Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The LincolnInCleveland 2009 Annual Report

As we wind up 2009 it's interesting to take a few minutes to look back on the year behind:

Travel: Still haven't left the continent, but crossed off states #25 (Tennessee), 26 (Minnesota), and 27 (Wisconsin) on my list. I was in the air 25,465 miles for nearly 59 hours, bringing my total since 2003 to 151,102 miles, and 392 hours, equivalent to a little over 6 times around the world in 2 1/3 weeks. Since January 1st I spent 53 nights in 26 hotels, all but 5 of those being work related.

Highlights included two extended visits to San Francisco and a spur-of-the moment weekend in Philadelphia -- both cities that I last visited when I was much younger and very pleasantly surprised on my solo visits. Both cities are immensely walkable and there's something liberating about being in a city without a rental car or GPS. "Its amazing what you can find when you aren't looking for it" is my motto to justify not making plans before arriving in a city... and I've yet to be disappointed.

Thanks to a friend of a friend I visited all four of the Walt Disney World Resorts (Disney World, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios) for the first time while on business in Orlando -- have some great memories and Disney World brought back some weird de ja vu compared to the west coast's Disneyland. I also made it to Cedar Point for the first time...that's just pure awesomeness.

Oh, the places I've been... My travel by land and air through 12/29 - click for the big version:

Performing Arts: The beginning of the year saw the end of my challenge to attend at least one performing art event each week, every week, for a year. Not only did I complete this goal, recently my average attendance has been 2-3 per week, with a high in the beginning of December of 5 events in 5 days. And there are still events I was interested in that I managed to miss.

I discovered the musical Spring Awakening and stalked it across the country -- 6 times in 3 states, but the most amazingly memorable performance was when I was on stage in Philadelphia. Words cannot describe. I might still wind up in in Hershey or Cincinnati to try for #7.

The more you listen, the more you learn and I became a common sight at Cleveland Orchestra concerts. I discovered a passion for classical music that I am still exploring, through the Orchestra, CIM, and the [HUGE] number of organizations dedicated to the art in Cleveland.

I found that I prefer classical live and contemporary recorded -- my iTunes music collection passed the 4,400 track mark covering 400 years and virtually every known genre. The 20GB iPod I thought was insanely huge 5 years ago is now completely full... my iPod touch has a sliver of room remaining.

Singleness: I met more women in 2009 than the rest of the decade combined... but still haven't found someone with whom things have clicked. Maybe my standards are too high. I'm not lowering my standards any time soon. (I'm tempted to add that women tend to silently fall of the face of the earth making the not interested/interested but playing games/out of town thing so much harder to figure out, but that may fall into the category of "rash generalization")

I think that sums up the major areas in my life...


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Up In The Air

So I don't normally post on the mainstream film I see; largely because I view mainstream film as a mindless escape -- somewhere where I can go sit in a dark room and turn my brain off for a few hours.

Up In The Air, however, is noteworthy. In several respects I am Ryan Bingham (George Clooney's character)... on some levels that disturbs me; on most levels it probably should distrurb me. The film's poster is that of a man staring out a window at a 747. That window is next to Gate A40 at Detroit Metro Airport's (DTW) McNamara Terminal. I have stared out that window more times -- and for more hours than I care to admit.

The Film's tag line is "The Story of a Man Ready To Make a Connection" -- I'm going to stop short of calling it this blog, but the connection welcomes itself.

While not exactly a road warrior by most definitions -- I've only spent about 50 nights in hotels since January 1st and only fly about 30,000 miles in the average year; but a quote early on in the film "All the things you probably hate about traveling are warm reminders that I am home" resonates. I should probably be ashamed to admit it, but I dig Elite status (Carrying Continental Silver Elite, Delta/Northwest Silver Medallion, and Hilton HHonors Diamond credentials). I speak near-fluent airport codes. I wouldn't mind the hotel bar scene where Ryan meets Alex (Vera Farmiga) playing itself out in real life -- however, the later turn in their relationship was disheartening. Careerwise I find little in common; the travel and relationships... Maybe there is hope for me.



