Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lincoln in Jacksonville: Day 2: The Cummer Museum

It seems that I will, perhaps, finish this project early; considering that it was a short project to begin with, this is [knock on wood] quite a good thing. I'm trying to decide if I change my ticket and fly home on early or if I leave the flights as-is and write the company a check for the last night and vacate. I'm leaning towards vacating, especially since I realized I have a "Free Night" certificate that expires shortly. Anyway...

To understand why I was so nervous about this particular project, particularly since it seems like it should be relatively simple on the outside I'd have to start talking about things I can't really talk about*. But it worked; I needed to make surprisingly few tweaks and the parts I was most nervous about worked perfectly.

Tomorrow we do final testing and I'm not expecting anything to pop up.

My contact here, it turns out, majored in studio art history. I asked him if there was anything nearby I should check out if time allowed... and he promptly provided a list: The Cummer Museum, MoCA Jacksonville, and MOSH (not a pit, as it turns out, but the Museum of Science and History). As luck would have it, The Cummer was open until 9:00 tonight and I wandered in that general direction. After nearly giving up trying to find a parking space**, I found myself walking in. And I found that the museum is free from 4:00-9:00 on Tuesdays. Score.

Being primarily a contemporary/modern art fan The Cummer's fine collections don't really cater to that taste, but nonetheless it was an enjoyable visit. The galleries were uncluttered, the layout logical. While the facility is relatively small, but I didn't feel there was a shortage of art to view, and there was quite a bit of visually appealing art. (I have a list when I get home to check against works on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art...several pieces triggered an "Oh, that looks like..." reaction)

A particular highlight, though, was "Collectors' Choice: Works of art from Jacksonville Collections", exhibiting works that have been lent to the museum from the collections of local collectors along side a short biography of the collector who owns the work. As interesting as the art were the collectors' attitudes on collecting: Why they collect, how they got started, etc. Each was interesting, and I probably could have spent all evening copying them down, yet one collector summarized by quoting "Ars long, vita brevis" (Art is long, Life is short). Thinking about it...wow. In galleries here and at home, one can see art created mere months ago or dozens of centuries ago. The works touched by artists who's hands are long gone, by societies far evolved, but the art is preserved as a tangible link to the short lives behind us and the generations in front of us.

(The Wikipedia article quotes the entire maxim as "Art is long, life is short, opportunity fleeting, experiment dangerous, judgement difficult"...how true, how true...and all the more reason to spend an extra day in Jacksonville while I'm here.)

I'm still a bit partial to the Cleveland Museum of Art, however.


*- A shame, as this is one of my more challenging projects technically and one I'm quite proud of. These particular changes were amazingly intricate, which is really the primary reason I'm actually in Jacksonville to start things up.
**- Sign of how adjusted I've become to northern urban centers' emphasis on Pay-To-Park: I am immediately skeptical of parking anywhere that doesn't include paying an attendant cash or taking a ticket.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lincoln in Jacksonville: Day 1

I'm in Jacksonville this week for my first visit to one of my major institutional client's Jacksonville campus (Hints: Health care, shares a name with a condiment, frequently referenced in close proximity to a certain clinic in Cleveland). I spent most of today getting here, but after checking into my hotel spent a little bit of time driving around. As my first time in Northern Florida (e.g. not Orlando) I have the "new city" excitement, but I'm afraid this trip won't leave much room for leisure.

Good news: I have now touched the Atlantic Ocean. For some reason, growing up near the Pacific Ocean, I had always wondered if there was any difference. Granted, wearing freshly-shined dress shoes to the event probably was not the best idea and the little voice in the back of my mind was screaming "See, Lincoln, this is why you can't let yourself buy nice things." as a wave swept over my left foot.

Geeky news: I have now driven on both ends of Interstate 10--where it meets Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, California and now where it meets I-95 in Jacksonville, Florida. Considering that I had no actual reason to be on I-10 in Jacksonville, I think this proves that I most certainly have a bit of my grandfather's personality. At one point, well before I had my driver's license, I had a US map on my bedroom wall and had dreamed about driving I-10 from end to end. 15 years later and having driven from Cali to Cleveland in 3 days, I don't think I'd want to do the I-10 trip...perhaps if I ever retire...but I'm glad I've seen the other end.
Wow, Customer Service: I stopped by a supermarket...some place named "Publix"...to get some stuff for the hotel room refrigerator. The lady behind the checkout was not only about my age and cute (yes, I'm a guy. I can be superficial at times) but efficient, happy, and chatty... I think she may be the happiest/most pleasant supermarket employee I've ever encountered. Almost makes me want to do all of my grocery shopping there, and based on how frequently I grocery shop, it probably wouldn't be that much of an inconvenience. If the stores near me had staff that made shopping so enjoyable, I might feel guilty about using self checkout...or I might go shopping more often. [I think airport TSA agents derive more enjoyment from their job than Cleveland grocery workers]
What, Customer Service: On the tails of the Publix experience, I made my way to Whataburger for dinner -- it's been 5 years since I was near one of these, and I was in the mood for something fast without being 'usual'. The oddest greeting I've ever gotten at a fast food joint: "Hi, How are you doing tonight? [pause] Are you from Human Resources?" Uh....
I have a brewing rant about the rolling ergonomic nightmare of a tin can the so-called "car" Hertz rented me is, but for now, let's just say the Toyota Yaris is not designed for anyone over 5' tall. My leg barely fits under the steering wheel. (Plus side: It has awesome acceleration.)
Jacksonville is reminding me a lot of my Southern California home, yet I'm already missing my Cleveland home.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blossom: The Greatest Generation: Music from the 1940s

