amazing place was, where a woman was flamenco dancing in a small art gallery. Good publicity indeed.
When Lindsey's dance ended, the spectators outside joined in the enthusiastic applause. Artistic Coordinator Kate Barnes stepped out and invited them in for a better look, and several entered before the next song and stood along the gallery walls to watch. They were rewarded with several more amazing numbers, and seemed quite content to stand right there, captivated. At the conclusion of the evening, the audience rose to deliver a standing ovation. The performance certainly revitalized my spirit after a day of rainy gloom, contemplating the labor of dismantling my above-ground pool, and other foiled plans.
As I have joined the advisory committee for the formation of the Waterville Arts Collaborative (read more here), I especially loved that Saturday night there were in fact competing cultural events going on, and all downtown. And I hope that moving into 2013 we can create even more of these wonderful moments.
Olas' music is wonderful, the dancing is beautiful, and they are raising money to produce a film they have made about their music. More information is here: www.olasmusicanddance.com/
Common Street Arts is in it's first year of giving Waterville a big shot in the arm of art and culture. It is beginning to accomplish a goal that I share - to make downtown Waterville the kind of place to recommend to visiting friends and relatives. They are currently fundraising to keep this momentum going in 2013, and the best way you can help is by becoming a member, here: www.commonstreetarts.com/become-a-member/
The Thought Chamber
The shower is where I wake up every morning. The steam clears breathing passages, and slowly I reach the point where I can open my eyes all the way and endure the light and the coming day.
That early in the day, perhaps unrestrained by normal daily concerns, my mind takes off. Like an engine being over-revved, the thoughts, ideas, problems, and solutions come so rapidly you can almost hear the whine of an engine. In complete free association, even the categories they fall in are manifold. The problem is capturing them before they evaporate like the steam from the shower. I can't take an iPhone or a laptop in the shower with me, paper won't work, and I don't fancy writing on the shower walls with a grease pencil. So I just have to recite them to myself like a mantra, hoping to remember until I'm out and dry.
Sometimes my mind is ranging so far afield that, at several points, I have to stop and try to remember what's been washed and what's yet to be done. Don't worry if you have to sit next to me, I always err on the side of re-washing.
Today, a sampling of what crossed my mind:
How about a version of Cyrano de Bergerac wherein the communication aspect is via text-messages?
What would be an interesting study/essay would be to interview a current teenage couple, their parents, and their grandparents on dating practices, communication and interaction frequency and forum, and how it was done in each era - because the current generation's pervasive text-message communications are interesting.
Do Facebook and text messaging reduce teen pregnancy rates because teen couples spend time with each other electronically instead of physically?
The structure and corporate status for Common Street Arts moving ahead.
The Waterville Arts Collaborative acting as an agent or "pusher" to feed events to the MPBN Community Calendar instead of re-inventing a new calendar system on its own website. Maybe the MPBN calendar could be embedded in the WAC website.
Inviting area businesses to bring their employees to CSA for "art breaks" or retreats or lunches.
That one of the vast spaces in my Gymnopedie project could be a venue dedicated to hosting large art installations and performance artists - possibly one of the few venues around permanently focused on providing a forum for such?
Have downtown "malls" built on the idea of antique malls, but for different products, like local furniture/cabinet makers. Each would have their own booth, and would still work and sell out of their current facilities/homes, but would also have an unmanned display booth with examples of their product and the information to contact them. The overarching store space would be coordinated, negotiated, and all the headaches dealt with by WAC, or WMSt. or some such entity.
I should add more video content to this blog and KennebecTom could be something of an Arts Reporter, actually doing visits and interviews and such regarding arts related spaces and events. They may or may not be in the "wacky fun" motif, with faux accents and such.
Find an image of an underwater river observation station that could be installed at the fish elevator adjacent to the Hathaway Building (I have and it will be on "There Oughta Be" soon).
Holding open art critiques for artists who want honest, critical and challenging feedback (not just endless "wonderfuls" and pats on the back). The kind of critiques it is hard to find outside the academic arena. One critic could wear little red horns from a Halloween costume and be the designated "Devil's Advocate", intentionally focusing on challenging the artist to defend their work, and challenging the other critics present to argue against them in defense of the work or in defense of the issues raised or their interpretation of it.
And I'm pretty sure there were a few more that I did forget....
They're crazy. Completely crazy. On August 2, I attended another Salon Series Concert of the Atlantic Music Festival - and the musicians defeated me. That's because they engage in this tag-team gang-up. I sit and watch. Just one mere mortal and his observational faculties. Then musicians start marching out and playing things. Like the ultimate talent show ever. Beginning at 9:00 PM, I stuck with them till 11:30, just after the amazing Carlos Avila and Jonah Kim teamed up again to deliver Brahms' Sonata for Piano and Cello No. 2 in F Major. Later, on Facebook, I asked AMF (whoever the face behind the Page is) how long they kept going. The concert ended at 2:00 AM. Unbelievable. Crazy. And awesome.
