Stuffed Full of Culture

Last night, Katka and Rasty came over to watch the girls while Keven and I left for a performance of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra at the Overture Center, using tickets Keven bought me at Christmas. I chose this performance of the WCO because of my love for Vivaldi's The Four Seasons concerti, which featured 17-year-old guest violinist virtuoso Caitlin Tully. That brilliant, skinny little Canadian waif has her own Wikipedia entry already! While your average musically-inclined 13-year-old dreams of attending Juilliard one day, Tully has already performed there as a guest.

She was fantastic, managing to appear both relaxed and intent while standing in front of musicians decades her senior, even edging into the conductor's space. Without her standing beside him, he stood perfectly center on the podium; with her, he stood just to the right and out of range of her flying bow. She even managed to add embellishments to Vivaldi's already- elaborate Baroque solos, particularly in the adagios, and I was pleased with myself for having familiarity enough with the music to notice!

As an encore, Tully performed a solo violin interpretation of Sportin' Life's "Ain't Necessarily So" from Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess. How can a violin sound... sleazy? I don't know, but she rendered that memorable, famous aria with considerable gusto and balls, all of which pleased the crowd immensely. Some of the old people actually gasped aloud! I mean, who would have guessed such an odd choice for an encore?

For the evening's opening number, the WCO's strings performed Divertimento by a Finnish composer named Einojuhani Rautavaara, a piece that so struck Keven and I that we've already requested the WCO's CD of it from the library. (Love the library. Worship it.) However, their extended performance of Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, complete with an overbearing chorus and very little actual orchestral music, was a droll disappointment. If I had wanted to go to church... The arts critic for our local paper raved about this selection, which made me shake my head, but he loved Tully's performance too.

After the performance, we headed over to Tutto Pasta for some FANTASTIC pizza and a drink before returning home.

This morning came WAY too early, but we managed to make it out of bed in time to shuffle Juliette off to her ballet lesson. Everything went well, although the kids were pretty jumpy after having spring break off last weekend. Miss Christina gave everyone a copy of the choreography for the show in two weeks, so we'll see what success I can have teaching the thing to Juliette. We stopped by the library on the way home and grabbed some sweet pastries from La Brioche, located next door.

After eating and getting Juliette into street clothes, the girls and I were off to the downtown area again while Keven walked to our community center for indoor soccer. We went to the Children's Museum to attend one of their monthly programs called "Meet the Musician." Our musician for today was the same lady who played the bassoon at the WCO last night. The girls like the bassoon because of their growing familiarity with Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, in which the bassoon represents Grandfather.

I was afraid that Ilsa would not enjoy the live performance because she is easily scared by loud noises. She was scared, for example, of a time last week when Katka played the accordion for us. Today, however, she sat on my lap the whole time, clapping and singing along when the bassoonist played "Twinkle Twinkle" (which sounds very different on a bassoon!) and other children's favorites. Then we played at the museum for a good 90 minutes before making a quick stop for a little lunch.

After the girls split a slice of pizza from Ian's, (I was waiting to get home and eat left-overs of mine from last night), we headed across the street to the Overture Center for their free, weekly "Kids in the Rotunda" event. How cool is Madison? Extra cool.

Performing today was a Brazilian- inspired drum troupe called Hand- phibians. Forget the kids - I wanted to see these guys. They were incredible and very fun. The children and their parents were all jamming along to fantastic samba beats. For a time, because we arrived right as the performance started and the place was very full, I had Ilsa on my shoulders and Juliette on my hip - and I even managed to dance a bit. Thank goodness I've been working out! But whereas I thought Ilsa would be the one afraid of the live instruments, Juliette decided she was having none of that ruckus. She sat in the stroller and waited until we gave up. Ilsa sat contentedly on my shoulders, swaying and jumping along. She even used my head for a drum for a while.

Just as we were about to leave, we ran into Jen P., fiance to my fellow JVC co-president, Dan. She's in the Arts Administration program in the business school and was in Keven's group last semester. She had been pestering Keven, good-naturedly, that we should go to the rotunda event at least once! I was very glad we did. We talked about the upcoming Children's Arts Festival, which has been her project assistantship since the beginning of the year. I had already made plans to attend that with the girls in two weeks. She also mentioned that the 11am performance of Handphibians drew a crowd of 600 people, so I was thankful we had been at the MCM listening to the bassoonist instead!

Now it's after 3pm. The girls are sleeping. I had tasty leftovers, vastly satisfied with our unusual experiences.

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