Key: The Star Spangled Banner (arr. Toscanini)
Grofe: Mardi Gras from The Mississippi Suite
Ellington: Sophisticated Lady (arr. Gould)
Gershwin: Ambulatory Suite (arr. Riddle)
Goldsmith: The Generals March
Rodgers and Hammerstein: Symphonic Portrat: South Pacific
Sousa: Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Whear: Stars in the Field of Blue [World Premiere]
Williams: Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan
Gershwin: Strike up the Band*
Porter: It's De Lovely*
Gershwin: Embraceable You*
Gershwin: 'S Wonderful*
Unknown: I'll be Seeing You
Loras John Schissel, conductor; *-with Helen Welch, vocalist.

I had oscillated about attending a concert at Blossom this weekend; I certainly knew an entire program of brass (Saturday) would be stretching my patience and I had feared that this program would be Big Band heavy... along the way I realized that two of my favorite composers, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein were firmly rooted around that decade. In any event, I found my way to Blossom for tonight's concert, the last "regular" offering this season (where has the summer gone?) with only Joffrey left before the Orchestra returns to more convenient Severance Hall.

The concert generally held my interest and was rich in texture, ranging from quiet and soulful to patriotic to festive. Helen Welch, vocalist for the block of songs under the heading Selections from the Great American Soundbook, and indicated with an asterisk above has an amazingly beautiful voice, yet every one of the songs in that block left me completely unmoved; at one point I found myself contemplating trying to use my TiVo remote's 30-second skip button to move things along.

The remainder of the concert was more my speed, I particularly liked the festive Mardi Gras from Groffe's The Mississippi Suite and Goldsmith's powerful The General's March. Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Lady was a little too sentimental and a bit depressing, but was interesting nonetheless, perhaps in part because when you say Duke Ellington, I think jazz...and when you say jazz I don't think of a string orchestra which is what Sophisticated Lady offered.

The Symphonic Portrait from South Pacific really served to remind me how much the music from that show is a part of American pop culture. While I don't think anyone took Mr. Schissel up on his offer to sing along, I found myself mentally filling in many of the blanks ("Some enchanted evening, uh, _______"; "I'm going to wash that ___ right out of my ____"), and it's a shame that there wasn't some kind of cross promotion with PlayhouseSquare's upcoming presentation of the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific, as this concert helped to eek up my interest in seeing a musical that isn't what I would consider my typical type of show.

Likewise, the tail end of the concert offered Symphonic Scenario from Victory at Sea which was as varied in texture as the remainder of the program. It generally held my interest and those parts that I didn't care for--of which there were few--moved swiftly enough to keep my involved. Particularly ear-catching was a solo violin later in the work.

Finally, the world premiere Stars in a Field of Blue by retired Navy member and CWRU alum Paul Whear was quite interesting to hear, and perhaps tied with The Generals' March as my favorite from the evening.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Playhouse Square: Take a Hike Walking Tours

Once again I find myself in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Once again I took a parting taste of Cleveland culture before heading East.

In this case, a friend* and I met up with 30 or 40 other people in the lobby of Playhouse Square's State Theatre for "Take a Hike Cleveland"'s walking tour of the theatre district. I wasn't sure what to expect, but as both of us are outsiders (non-natives) I was sure that there would be some interest tidbits along the way.

And there were. Early in the tour there was some information that wasn't new to me (namely that Jaques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris played the State Theatre lobby for 2 years, and the mural "Spirit of Cinema: America" appearing on the cover of Life Magazine and being credited as one of the catalysts for Playhouse Square's revival) but was new to my friend. As the tour progressed, though, a wealth of details were revealed.

Among memorable highlights--of which there are too many to completely list here: The planters along Euclid Avenue are designed to look like a bouquet offering the flowers within to passersby; the abstract figures adorning the RTA Healthline station are intended to be evocative the silhouette of a chorus line [I had always guessed palm trees and could never figure out the placement], that there are two theatres that didn't survive into the modern Playhouse Square era, and, of course, details on the glorious revitalization of neighborhood buildings and their historic tenants.