Here's the trailer:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dobama: Gutenberg: The Musical

This is a play I really, really, really wanted to like. I can't say that I hated it, and parts were certainly enjoyable but on balance the script left me mildly annoyed. I know the show has a little bit of a cult following... but I didn't get what makes it cult worthy [then again, the same can probably be said for the number of times I've seen Spring Awakening].

It is, in essence, a musical about the making of an historical fiction musical based on Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. With a Holocaust, love story, and a few random dance breaks thrown in for good measure.

I've been interested in seeing Gutenberg since I saw it on Dobama's schedule but I've been saving it for this weekend because this weekend it is literally the only performing arts show to be seen (at least from the various postcards, season schedules, and emails I get) in Cleveland.

Perhaps I'm not as big of a musical theater fan as I consider myself (though I did get the foreign-language What You Own from Rent and One Night in Bangkok from the little-known Chess, a collaboration between the guys from ABBA and Tim Rice and show that I did lighting design/programming for in Southern California among the pre-show music) but I only got a handful of references to other theater.

Essentially, the gimmicks ran long but were never funny for more than the initial punch. While exuberantly acted and overacted (as apparently required by the script) the pacing and overacting was uneven and the gimmick, as with the hat gimmick to a lesser extent, didn't wear well on me. It was clear that I was seeing a carefully rehearsed play rather than a spur-of-the-moment creation (as contrasted with B-W's production of [Title of Show] back in May)

That being said I had not previously considered "Musical" and "Dobama" in the same thought; while not a full fledged musical by any stretch it was interesting to see Dobama produce a play with music.

Overall: "Eh"


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas & I'm covered in paint

First... wishes for a Merry Christmas for those whom aren't offended by such wishes.

Since it seems like a waste of a blog post to end there...

The paint on the ceiling of my living room/dining room/kitchen (the wonders of an open-floorplan townhouse) has been mildly annoying me for a while now. Roller marks were visible from the previous painters, and I didn't exactly help matters with some "touchup" work I did a few months ago. (Having the laundry on the 3rd floor is awfully convenient but it makes for lots of collateral "fun" if you ever have a leak)

I don't like painting generally and I hate painting ceilings -- the painting itself can be fun, but the prep and cleanup is interminable.

But between the fact that I don't need to be back in the office for 12 days and the fact that my annoyance with the quality of the paint has overwhelmed by hatred for painting I decided to tackle that task. I have to say that it looks much better then when I started...

I have to say for 3 hours of prep, 700 square feet of plastic drop cloth, a few hundred yards of painter's tape, and a gallon of paint (totalling about $60) it turned out refreshingly well.

I'm not sure though if I managed to get more paint on myself or on the ceiling and will probably be picking ceiling paint out of my hair well into the new year.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

CIA: American Casino And It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Just in case last night's Cleveland Orchestra concert wasn't enough to nudge me into the Christmas spirit, today -- the first meaningful snow on this side of town is certainly helping.

As a technology geek, ahem, professional, I'm ashamed to admit that I don't own a digital camera, the below stills came from my home:

Since I don't have to shovel anything yet I'm still in the "oh, isn't it cute" phase of winter. I decided I needed a movie today... something to get me out of the house without involving the outdoors or requiring putting any attention to the way I looked in public... I actually have been in the mood for a few weeks but nothing mainstream sufficiently moved me.

I noticed American Casino was on the schedule for CIA's Cinamatheque this evening and the topic intrigued me, so I made my way that direction for the 5:30 showing.

The film is, essentially, a documentary on the Wall Street/Housing
meltdown and it is informative but it doesn't really reveal any new information. Aside from a reference to Wall Street being a casino early on in the film the title is never really developed, and by taking a scatter shot approach to story telling -- some politicians, some displaced homeowners, some former employees of the various financial concerns, even several different cities -- you're left with a feeling more that you've gotten a very general survey than developing anything approaching an in-depth look; I also found it very hard to develop a connection with any of the individuals. Dobama's The Cleveland Plays, Part II: Dream/Home last season covered pretty much all of the same ground but really drew you into a more personal connection with the individuals.

