6/18/06

Our Big Saturday, Part II

Naps followed. Blessed be the naps. I ate a chocolate bar and tried to take a soccer nap, which is not quite as relaxing as a golf nap (I'm holding out for a golf nap today) - especially because it was the catty, harsh Italy v. USA game. Following naps and a wake-up video, we got ready for our evening at the symphony. No showers, fancy clothes or opera glasses required! Instead, I went in jeans - still smelly from the morning, because it wasn't going to get any better than night - and we brought library books and fast food.

After a drive to the east side and more walking (sigh), we made it to the first annual Symphony at Twilight. We met Jenn, James & Calvin there. Rain was threatening, so they wasted no time starting the performance. Wrangling three kids under three, as we were, Jenn and I were pleased at their accommodating program! While the girls were not really interested in the concert beyond the novelty of seeing all the instruments on stage - and Ilsa successfully identified the conductor when he appeared - I had a good time. They sat reading books, eating, or lying on my lap while I listened.

(Another note: Port-a-potties for symphony-goers are far more posh than those offered to regular philistines. They were extra-wide, very clean, did not smell in the least, despite the heat. I was concerned about washing up afterwards, but they had that covered too. A hand-washing center with water, towels and soap waited for us outside the encampment. Sweet! The girls thought they were just funny toilets - no big deal. And yesterday marked Ilsa's fifth straight day without an accident!)

Mini review: The full orchestra, cramped on a portable stage and sweltering in their formalwear, sounded very professional despite the inclement conditions. The music was projected across the corporate knoll through large open-air concert speakers, the acoustics of which left much to be desired. I missed the Overture! The concert program featured Shostakovich's Festive Overture, the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, the first movement of Mozart's Concerto for Flute No. 1, and Saint-Saëns's "Bacchanale" from Samson et Dalila.

I was really just there for the Beethoven, the hotty. Although the Saint-Saëns was wonderfully exotic, and I must find it from the library.

Although my experience of the Mozart was interrupted by the girls' need to visit the potties again, I had a great time. Akornefa Akyea, a Madison junior in high school (about 16 or 17 years old) recently won a competition among other local youth musicians, and she was rewarded with the feature flute part in the Mozart concerto. What a fantastic experience that was, to see a young woman performing with such authority and flair in front of all those people and experienced musicians. She received a standing ovation but promptly fled the stage when the music stopped, so John DeMain, the conductor, had to call her back up to receive her just praise.

This is less a review of the concert than it is a reflection on my opinions about each pieces, I've just realized. Oh well. I still do not know enough about concert music to discern very good from good from mediocre, so I'll stick with my gut impressions.

Ah, but Beethoven. I wondered recently whether my attraction to concert music and opera was just an intellectual exercise and whether any such music would ever have the effect on me that my favorite bands and classic songs have. Listening to Smétana's Vlatava the other day, I experienced so SERIOUS goose bumps, proving that this my fascination goes beyond mere brain food. Beethoven reiterated this.

The fourth movement of his fifth symphony is a giant, bombastic ode to good over evil. I swear John Williams cribbed it for the theme music to Star Wars! It is huge! The last 40 or so bars are just chords, loud and authoritative, and that's where the goose bumps came in. I was so happy! It is overwhelmingly positive music to experience, which is especially surprising when you consider its ominous opening movement (dum dum da dum, dum dum da dum) and its creepy, slinky third movement. Fun fun!

Unfortunately, the rain threatened too fiercely. Just as we were leaving - undertaking the long walk back to the parking garage a bit early because we had little legs to accommodate - we saw lightning in the distance. As they wrapped up the Saint-Saëns, DeMain called off the rest of the performance. Too bad - missed the Tchaikovsky. But we made it to the garage and into the truck in lightning (baby) speed. The nice thing about driving a big-ass truck in a parking garage is that I could afford to be magnanimous, allowing other drivers to pull out in front of me, rather than grind my teeth at the helplessness of my tiny car, where people pull out in front of me whether I like it or not.

After the show, I had to return a few library books, and a new ice cream parlor has opened up next to the Sequoya branch. We stopped for ice cream, of course, because it was a strange day. Ice cream everywhere, happy babies, fun times. But the night dragged on and on. The girls - literally - did not get to sleep until 11:30. I was in bed, sleeping with Ilsa, and she just... stayed awake. Oh well. Not much to do about that after such a big, big, long-winded day.

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