Also intriguing were the two character actors who made appearances: Alan Freed explaining his role in coining the term Rock and Roll at WJW radio--well known--as well as the background of the record store owner sponsoring his show to play rock to stimulate sales to a new demographic--something that I did not know. Even more fascinating, the appearance of the Hanna Theater's** long-time general manager "Mr. First Night": I for one was utterly blown away by the history--and history of American Theater embodied by that oft-overlooked venue on East 14th street. (Did you know that Rogers and Hammerstein had an affinity for Cleveland, with the original national tour of South Pacific, among others, opening in the Hanna? Or that for decades performers signed the back side of the Hanna's main curtain, now in the care of Cleveland Public Library's Special Collections? This spiel alone was would be worth the tour: I have to stop myself here, that could be an entire post of its own)

In the end the tour, covering roughly from East 9th to East 18th along Euclid, Prospect, and Huron was about 2 hours -- longer than I had expected, but it still left me wanting more. In addition to the history, it was a great opportunity to see the beautiful buildings at a slower pace and with greater perspective than driving down Euclid.

Other tours are offered of other Cleveland neighborhoods and I may be doing the Gateway District tour in early September. The last opportunity for the Playhouse Square/Theatre District tour is next Tuesday at 6pm meeting in the State Theatre lobby... and bring comfortable shoes.

It was well worth the time, and being free you can't find fault with the cost.

*- Don't get all excited, this is the same "Just Friends" friend mentioned in earlier posts. The finder's fee is still out there.
**- Incidentally, I realized that I seem to have fallen off of Great Lates Theater Festival's maling list: I don't think I've seen a season schedule in close to 2 years now.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A year of Lincoln In Cleveland

Today marks the end of the first year--and the beginning of the second--of Lincoln In Cleveland as a blog.

When I first started the blog, I summarized my etre as "Guy. Single. 25. Loves Art. Enjoys Travel. Works in Technology" and I declared no topic in particular.

The age has changed (now 26--wouldn't it be strange if, over the course of a year, my age had not increased?); I'm still single (I'm thinking I'm cursed--though I have dated more in the past few months than the remainder of my life combined), and I still love art, enjoy travel, and work in technology.

For the first few months of blogging I told no one about LincolnInCleveland. I labored under the impression that no one was reading; that impression was proven wrong when I found myself quoted. I still don't actively publicise the blog, although I did eventually feel that it was only proper to tell my parents. Since early November, I've seen visitors from 49 countries on 6 contents, including 47 US states plus Washington DC. [For those curious, the laggards are South Dakota, Alabama, and Delaware].

The question has been asked, "Why would you write if you weren't expecting anyone to read?"

As may be evident from the posts, I enjoy Cleveland's vibrant arts -- and performing arts scene; it is a key reason why I'm proud to call myself a Clevelander. I've discovered that I get so much more out of a performance or piece of art when I can discuss or even debate it with someone, ask questions, compare reactions. Without that benefit (See "Still single," above) the process of blogging allows me to make notes on my reactions, in essence talking to myself--and I have had my fair share of post-performance debates with myself.

For those who are reading, regularly or irregularly, you have my thanks. If I don't know who you are, feel free to introduce yourself either in a comment or email me at l /at/ lincolnincleveland /dot/ com. In keeping with the desire to grow from discussion, if you've attended the same events and have a different take, by all means feel free to leave a comment.

Blogging has certainly exposed me to the wonderful arts community in a way that I couldn't have expected. I've met some great people, made new friends, and had the opportunity to participate in unique experiences.

I've seen--and shared, I hope--great theatre (Cleveland Play House's Bill W. & Dr. Bob) great music (of course innumerable Cleveland Orchestra concerts, Diana Cohen's Second Master of Music Recital at the Cleveland Institute of Music) unique events (among them Cleveland Museum of Art's Summer Solstice--where my teammate and I won the photo scavenger hunt).

Of course, you not everything appeals to everyone--I've suffered through some amazingly bad theatre as well (In Cleveland, Chicago ranks as the worst thing I've seen on stage; in New York, Fela! the musical was amazingly awful*)--and it feels better to vent.

So thanks for reading; if you know of anything I'm missing out on... feel free to drop me a line. And here's to the next year!

Oh, and PS: The "Finder's Fee" is still on the table: Point me in the direction of someone female, independent, mature (as well as sane), and into arts and culture and if we clear 2 dates... well, I don't know what, but I'd be appreciative.


*- Combined with a gross misrepresentation about the location of the seat I was sold, it's also the only purchase of any kind where I have disputed the charge with my credit card issuer. I won the dispute. Considering that that's $80 out of nearly $5,000 of performing arts purchases in the past year, I think that's saying something.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blossom: Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies

Disney Classics Overture (arr. Healey)
Menken & Ashman: Suite from Disney's The Little Mermaid (arr. Menken, Merkin, Pasatieri, Rickets)
Menkan & Schwartz: Colors of the Wind from Disney's Pocohontas (arr. Troob)
Menken & Ashman: Suite from Disney's Beauty and the Beast (arr. Troob & Heijden)
Sherman & Sherman: I Wan'na Be Like You from Disney's The Jungle Book (arr. Heijden)
Sherman & Sherman: Medley from Disney's Mary Poppins (arr. Healey & Whitcomb)
Menken: Suite from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (arr. Starobin)
Menken, Ashman & Rice: Suite from Disney's Aladdin (arr. Troob & Healey)
Badelt: Suite from Pirates of the Caribbean (arr. Rickets)
Zimmer, Rice & John: Suite from Disney's The Lion King (arr. Kelley & Rickets)
with one encore (It's A Small World, composer unannounced)
Richard Kaufman, conductor; Sherilyn Draper, stage director and writer; Candice Nicole, Whitney Kaufman, Aaron Phillips, Andrew Johnson, vocalists.