Near the end of the film, though, it was a little depressing to see Riverside County, California featured, as I grew up in Southern Riverside County. During this segment it was interesting to learn the tertiary impact of foreclosed/vacant homes in the manner of pest control: Pools get turned off to save money, algae grows, mosquitoes multiply and spread disease; meanwhile vegetation grows uncontrolled creating a fine habitat for snakes... and of course the costs to abate both of those issues are borne by the taxpayer.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Cleveland Orchestra: Christmas Concerts

I was once again impressed. This evening's concert lacked any form of ostentation and was just plain fun. It was at least as enjoyable as last evening's concert and I am currently fighting the temptation to return for at least one of the remaining concerts of this program.

The concert was a wonderful mix of well known and not so well known pieces; the Orchestra and chorus(es?) gave a wonderful new vibrancy to well-worn carols. Mr. Porco certainly knew how to work the house, and the there was a wonderful bit of timely humor courtesy of an unannounced visit from Santa-- bet you didn't know he took TARP funds and was running with only four reindeer as a cost-cutting and green measure!

Frequently the first piece on the program telegraphs the mood for the evening, and the Orchestra had me captivated from the first swell in O Come, All Ye Faithful... a feature I've not previously noticed. Marking the third time I've heard it preformed this week, tonight's Hallelujah Chorus was my favorite of the three. Carol of the Bells was also particularly lively; and this is probably a good moment to point out that there was a fantastic handbell group preforming prior to the concert.

In the second half, I wasn't the biggest fan of the audience participation shtick for The Twelve Days of Christmas -- it was fun, but it disrupted the flow of the piece which started wonderfully.

Overall, it was just a laid-back, fun evening of great music in a great hall. It's also worth noting that I shared Box 4 with a couple, pastor and wife, celebrating their 42nd wedding anniversary (though they certainly didn't look it!) by visiting Severance Hall for the first time. They enjoyed the concert and I hope they return to Severance in the future.

I look forward to making this a new holiday tradition.


The Program:
Robert Porco, Conductor; with The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, and members of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus.
Traditional, arr. Wilberg: O Come, All Ye Faithful
Bach, arr. Stokowski: Sheep May Safely Graze from Cantata No. 208
Traditional, arr. Dragon: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Traditional, arr. Brdaford: Carol of the Bells
Humperdinck: Dream Pantomime from Hansel and Gretel
Rutter: What Sweeter Music
Rutter: Donkey Carol
Tchaikovsky: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Chocolate, Coffee, and Polinchinelle from The Nutcracker.
Traditional, arr. Rutter: Joy to the World
Handel: Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah
Traditional, arr. Wilberg: Fum, Fum, Fum
Bizet: Farandole from L'Arlesienne
Bernard, arr. Miller: Winter Wonderland
Jessel, arr. Gould: Parade of the Wooden Soldiers
Rutter: The Twelve Days of Christmas
Anderson: Sleigh Ride
With three announced encores: White Christmas, Silent Night, and We Wish you a Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cleveland Orchestra: Eileen Ivers - An Irish Christmas

"Wow." I entered the hall with some pessimism and left with none.

While certainly not the orchestra's traditional fare, this evening's concert was incredibly energizing. The Orchestra played the role of idle audience to Ms. Ivers and band for a larger chunk of the program than I would have liked, but all were thrilling to listen to.

It appeared that everyone -- including the orchestra, and most notably Mr. Feddeck was enjoying themselves; I think I can safely say I've never noticed a conductor's head bobbing so vigorously. I have also never seen so many players pour so much energy into their music; I nearly worked up a sweat just watching. It's hard to pinpoint one specific favorite piece, but opening with A Christmas Festival, while not as wildly energetic as some of the later pieces, certainly made for great listening, as did Parchelbel's Frolics

The crowd was a willing participant in the show, and I was not unaffected by the surplus of energy... tapping my foot through a large part of the show, and during the encore succumbing to the rhythmic clapping. Also of note were the number of first time or rare guests to Severance in attendance.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow evening's concert, but for now... I need to be at work in the morning ;)