For the second piece of the evening, guys came out and partly dismantled the grand piano in preparation for the torments it was to experience. They slid back the top cover to a place where it straddled the strings, and allowed access to the guts of the piano. This also moved the music rack back farther. Then, out came Jade Conlee and Magdalena Wajdzik and squeezed side-by-side onto the piano bench. They then proceeded to play the cacophonous Celesta Mechanism: Cosmic Dances by George Crumb. This involved playing on different ends of the keyboard, tapping lightly on keys and then building in speed and force until virtually pounding on them. They also reached inside the piano and strummed or plucked strings, maybe even banging on them. It was certainly a wake-up call at the beginning of the concert, and it could have been the soundtrack to a footchase scene from The Bourne Identity or a James Bond film.
This was followed by a BEAUTIFUL song, "Mas que un Bolero", sung by Ferzan Demircioglu and composed by Natalia Esquivel-Benitez, who I gather was right there in the audience, as a woman who seemed to fit the name arose, came up, and hugged the singer and shared the enthusiastic applause from the audience.
During the night we also got something of a mini-concert of Dicterliebe by Robert Schumann, as sung by one of my favorite AMF vocalists, William Goforth. Somehow, Goforth reminds me a bit of a classical version of American Idol's Adam Lambert. He is an amazing vocalist, and sings German in a very compelling way. I have no idea the content of the lyrics, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Wenwen Du played piano. She is amazing at the keyboard. I subscribed to her page on Facebook, along with Jonah Kim, to see what other things they do throughout the year, and was startled to see one evening, while I was visiting New York City, that she was at the Disney Store in Times Square, about 1 block from where I was eating dinner. What a small, funny world we live in. Facebook is really a game-changer in a lot of ways.
Following Dicterliebe, was the jazzy, whimsical "What Kind of Dog Are You?", written by Andrew Thomas, who also played piano on the piece that evening. The crowd loved it, and it was a humorous refreshment after the fairly heavy-duty Dicterliebe.
And this brought us to the last piece I could stay for, as I had to get home to bed and preserve some of my 42-year-old mind for work the next day. I made it only to #9 out of the 23 scheduled works. I stuck it out for another opportunity to see Carlos Avila and Jonah Kim play together. They were again a powerhouse duo as they performed Brahms' Sonata for Piano and Cello No. 2 in F Major.
Here's the thing about Carlos Avila. When he plays piano, the note starts before his finger presses the key. You can see it coming. It's like a tennis player winding up. Arm stretched back, back arched, ball tossed gently skyward. You feel anticipation knowing that ball is going to get whacked.
Avila plays piano in much the same way. His whole body goes into each note. You can see the note coming. From where? I don't know. From beyond. From some other universe. The ether. It's as I described in a previous post. The Magic Portal effect. There seems more to each note than just the mechanics of a key driving a hammer into a metal string. There is passion in each tone. Nuance. His chi is focused like a martial artist. And he plays through the note. He has follow-through. The music is noticeably enhanced by this commitment. Each note is not just something that happens for a split second - with a beginning and an end to its existence. The notes are like neutrinos traveling from the sun, passing briefly through us, and then continuing onwards to some other place. You have the feeling that the music has been traveling through space and time since the inception of the universe and that Avila has briefly revealed it us. Afterwards, you have the comfort and the awe of feeling that it continues to exist and will forever. And always, as the last note of a movement or entire piece is fading into hushed silence, it as if, with your ears rather than eyes, you can "see" it receding into the distance until it passes beyond some sound horizon.
I would have loved to stay for the whole concert, but alas, the AMF artists ganged up and defeated me. And I thank them for it.
Leonard Bernstein: Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. It was introduced to us telling us that in it we'd hear some of the theme later developed into West Side Story. True. This piece was interesting in that, if West Side Story was a sculpture, it would be like walking up to a table and finding the broken pieces of the mold it was cast in. You wouldn't quite be able to make out what the complete West Side Story would be like, but you'd get the vague impression of its dimensions and texture. This Sonata is like the mold.
And secondly, the AMF performance of Appalachian Spring, which is the piece that got me off my butt and up to Lorimer Chapel once again, was totally satisfying. The musicians gave it a beautiful and emotionally rich performance.
Oh, finally, somewhere I thought I saw an early draft of the program suggesting Barber's Adagio for Strings would be on the bill. Thank God, I was spared that. I must be the one person on Earth that can't stand the Adagio. I was glad it wasn't played, though I would've endured it to hear Appalachian Spring.
It's a lot easier to review the Orchestra Concerts than the Salon Series because there are only three works performed instead of about EIGHTEEN. Saturday's concert felt like a light dessert compared to Thursday's belt-buster. This was my seventh AMF concert this season. At one point I bragged I'd attend every single concert. But having a family, rivers to kayak, a job, and the typical mammalian need for food and sleep, I fear that's just impossible.