A fitting end for this concert -- and this week in general -- was the encore presentation of It's A Small World. Earlier this week I found that a musician friend of mine has played in a concert with a relative's neighbor in a relatively far off land. In tonight's concert, not only was my violin teacher playing in the orchestra, but Candice Nicole, one of the vocalists was a friend and classmate in high school. Having grown up in Southern California, after all, I don't run into classmates on a regular basis.*

While the Cleveland Orchestra is touring Europe, tonight's concert was in the capable hands of the Blossom Festival Orchestra. The weather, however, wasn't as welcoming with varying degrees of rain up until some point during the middle of the first half of the program; nonetheless, I was surprised by how full the parking lots--and even the lawn--were. A notable attendee was Mrs. "Mr. Rogers" [as in the Neighborhood], a box in front of and to the left of my seat, she had apparently driven in from Pittsburgh to attend this evening's concert.

I had not originally intended to attend this concert, and I quite enjoyed it in all of the important respects. Of course, Disney's movie music is as iconic as the films that they come from. One need only loook around to discover that each selection evoked or provoked different reactions from each audience member: Younger audience members may have perked up to Pocohontas, while the older audience members had a clear affection for Mary Poppins.

During the first few numbers I got the sense that perhaps the vocalists were reaching a bit further than they needed to, but that overly-sharp edge quickly dulled to a nicely burnished sound that persisted through the evening.

While I enjoyed all of the selections to some extent or the other, both the opening overture and the Lion King suite stirred the greatest personal emotion.

While I hate to note, spotlight operators (and/or whomever was calling spot cues) put on a distractingly poor performance, with spots randomly lighting up blank walls, being late to pick up or drop off a performer, and jolting adjustments just as joltingly shifted my brain from 'simply enjoy the music' and to 'what the heck was that?'

*- The timing of these coincidences further amuses me as this is the weekend of the 1 year anniversary of Lincoln in Cleveland (the actual blogday is Monday)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cleveland Play House: Happy Hour (August 16th)

For those not 'in the know', the Cleveland Play House has been hosting Happy Hours around Cleveland for a little while now. It seems, however, my schedule has conspired against me -- and I've made excuses for not attending one as yet. Not to mention several of the venues have struck me as West Side and as an Eastsider, the West Side scares me.

People outside Cleveland may not recognize the significance, particularly given the relatively small and subtle geographic distance, but to a Clevelander -- even a Clevelander who has only lived in this* beautiful city for five years -- the difference is vast (New Yorkers who detest, even fear, venturing to a distant borough may recognize the feeling); it's not unlike crossing a state line, perhaps even a national border.

This border, however, is unclear: I personally lump anything West of Ontario St. as West Side, with the occasional 'Near West Side'** and 'Far West Side'*** when needed -- however, I have debated the subject with friends who argue that Tremont is "downtown" and not "West Side". I disagree, and I digress.

Anyway, last night was the Play House's first Happy Hour of the 10-11 season and I resolved to stop making excuses; though the Tremont/West Side location had me a little concerned, the only "must do" on my schedule for Monday was driving to Pittsburgh at some point before midnight. It was a great event and I encourage anyone who may be interested to stop by for the next one - 10/4 at Uptowne Grill (I think I actually know where this one is... it's East Side, and walking distanceish**** from my house!)

Obviously, having to drive to Pittsburgh limited my alcohol intake to about 3/4 of a drink upon arrival followed by two non-alcoholic beverages over the course of the next two hours. The lack of alcohol didn't diminish the enjoyment: There was a quick verbal blurb from artistic director Michael Bloom on the upcoming season -- perhaps the only time I've ever thought an Artistic Director didn't speak long enough -- but there was ample conversation among the artistically inclined.

Between the din from the fantastic turnout and the conversation--once I finally had to excuse myself (a full half-hour after the official end of the 2-hour Happy Hour, and about an hour and a half longer than I had planned on "trying it out" for) I found that for the first time I can recall, and certainly the first time in my adult life, my voice was hoarse... considering that I didn't 'know' anyone going into it, I'd call that a success (and a welcoming group).

For the record, I consider myself, living in Cleveland Heights, to live on the "Near East Side" and the office in Mayfield Village to be "Far East Side". When the office was in Chesterland, I wasn't sure what to call it. I'm glad we moved. (Most Westsiders I've met recognize Cleveland Heights as East Side but exhibit geographic confusion when presented with Mayfield Village)

* - Full disclosure: I'm in a Pittsburgh suburb tonight, but I'll be back home tomorrow.
** Anything between Ontario and West 25th or so, still relitively comfortable but a little exotic.