The Program
James Feddeck, Conductor with Eileen Ivers, Celtic Fiddle
Anderson: A Christmas Festival
Traditional, arr. O'Carolan & Starobin: Planxty Loftus Jones
Bach, arr. Finno: Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring
Ivers & Keane, arr. Sammut: Medley: Bygone Days
Traditional, arr. Sammut: The Holly Tree
Traditional, arr. Sammut: Medley: Deck the Halls
Bizet: Farandole from L'Arlesienne
Traditional, arr. Sammut: Pachelbel's Frolics
arr. Sammut: Mrs. Fogarty's Fruitcake
Whelan, arr. Hollenbeck: Riverdance
Traditional, arr. Finno & Levine: Medley: Christmas Time Is Here
With One Encore, title and composer unknown.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trinity Cathedral: Handel's Messiah (Abridged, Sing Along Version)

Upon the suggestion of my violin teacher I made my way downtown to Trinity Cathedral for a long lunch today. The program? The church's "something-ith annual" Messiah Sing.

Today's performance was markedly more enjoyable; yet it's still not a piece that I feel any particular fondness for. Aside from the "For Unto Us" and "Hallelujah" courses it simply doesn't move me or hold as much of my attention as I would prefer.

The differences between this incarnation and the version I heard on Saturday were great but I don't endeavor to make a pure apples-to-apples comparison between the two. For one, while the Cleveland Orchestra presented a nearly-complete rendition, this one was significantly abridged. Both have their merits, but I got the point with the abridged version (and otherwise would have been even later back to the office).

The biggest improvement came in the soloists' department. While I couldn't see them to compare body language, there was no doubt as to what language they were singing in (as I initially had at the orchestra's performance), and there wasn't the incessant warbling that grated on my ears.

Generally, the atmosphere was more festive and genial; the music was well-played but had a much "lighter" feeling. Between the acoustics of the cathedral and the fact that you couldn't help but to find yourself surrounded by dozens of singers there was a much more jubilant feeling in the air; true surround sound. Almost as if one were a funeral service and the other was wedding. Based on what I learned about the origins of the piece the point can certainly made that to be historically accurate it should not be jubilant... but the jubilance certainly pushes it in the direction of being enjoyable.

(For the record, I didn't sing. I am sure this simple fact contributed to the enjoyment of many this afternoon.)

I'm still having a hard time getting myself into the "Christmas Spirit" though; hopefully the next two days of holiday concerts at Severance Hall can help break my funk.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cleveland Orchestra: Handel's Messiah

Through the second half of the performance I had an internal dialogue with myself, and my thoughts fell into two distinct but related categories.

"The Importance of Body Language" and "They can't all be winners".

The biggest issue I had with the concert itself were the male soloists. I wasn't enamored by their singing but particularly distracting was their body language when not singing. I've seen people in line at the DMV who looked like they were enjoying themselves more: Imagine three people sitting in front of the orchestra who look like they're undergoing some sort of painful medical exam staring at you for two hours. It should be noted that my comments do not apply to Ms. Wilson who was both pleasant to listen to, and looked like she was enjoying listening to the concert when not singing.

The concert was nearly sold out by my estimation, and otherwise unremarkable.

This is the first time I've heard anything other than the Hallelujah chorus from the piece, much less a "Complete" version. While I certainly enjoyed parts of it (the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus was fantastic) the vocal lines just got too repetitive and I didn't get the spark of excitement, that, for example I got from last week's concert. As a oratorio, the music plays second fiddle to the voice... and if you don't love the voice...

I don't know that it's a piece I need to hear in its entirety again. I would be interested in hearing Mozart's take on the material with a larger orchestra... perhaps next year?

The pre-concert lecture was particularly illuminating and humorous, especially the comments on the origin of the standing (perhaps it was a case of gout; perhaps the king was confused and thought it was part of the national anthem) the amount of time the piece was composed in (most likely because he wasn't doing well financially and needed to get something on stage), the fact that this staple of "Christmas music" was actually written for Easter... and the fact that the music for the "unto us a Child is born" number was lifted from an Italian opera Handel had written.