All the AMF musicians being great individually, when they come together in a full orchestra, they are a powerful force indeed. I like to sit in the side galleries when I can, so I can view the conductor's face, and see down the full rows of woodwinds* and brass, because one of them is always up to something. Also, the rest of the crowd (of which I was happy to see a large turnout Saturday night) usually sits elsewhere, so I have freedom of movement. Unfortunately, there's been this covered upright piano parked right in front of my favored zone this year, but I could still see over the top passably well.
Saturday night started for me with an unwelcome companion - an elderly "Earthmother" type, fond of slipping her shoes off and putting her bare feet on the back of the pew in front of her, and even in the hymnal rack on the back of the pew. She bounced in at the last moment, even as concertmaster Dennis Kim stood to call the orchestra and audience to attention. She entered through the stage door, and I had a tense moment when I expected the audience would start applauding, thinking the conductor was coming out, but it was only her with her cup of coffee in hand.
Luckily, the crowd didn't take a miscue. She swept over and plunked down next to me. She was wearing perfume of the scent-category I least like, which was quite noticeable in the still, humid air of Lorimer. I was scooched away a bit, diminishing my carefully planned view.
The orchestra began with Beethoven's powerful Coriolan Overture in C minor. I was previously unfamiliar with this piece, and I now rate it "Awesome", with the capital A. I was somewhat distracted by my seat-neighbor's habit of matching the conductor's vigorous arm-swoops. It was a great piece and a great performance. I'll have to see about getting a recording of it. I applauded enthusiastically but was completely outdone by my neighbor, who leapt to her feet, waved her hands over her head, and hooted a bit. I think one of the flutists noticed and was a bit taken aback. I was leaning to my right, away from her, trying to use body language to inform the audience that "I do NOT know this woman."
Part way through the performance, I realized my mind was dwelling on her, and not the music. I knew I had to move a little farther down the pew. My ex-seatmate seemed to take no offense, as it afforded her the opportunity to stretch her legs out on the pew where I had been seated, and she could half-turn conveniently to set her coffee on the windowsill. My move inhibited my view further, but soothed my psyche.
The second piece was Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 2 in E flat minor. Performance - 5 stars. Composition - 2 stars. I'm just not going to be a Schoenberg-lover I guess. The conductor was correct that the finale was powerful, and I did enjoy that bit as a demonstration of orchestral shock-and-awe. I'll tell you who does appear to love Schoenberg - clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich. When not playing, he was staring at the score, swaying with the intensity of the music, and sometimes grinning as if agreeing with and approving Schoenberg's intentions. So while I didn't connect with Schoenberg myself, it was neat to see Gleb enjoying it. The clarinet parts appeared pretty challenging and during the bows I did give a standing ovation** directed at Gleb for his enthusiasm. I have no doubts about his skill after the last Salon Series concert.
It was also then that I had the thought that Schoenberg was communicating with Gleb, with the orchestra, with all of us, over the years and from beyond the grave, through those notes on the scores. I thought it amazing this system of musical notation, a true international language, has been created to allow the greatest composers to communicate with us over the centuries. For their thoughts and feelings and emotions to survive in a kind of immortality. And then my brain connected this to painting and literature, and then it seemed to be a commonplace and unremarkable thought and...oh well.
During intermission I took the opportunity to relocate entirely. I scouted the center balcony, but chose to sit in the nave. It wasn't a great seat, but I had a pretty good view of pianist Zoe Lu during Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major. The orchestra was mostly blocked from view by the grand piano. Zoe Lu was very energetic, and brought a powerful sound from the piano despite her petite frame. She earned a standing ovation and three bows from the audience and I. My own applause was targeted at her skill and in recognition of the colossal time and dedication it must have taken to master the piece.
Another fine night. It's quite an artsy summer for me, as the week after AMF ends, I'll be visiting NYC for three Broadway shows, a tour of Juilliard with my oboe-playing daughter, a visit to MOMA and more.
*I asked my wife, "Is a flute considered a woodwind?" She said yes. I sat in silence mulling this. Knowing exactly what I was thinking, she added, "Light on the wood, heavy on the wind." File under: Reasons Why I Love Her.
**On the issue of standing ovations, I am mindful of my beloved bride's disdain for standing-O pushovers, who give a standing ovation at the drop of a hat. There's really a lot of considerations for standing ovations. My family has and does view performances by little kids, junior high, and high school bands and choruses, dance recitals, music camp orchestras and jazz bands, high school plays, theater performances at Theater at Monmouth and Maine State Music Theater, and professional Broadway companies. So I usually adjust my standing ovation criteria. Sometimes it's based on the composition, sometimes the skill, sometimes the enthusiasm, sometimes what the rest of the crowd does. I'm self-conscious about being perceived as an unsophisticated pushover, but also as a grouchy hold-out. [sigh] It's so complicated. And some nights at AMF, things are so great I'd be giving a standing ovation to every piece. I guess I kind of grade on a curve.
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