*** Anything further than West 25th, where the locals might as well be speaking a different language.
**** 2.5 milesish... I walk past it on a weekly basis, but other people may not consider that "walking distance"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blossom: The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma

Pato: Caronte
Persian Traditional: Ascending Bird (arr. Aghaei & Jacobsen)
Ji: Wine Madness (arr. Tong & Lin)
Golijov: Air to Air
Sollima: The Taranta Project
Das: Shristi
Traditional: Ambush from Ten Sides (arr. Samg & Tong)
Plus two unannounced encores.
Yo-Yo Ma, Artistic Director

I suppose I didn't read the Blossom Festival schedule closely enough, as up until a few days ago I was of the mind that tonight's program was The Silk Road Ensemble with The Cleveland Orchestra (or with the Blossom Festival Orchestra, as the case may be) -- instead of The Silk Road Ensemble standing alone. Nonetheless, with the exception of a distracting audio thing* it was a fascinating evening of music spanning a wide variety of styles, moods, and tempos.

Like today's weather, not only was the program varied, most of the individual components couldn't simply be summarized with a "fast" or "slow", "happy" or "melancholic" label that would apply to the entire piece, though the "folk song" label popped into my mind on more than one occasion. With every piece just about the time my interest would start to wain, the music would take a sudden turn and recapture my full attention.

It's difficult to select a favorite piece from the program, though if pressed it would be either the second encore or Ascending Bird, a traditional Persian song arranged by members of The Silk Road Ensemble, about birds trying to reach the sun. After two failed attempts, the birds reach the sun and in fire the corporal transcends into the spiritual, and in tonight's concert one certainly got that impression from the instrumentation.

Particularly notable were Sandeep Das' Shristi, and Wu Tong's Sheng playing. Shiristi is a piece entirely for percussion including a playful movement of what I can only describe as bodily percussion with one musician hitting himself in different ways to generate recognizable sounds. The Sheng, and instrument I've never seen before, had a beautiful sound when played by Wu Tong. It's described in the program notes as a "Chinese mouth organ," and I'm not really sure of a more succinct way to put it: It looks like a miniature organ, it sounds like an organ--I was in disbelief that those sounds were coming from that instrument, but it's far more portable than a pipe organ.

Throughout the performance a playful rivalry and oneupsmanship could be seen, which only enhanced the entertainment factor of the performance.

I do have to say that I wasn't a fan at all of the sound of the Galician Bagpipes, making Caronte a challenging beginning to the program. Perhaps it is because bagpipes are the one instrument I truly don't care for the sound of, or perhaps it was the sensation I had that the bagpipes obliterated the sound of every other instrument on the stage (see also "distracting audio thing*")

*- Ok, so I'm pretty sure it was the way the sound was mixed or amplified, but it could have been an odd manifestation of venue acoustics, but from my seat, about half way back and a few degrees house right of center, everything sounded as if it was being panned hard right in the mix: I heard nothing or nearly nothing from the center cluster, and my ear kept drawing my eye to the house left wall, where the sound seemed to be coming from, while the instruments producing the sound were all either center or left of where I was.
(Correction: 2010-08-15 - A reader pointed out that I had typoed "Silk" in the title; such is one of the perils of blogging shortly before midnight)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Bruckner Symphony No. 8 (DVD Recording)

Prelude Concert
Ives: Prelude in F major (for Solo Organ, Joela Jones, Organ)
Interview with Franz Welser-Most and William Cosel; Dee Perry, host
Ives: Variations on 'America' (for Solo Organ, Joela Jones, Organ)

Special Concert Presentation
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 in C minor (1887 version, edited by Leopold Nowak)

The Cleveland Orchestra is opening its Severance Hall home this week for a gratis performance of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony as it is recorded for future DVD release and in advance of their upcoming European tour and residency.

In advance of tonight's sold-out performance, I knew that there would be a discussion with Franz Welser-Most, but the two organ pieces were a pleasant surprise. You may recall that this past Saturday, the nicest thing I could say about Ives's work was that it was "Only 4 minutes long". Tonight was the first time I can truly say that I've 'heard' Severance Hall's magnificent organ--I know it has been played during pieces, but I've never had an "oh, there's the organ" moment--I was awestruck by the beautiful sound with which Ms. Jones made that organ sing.

Bridging the two Ives pieces was an interview with Mr. Welser-Most and producer Mr. Cosel. I would have enjoyed hearing more from both participants, particularly since this is the first time I've heard Mr. Welser-Most speak live, yet, I was particularly struck by two comments that he made during the short time he was addressing the audience:

On the subject of the recording affecting the performance: "Microphones or not, these musicians play on the highest level possible; it's what drives them" -- something I've long suspected (and after hearing the performance thoroughly agree with) but it's interesting to hear from someone with a deeper immersion in music.

On the subject of Bruckner's music he commented* on how the experience of the Cleveland Orchestra performing Bruckner's Fifth Symphony at the Abbey of St. Florian and hearing the distinct acoustics with which the composer was working gave a greater appreciation of where Bruckner was coming from with the structure of his pieces.