Meanwhile, because the business of the arts intrigues me almost as much as the art itself, I stumbled across this article (Philanthropy Journal, Patron Churn: Love Them or They'll Leave) that I wanted to share. I don't think any of that is news... but the one specific suggestion stood out to me as a great idea that I don't think anyone in Cleveland is doing. I'll let you guess which one.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Playhouse Square: Nutcracker (Royal Winnipeg Ballet)

Ballet is perhaps the only performing art medium that I'm less qualified to comment on than Opera.

I enjoy ballet for artistic reasons (the music and grace of the human body in motion) and I'm-a-guy-so-shoot-me reasons (ballet dancers are, as a whole, a very attractive group physically). There's not much of a professional ballet presence, that I've found at least, in greater Cleveland. Sure there's plenty of contemporary dance but I just don't find it as compelling as ballet.

Tonight's performance marked the fourth time I've seen the Nutcracker; the first was 3 years ago here in Cleveland at Playhouse Square... The past two years were in Southern California. I don't remember much of the original Playhouse Square performance besides a general enjoyment; the California performances were, in a word, awful. (Any time the director's note implies "The original story doesn't make any sense, so I decided to fix that" by completely reordering things RUN.)

Fast forward to tonight.

The performance was the most innovative staging of the four. The first act flew by and held my undivided attention. There was a hideous, prolonged noise at one point where the mouse king was doing his thing, but giving the benefit of the doubt it could have been an intentional sound effect.

The 2nd act was, as it should be, dancing for dancing sake and my interest was fading rapidly by the time the finale rolled around. The end of the Nutcracker has always felt like the story arc was left incomplete...this staging I felt much better about, but still felt like it was missing part of the resolution.

The music produced by the orchestra in the pit was fantastic. For whatever reason it was amplified and I was a little distracted by hearing the violins (through a speaker) coming from my right instead of the left which is what I am accustomed to. I have a feeling I was the only one in the audience who noticed, and aside from the "oh, that's odd" feeling it wasn't remarkable.

Of course, much of the music from the Nutcracker has fallen into the category of "holiday staple" divorced from its relationship to the ballet (dum-dum-da-da-dum-dummmmm). Sitting there I had to wonder if Mr. Tchaikovsky had any inclination while he was composing of the enduring and wide-spread popularity the piece would enjoy... for that matter if any of the great dead ones -- be it Shakespeare or Beethoven -- knew the endurance of their work.

Have you done anything enduring?


Learning the Violin, Part IV & Fantastic Service from Carlin Violins

Ok, no extensive monologue here: Ms. Terry Carlin of Carlin Violins (Little Italy, or 216-791-A=440) just plain has customer service down. Add reasonable rates and amazingly prompt customer service and... well, what else is there to say?

My visit to her shop this afternoon, occasioned by my mis-guided attempt to replace my own tailpiece -- a story of its own -- remnded me that I haven't posted in a while about that adventure in quite a while.

I'm still taking lessons -- I'm having more fun with every week, and I'm making awful noises with far less frequency. The best part about learning to play, is thanks in large part to my fantastic teacher my understanding, appreciation, and general enjoyment of the musical world surrounding the violin has incereased exponentially.

The lessons are a highlihgt of my week and practicing is a great distraction from the outside world. The violin I bought for $0.01 (plus $45 in shipping), though, is reaching it's limits, and some of its quirks are becoming more fustrating by the day -- especially in the slipping peg department. It was (is) a good introduction, but now that I know I'm enjoying the journey I really want to acquire a violin made out of real wood.

Right now I'm holding off on most expenses because I'm expecting a hideous property tax bill -- the Auditor seems to have determined that my home's value has increased by $100k despite what the rest of the market has done -- but once that bill gets paid I may just get myself a late Christmas present.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Can anybody find me somebody to love?" or I'm Pretty Sure My Deity is Mocking Me, Pt. 2

No event for me tonight. [Relatives, please stop reading here.]

Ok, so I'm displaying a complete lack of shame here, but I'm flat out of other ideas.

As brief recap... I met the fantastic young woman I mentioned in "I'm Pretty Sure My Deity is Mocking Me" recently; as much as I'd like it to happen my chances of earning a followup meeting with her are somewhat worse than getting hit by a bus and winning the lottery on the same day. Keep in mind that I don't play the lottery.