The Orchestra ended their 09-10 season with Bruckner's Eighth, which was clearly the meat of tonight's concert; rereading those notes I'm inclined to merely say "Ditto". Relatively early (for sake of comparison, this adagio, on its own has a longer running time than many television shows) in the third movement adagio, there were some passages featuring the harp that absolutely buoyed the soul.

*- I was too busy noting the previous comment to even pretend to have an exact quote.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Science Cafe Cleveland: Looking at Art Inside and Out: An Art Conservator's Perspective

A few months ago I attended my first Science Cafe, a quite interesting program on latent finger prints. After that cafe I signed up for the email list, but schedule conflicts have kept me from attending another.

Science Cafe Cleveland is sponsored by the Case Western Reserve University chapter of Sigma Xi and takes place in the Great Lakes Brewing Company Tasting Room and has a very casual atmosphere with hors d'oeuvres and the bar remaining open in the back of the room throughout.

Tonight's Science Cafe featured Shelley Reisman Paine, conservator of objects, and Moyna Stanton, conservator of paper, both of the Cleveland Museum of Art. I had first heard Ms. Paine talk about conservation during the Museum's Member Appreciation Day last September and that was my first real--and intriguing--glimpse of the art and science of conservation. As a result, when I saw this month's Science Cafe topic and had the evening free I didn't want to miss the presentation.

If anything, the evening was too short. Beginning with a discussion of the restoration history of one print including some early repairs and the processes used to discover them, followed by an extensive Question and Answer. The Q&A covered such broad ground that it could not be accurately summarized and those who missed the presentation missed a truly interesting program.

The recurring theme was that the primary job of the conservator was to do nothing to alter the intent of the artist as well as not make any changes that are not completely reversible. The doctor's Hippocratic Oath of "First, do no harm" came to mind during the evening, and two axioms were shared--the precise wording is escaping me, but one was "Better is the enemy of good". In addition, an impressive variety of technology is used in conservation to examine works, from transmitted and reflected light, to scanning electron microscopes, infrared photography, and even particle accelerators.

The point was made that as museum conservators, they are in the position of being able to monitor their collections and nurse them along with the least intrusive possible repairs. As one presenter noted during the even more informal small group Q&A, "keep me alive until they find a cure so I don't go through what my ancestors went through."

In addition to the 'headline' presenters several other members of the CMA curatorial and conservation staff were present, and one two things were quite clear: First, Cleveland is lucky to have a team that's so personable and willing to discuss their expertise outside of working hours. Second, these people are passionate about their work and the collections that are in their care. I have to think that that comes through in the quality of the collection on display.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cleveland Orchestra: Brahms Symphony No. 2

Ives: From the Steeples and the Mountains
Berg: Symphonic Suite from Lulu
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
One Unannounced Encore
Franz Welser-Most, conductor.

I was accompanied at tonight's concert by a friend who was experiencing both Blossom and The Cleveland Orchestra for the first time.

Before the concert we met at the Blossom Grille for dinner -- haven never eaten a proper meal on the Blossom grounds, this was a first for me as well. As for food, the grilled 'sandwiches' (in a pita-like shell) served on the patio were reasonably good, though the intended method of consumption--hand to mouth or fork and (table) knife--was a bit unclear (As we were finishing our meal, the next table over had their sandwiches delivered with a steak knife sticking out of the middle, making things a bit more clear). As for value, "real world" pricing is a bit steep; "captive market" pricing wasn't too bad.

The title of Charles Ives' From the Steeples and The Mountains most attracted me to tonight's program. From the title I had expected something bold, perhaps declaratory, and melodic. I was 0 for 3, and the best I can say is that it was only 4 minutes long. With three musicians on chimes, a trumpet and trombone, the dissonance between the instruments left me unclear on the statement.

When last I heard Berg's Symphonic Suite from Lulu, I described it as "a strong contender for my least favorite piece". I've softened slightly, especially given the piece it followed but many of my original sentiments hold true. Interestingly, this time I noticed the program note that the opera from which the excerpts were taken was based on two of Frank Wedekind's plays; my all-time favorite musical, Spring Awakening was also based on a Wedekind play, with pop musician Duncan Sheik as the composer: It's quite interesting how one playwright can serve as the inspiration for two different composers at two different times with wildly different results)

Brahms's Second Symphony was, by contrast, quite enjoyable, particularly the texture of the third and fourth movements dipping into shadows and emerging into a bright, triumphant landscape.

There was one encore, title and composer unannounced, to which I was ambivalent.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Cain Park: Verb Ballets

Wings And Aires (1981)
Tarantella (2005)
Dust Bowl Ballads (1941)
The Fiddler (1951, excerpted from The Village I Knew)
To Have and To Hold (1989)
CLICKS Crew (2010)
Ambiguous Drives (2010)
at the Evans Amphitheater, Cain Park, Cleveland Heights

But for Wings and Aires I probably would be beginning with something about how this was a pleasant evening of dance. Unfortunately, Verb began the performance with Wings and Aires: Not only was I not moved by the dance--which bordered on eternal in length--the quality of the music was distractingly abysmal. I think the only place I've heard classical music with less dynamic range and more distortion is in the parking lot of the United Dairy Farmers convenience store across from Cain Park... where, as near as I can tell, the sole purpose is to make things unpleasant for loiterers. (It's little wonder, in that case, why classical has a bad rap among people in my general age range).