When it comes to meeting people (women) I have a lot working against me.
  • I was born in Central California, raised in Southern California; I know next to no one in this time zone that's my own age.
  • My coworkers are all guys... and with one exception, married and nearly old enough to be my father.
  • My nightclubbing/barhopping phase lasted about 2 weeks when I was 22. Hitting a bar socially is fun, but alone I just don't get; borrowing from The Hold Steady's You Can't Make Him Like You "They say you don't have a problem / until you start to do it alone..."
  • The places I most enjoy -- museums, theatres, Severance Hall, are also among the places I think it would be weirdest to hit on, or be hit on by some random stranger.

The online dating thing isn't working for me. It seems like every single single woman in this town is a sports fanatic; most guys would dig this; for me its a problem since I can barely tell you the difference between the Browns and Indians... and that's about the extent of my interest in sports (but I won't turn down the atmosphere of a Cavs game in person from time to time).

The thought of offering a "Finders Fee" for an introduction has crossed my mind before...and been quickly dismissed. Then I came across across this post at "27 Dresses in Cleveland" [so I'm not alone!]... and opening line of Queen's song by a similar title caught my ear at Monday Evening's Wicked Rocks Benefit. So I figured I'd put it out there.

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody To Love...

I'd like to follow the date first/friends second/something more if it clicks approach, and I'm not in a hurry to get married... but on the flip side, one date an average of every nine months just isn't healthy. Those goals in mind, I'm not sure what kind of finders fee to offer and at what milestone to trigger it.

So what type of woman am I attracted to? A seemingly impossible combination of intellect and tallent. I'm narrowing it down, but in the words of Supreme Court Justice Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964)*, "I'll know [her] when I see [her]".

Physically is where I'm least picky and most flexible; age somewhere in the 23-32 neighborhood; as a 6'0"/130 walking stick I'm most attracted to slender-to-average women, though tall is cool, and age isn't critical (but not too old, now!).

Intellectually, I'm attracted to creative personalities, particularly it seems professional [string] musicians. I value someone who is independent, driven, and is working on a successful career. A woman who's not afraid to challenge or be challenged, be that intellectually or physically (gosh darn it, I wasn't to have a passionate discussion with someone about a performance! It's so much more fulfilling when you can get someone else's perspective). She's versatile, spanning everything from "stupid movie" to "night at the opera" with "day on the couch", "10 mile walk/jog/run", and/or "nice dinner" mixed in. Outgoing, confident, and not afraid to speak her mind are pluses, as is someone willing to share her interests. I think that gets the general idea across.

Does this woman exist? Does she exist in greater Cleveland [Heights]? Is she still single? Is she sane?

I have a lot to offer, don't play mind games, and have passed background checks.

So... if you are this person, or think you might know her, stalk me, er, find me at one of the events up top, drop me a line, leave a moderated comment, use telepathy... whatever.

* - A case that revolved around what constituted "obscenity" based on a film shown at the Heights Art Theater, now the Centrum, in Coventry Village about a 3/4s of a mile down the street from my house. There's your US Supreme Court factoid of the day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cleveland Chamber Music Society: Daedalus Quartet

Beethoven: String Quartet No. 10 in E-Flat Major, Op. 74 ("The Harp")
Lerdahl: Third String Quartet (2008) (World Premiere)
Dvorak: String Quartet No. 11 in C Major, Op. 61
At the Pilgrim Congregational Church, Shaker Heights.

For personal reasons entirely unrelated to CCMS, the venue, or the performers this concert was unusually awkward for me.

This is the second time this week I've heard Beethoven's Quartet in E-Flat Major (the first time being here)... I have to say that I enjoyed the piece far more when extracted from the Beethoven sandwich that I first heard it in. Perhaps because my ear was already used to the major motifs and flow of the piece I was more easily able to pick out "short-short-short-long rhythmic outline" -- despite having it pointed out the first time I heard the quartet, I didn't notice it in that rendition. In both versions I enjoyed the pizzicato traveling its way around the quartet. For simple pleasures.

It's also intresting to note that both groups went to great lengths to point out that this piece was not titled The Harp by Beethoven and that title didn't have his approval.