I was contemplating cutting my losses during the pause leading into Tarnatella, and I'm glad I stayed, as that piece was an interesting combination of movement and music, including some fancy footwork/cymbal playing while dancing.

Dust Bowl Ballads and The Fiddler were both acceptable, with Dust Bowl Ballads being only piece in the program where the music (By Woodie Guthrie) had lyrics that joined the story of the dance and the dance and music were an effective combination.

Rounding out the program, it is difficult to choose between To Have and Hold and Ambiguous Drives as my favorite from the evening. Both had great music, compelling movement, and at the most basic level held my interest throughout. I think To Have And To Hold wins by a narrow hair due to the unconventional but enjoyable choreography including flowing over, under, and through three benches and the other dancers. It wasn't until near the end of the dance that I wondered if the undecorated pine benches were intend to double as a symbolic coffin.

Finally, in between those two dances was CLICKS Crew featuring Verb Ballets' summer interns and students: At first it seemed a little sloppy but came together as the dance progressed and was likewise enjoyable to watch and listen to.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Playhouse Square: Phantom of the Opera

Tonight as a relatively spur-of-the-moment decision I found myself at PlayhouseSquare for a fantastic evening of Phantom. Now, I will admit I was full of reservation--I wasn't sure how the intricacy of the Broadway set would translate to the roadhouse stage, and for a tour that's one stop from ending an 18-year run I was a little concerned that I may find myself using the adjective threadbare, not to mention a event-filled* week threatening to procrastinate my way the run of the show in Cleveland.

Back during my trip to New York in January I saw Phantom for the first time. Waiting for the prologue tonight I realized that while it wasn't my first musical, or my first Broadway show that was the first musical that I attended "on" Broadway. I was impressed by the level of detail in everything and I enjoy the music (Wishing you Were Somehow Here Again and Masquerade being my favorites).

Walking up to the box office window this evening, I pushed the concerns aside and asked for One, Best Available, please--almost a reflex by now--and walked away with G210. I don't think I could have asked for a nicer seat, dead center and about 5 rows back. As the prologue and overture began, I realized my concerns had no foundation whatsoever.

The incredibly high level of detail and complexity in the touring production at least equals the New York show--making it that much more impressive, considering that--for example--the chandelier, weighing in at over a ton, is moved in and out of a new theater every few weeks. Far from threadbare, the company felt fresher than some 'new' shows I've seen and during the curtain call the actor's facial expressions conveyed genuine appreciation.

As is to be expected for a show with this tenure, there's not much in the way of performance to critique: By this point it's pretty well nailed down and there for the audience to enjoy. The one mark I have against the show was a crackling mic throughout, but I may be the only person who was distracted by it.

I continue to be baffled, however, by people who feel the need to text in the middle of a musical number. That's irritating.

Following this evening's performance was a talk-back session with the ASM and roughly a dozen members of the cast -- an unusually large number based on similar events -- and was quite informative. To wit: One of the questions was about the "hands at eye level" comment that I nearly missed during the show. The answer--because the Phantom could drop a noose at any time and by having one's hand at eye level would give you the ability to slip out before the noose tightened--provided a great indication of how well these actors understood their roles. Another interesting tidbit is that the boat is driven by infrared control, not radio frequency due to some problems with RF when the show opened in London [yes, I'd kill to be backstage during a show, but that shouldn't suprise anyone who knows me]

Phantom is up at PlayhouseSquare's Allen Theater through August 22, though if tonight's performance was any indication you'd be advised not to wait too long to buy tickets. Following the close of Phantom, work will begin to convert the Allen to house the Cleveland Play House and CSU in a variety of performance spaces. (If anyone has an in for construction tour(s)... drop me a line-I have my own hard hat!)


*- Wade Oval Wednesdays last night, Phantom tonight, probably Verb Ballets tomorrow night, meeting someone at Blossom for an orchestra concert Saturday night, cheering on a frient in a triathalon Sunday morning...I dare anyone to say there's nothing to do in Cleveland to my face.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mackinac Island Shall Explain My Absence (Part II)

Yesterday kind of got away from me--A long day on the project that brought me to Columbus means I finished the project early and am looking forward to crawling into my own unmade bed a night early. Once again, I've uploaded more photos to my Flickr Photostream.

When last we left this trip I had been to Mackinac Island and was had attended fireworks at the St. Ignace Marina... it really was beautiful with the light reflecting off the water, but since I was watching the fireworks rather than the viewfinder, not many of the photos turned out well...
Fireworks over the lake in St. IgnaceFireworks over the lakeFireworks over the lake in St. Ignace

After a good night's sleep and a late morning, some more visiting took place and my mom and I headed "downtown" to Bently's Cafe, a St. Ignace institution that has found at least one of my relatives behind the counter and is not lacking in 50's feel. Since I needed to be in Columbus, some seven and a half hours south, well rested for Monday morning, I started my journey south...