In learning to play the violin, the E string is my least favorite to spend more than one or two bows on because it's screechy to my ear. Lerdahl's Third String Quartet had some interesting themes -- and a great introduction by the composer ("An introduction...a coda...and some stuff in the middle") -- but the violins spent too much time on the E-string -- and the so-insanely-high/sharp-that-it-would-never-come-through-on-a-recording-E-string for me to really enjoy it.

Finally Dvorak's String Quartet No. 11 in C Major... I don't know how I feel about the piece. I don't have the instant attraction that I did to From the New World, but I wasn't put off by it either. There were some themes in the 2nd movement that seemed familiar but I couldn't place them; I'm relatively certain I haven't heard the piece previously.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Playhouse Square: Wicked Rocks (a benefit)

You can find the extensive program for the show at the end of this post.

It was with some trepidation that I went to tonight's performance -- it wasn't actually until I left my violin lesson that I decided to give it a go... bought my ticket and snuck into the Hannah Theatre with a little less than 10 minutes to published curtain.

It was a fantastic evening of music for a great cause, The Brian Warbel Memorial Fund/University Hospitals. Quite a few people donated time and talent to pull off a the event and you could tell that the cast and band members were really enjoying themselves. The audio problems present during the State Theatre performance of Wicked were nonexistent; levels were relatively balanced, audio was clear.... and a good time was had by all.

Adding entertainment was the live auction held just before intermission, which was amusing enough on its own. A bidding war that erupted for one item was stopped by management and declared a tie at $4k -- I would have been interested to see how high it could have gotten; I got the sense one of the women was not going to back down until she won, regardless of price.

All of the performances were great; Richard Kline's MCing was entertaining, and his introduction to Homeward Bound was touching.


We Will Rock You (Queen), California Dreamin' (Mammas and the Pappas), Every Day I Write The Book (Elvis Costello), The Four Seasons Medley, Landslide (Fleetwood Mac), Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield), For Once In My Life (Stevie Wonder), Fire (Bruce Springsteen), A Case of You (Joni Mitchell), Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne), Somebody to Love (Queen), Proud Mary (CCR), Homeward Bound (Simon and Garfunkel), Every Little Thing She Does (The Police), Something to Talk About (Bonnie Raitt), Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones), Come Sail Away (Styx), Dream On (Aerosmith), Let It Be (Paul McCartney/John Lennon)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

CIM: Intensive String Quartet Seminar Gala Concert

Beethoven: Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, N0. 1
Beethoven: Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59, No. 2
Beethoven: Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3
Beethoven: Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 74 ("The Harp")
Beethoven: Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 ("Serioso")
Beethoven: Quartet in F Major, Op. 135

I can certainly understand one possible interperation of "Intensive" in Cleveland Institute of Music's Intensive String Quartet Seminar. We have conclusively determined that 4 hours of Beethoven quartet exceeds my limits.

I walked into Mixon hall not knowing what I was getting myself into; while all of the quartets were well played none of them particularly caught my ear; perhaps my being in a bit of a funk didn't help. In any event, I'm still putting Saturday Evening's Orchestra concert on the pedistal to which I will compare all others for the time being.

Highlights of the program, though, included an introduction at the beginning of the evening providing context, from Beethoven's own words, for the point in his life at which the first three pieces were composed, as well as introductions provided before each piece by a member of the quartet... it was interesting to hear, in the students' words the highlights and motifs from each piece, particularly those given by Mr. Kantor and Mr. Gonzalez

While I understand the idea behind programming this as a single concert and it was enjoyable, I think it would have been better received if it had been programmed as two separate concerts or with a much earlier start time. I struggled with deciding should I stay or should I go up until the members of the last group took the stage -- others were not as patient. That being said, I think this is the only concert I've attended where the audience size significantly increased as the program progressed.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cleveland Orchestra: Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2

Von Weber: Overture to Der Frelschutz
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 37
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2, Op. 27

The majority of the time my ovation at any performance is the matter of conscious thought and deliberation: Do I clap? How long? Perhaps most importantly, Does it deserve a standing ovation?