The Mackinac Bridge is the rest of the world's gateway to the Upper Peninsula, and the Upper Peninsula's gateway to the rest of the world. The toll on opening day in 1957 was $3.25 each way... the toll today $3.50 each way. Not bad for 53 years. The remainder of the drive south looked unsurprisingly like the drive north, just without the never ending sunset.
The Mackinac Bridge Toll Plaza - Gateway to the UPBack in Ohio! Still 3 more hours of driving for the day.

One of my favorite -- well, I can't call it a favorite -- but one of the pieces I most connect with in the Cleveland Museum of Art's collection is John Rogers Cox's "Gray and Gold" -- the symbolism is a bit hard to pick up from the version on their website, but in this 1942 painting storm clouds linger over amber waves of grain while political campaign posters are tacked to the telephone poles at the intersection of two quiet rural roads--it seems that each time I look it at I pick up another detail.

When I have a bit more time to travel, I enjoy letting my GPS take me off-highway... a quiet two lane road with a high(ish, this is Ohio after all) speed limit through farmland is more relaxing than being stuck behind a semi for 3 hours, and the time seems to fly with the scenery, with the occasional small town thrown in for good measure and a bit of variety. Perhaps because of this, the scenery shown in Gray and Gold seems so familiar.

This trip, for reasons of expediency, I was limited to mostly major highways, but nonetheless as I drove along there were scenes that reminded me of the essence of Gray and Gold -- just without the stormy overcast:
Farmland... see blogFarmland... see blog

And with that and a few more hours of driving I arrived at my hotel in Columbus with a little bit more daylight and one more picturesque sunset for this trip...
Sunset at the Hilton Garden Inn/Columbus University Area

And now, of course I am home...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mackinac Island Shall Explain My Absence

I have returned from a simpler time, and it scares me. Well, not really, though I was quite confused about what to do when presented with a gas pump that doesn't have a slot for credit cards. (Aparently you pay after you pump the gas...and you go inside. The whole premise of paying for the gas after it's in your car is foreign to me.)

(If you want to skip all of the words and just see pictures, you can go to the Flickr photos)

I was in a place where wireless internet access is not ubiquitous, television is not missed, and the summer sunsets last forever. If you noticed the lack of a performing arts piece this weekend, it's OK... I didn't get hit by a bus, though I have 3 days and another couple hundred miles before I'm home: I will be at a Cleveland Orchestra concert next weekend, though I haven't decided which one sounds better (leave a comment if you'd prefer to hear about Saturday or Sunday's concert)

Before making my way to Columbus, where I am at the moment, I was "Up North" in beautiful St. Ignace and Mackinac Island, Michigan. Both cities are amazing to visit; and my grandparent's home up there has an amazing view of the lake just standing in the middle of the street. But let's start at near the beginning...

My journey started after work on Thursday, and at 11:59PM, 6 hours into the 7 hour drive I found myself checking in to the last room at the Gaylord Hampton Inn: My suspicion that that was a good place to pause the drive was confirmed when I tried convincing the clerk that my Hilton HHonors Diamond Card -- followed by my Ohio Driver's License -- was the credit card I wished to used to pay for the room. A keycard for their last available room was exchanged for a valid (and real) credit card, and I got a good night sleep.

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MIMackianc Island - Downtown and Marina from Fort
Friday morning, I finished out the drive and greeted my grandparents who graciously hosted us in their home for this trip. After unwinding, my Mom (who had arrived by air the night before) and I headed over to Mackinac Island...relatively unique in that there motorized vehicles are prohibited* on the Island's roads leaving foot, bikes, and horses as the primary means of transportation. The island is full of history and, for me at least, is quite the visual experience so if you can't go for yourself, I'd recommend checking out some of my Flickr photos rather than reading my blather.

Among "new" sights for this trip, I was amazed to see a horse-drawn street sweeper a few times during the course of my visit -- an ingenious bit of technology to address one of the biggest problems of having a few hundred horses as an island's primary means of transportation (don't worry, the old-school human-with-shovel-and-pan street sweeper is still present in abundance).

After leaving the island and unwinding for a bit we grabbed dinner and that pretty much spoke for Friday.
The entirety of the alleySt. Ignace Has a Bowling Alley?!?Me, the only bowler at the time.
Saturday morning was the reunion proper. Once things quieted down, my mother and I got a few games of bowling in. Unsurprisingly, I lost every game. Badly. But we still had fun. After bowling we paid my tribe's casino a visit to spend some promotional tokens. Unsurprisingly, I lost. Badly. But I walked out with $3.75 more than I started with, and we closed out the night with downtown St. Ignace's fireworks over Lake Huron.

Given that it is now 11:30 this seems like a good place to leave things for tonight, more about the trip and more photos to come tomorrow.

*--Golf carts are allowed on the golf course only; our carriage guide told the story about two attorneys who were golfing and decided to take the cart downtown to pick up more beer. A state trooper cited them for, among other things, OWI, open container, no seatbelt on a state highway...