At the conclusion of tonight's performance, I was on my feet and enthusiastically clapping before my brain registered what I had done. The combination of all three pieces was made for quite possibly the most amazing performance I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. The type of performance that imprints a euphoric energy on the audience that is still with me as I type this.

Between the quick Overture with some beautiful string work and the well-played Piano Concerto No. 3 -- highlighting the fantastic acoustics of Severance where I could hear the felt of the hammers striking the strings from across the hall -- there was nothing not to like about the first half of the program.

Logic tells me that if I liked the first two pieces the I must not like the third piece. I couldn't have been more wrong -- I not only liked, but loved the Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2. To attempt to identify any single highlight would be an exercise in futility... Franklin Cohen's clarinet solo in the 3rd movement is definitely up there. The violins, particularly, throughout the piece were not only beautiful to watch, but beautiful in tone.

It is impossible for me to choose a favorite piece, let alone movement from tonight's program. Likewise, I can't choose a piece or movement that I disliked.

Events that transpired during intermission, however, cemented this concert as my all time favorite (to date) Severance Hall experience. Between that and the aforementioned euphoric energy, I feel like I'm defying gravity (as of 10 am Sunday...I have come down :( ).


Playhouse Square: Wicked Young Professionals Night

So... the event overall was fantastic, but there are some nagging issues that really detracted from my positive vibe. The Playhouse Square Partners were amazing hosts and all in all, I hope this type of event with a few refinements will be repeated in the future.

My seat, Orchestra Row R, Seat 209 was fantastic... virtually dead center in the house and just in front of the balcony rail. Unfortunately the woman in seat 208 decided that text messaging during the show was a good thing; eventually she got the clue, but I was moments away from grabbing her phone.

The audio mix for the first half of the show was what I can best describe as distractingly awful*. Mic cues were late, levels were all over the place, during one scene Elphaba's mic was never unmuted and some radio frequency interference was thrown in early on for good measure. The brass emanating from orchestra pit was overpoweringly loud...but I don't think it was miced. Based on how distracted I was by the audio (and how unintelligible some of the dialog was as a result) I can't really comment on the 1st act. It's been a long time since I've heard audio that awful, let alone audio that awful from a professional production.

I'm not sure if the A1 finally showed up for the 2nd act, or if someone got replaced or whatnot, but the 2nd act was significantly tighter... it truly was like I was seeing a completely different show, and was very enjoyable. Audio was good, brass was under control, and generally levels were balanced.

After the performance the Wyndham hosted a party in the presidential suite which was fun... fantastic views of Playhouse Square, food, drinks, merriment. Got roped into a fun photo with some of the cast members and some basic conversation ensued... I hope that photo makes it way to daylight. The photographer did a great job of working the crowd.

*- Yeah, so I'm a reformed theater tech. Lighting is my preference, but I've done (and can do) audio, so perhaps this is why I was particularly sensitive.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CIM: Woodwind Ensemble

Poulenc: Sextuor (1932)
Saint-Saens: Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs, Op. 79 (1887)
Nielsen: Kvintett, Op. 43 (1922)
Bruckner: Motet: Virgo Jesse
Lussier: Bassango
Williams: Cantina from Star Wars
Hindemith: Kleine Kammermusik, Op. 24, No. 2 (1922)
Barber: Summer Music, Op. 31
Mozart: C Minor Serenade, K. 388

I realized about half way through the program that the past few performances I've attended have essentially isolated the constituent parts of an orchestra -- strings, percussion, woodwinds -- and that's actually rather intriguing to me. It is interesting to hear, for example, just an oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and flute without the "distraction" of the other instruments -- I think I can now identify the sound of the bassoon with some level of certainty.

As can be seen from the list above the program covered a huge range of composers and periods; unfortunately none of the pieces in the program particularly captured my fancy -- Williams's Cantina was fun. One of the biggest problems, I think, was the flow between the 3rd, 4th, and 5th pieces -- a shorter break than some of the pauses between movements in other pieces and no clear indication that the end of a piece had been reached--based on the lack of applause, I don't think I was the only one who didn't realize that we had moved to a new piece, and it wasn't until the contrabassoon came out for Cantina that I realized I had heard 3 pieces instead of one.