Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Phoenix 2015 - The Phoenix Symphony

One of my friends was ushering the performance of the symphony that evening, a recent volunteer activity he has taken up which he enjoys. The payoff is seeing the performances he works at. I have to admit a tinge of envy regarding the Diane Krall concert he would experience later this year. As the houselights dimmed a young, rather adorable viola player came onstage to give us a welcoming speech providing us with information on what we would be hearing that evening. After the viola player took his seat the first violin player entered. He is huge, tall, and it appears under his tails, broad as well. My friend whispered as he came onstage "Here comes the tall guy". I referred to him as Lurch., He apparently has been playing first violin since my friends first moved to Phoenix a number of years ago. Then the conductor, also extremely tall yet thin, entered. As the performance progressed I had to admit to being unimpressed with him. He appeared to my eye competent yet uninspired.

The first piece was by a Mexican composer neither I nor my friend was familiar with. I enjoyed the slightly atonal piece. Both of us mentioned afterward that we definitely discerned a Mexican influence. The next piece by 20th century composer Samuel Barber was a cello concerto even more atonal that the first piece. Using an instrument that we were told during the introduction was 300 years old the remarkable guest musician, using a combination of techniques including plucking, strumming as well as working with the traditional bow, created sounds with the venerable, virtually irreplaceable treasure that left me slackjawed. He received a well deserved standing ovation at the end of his performance. The age of the cello gifted it with a rich warm sound which could only have been born slowly over time. As I listened to it's tones I pondered the almost countless number of people that have heard it played over it's long life. The previous evening the musician had performed an encore. Since this apparently sent the entire orchestra into overtime, so, despite our thunderous applause, on this night the encore was eschewed.

The second half of the program was a Shubert piece. The romantic composers work provided a sharp contrast to the modern sounds of the first half.

We enjoyed a late supper at a bar and restaurant nearby. Once a men's clothing store it has been imaginatively repurposed. It references it's original life by it's retention of it's street showcase windows as well as the names of the brands it formerly carried still being emblazoned on it's walls. Convenient to several entertainment venues it is often quite busy when there is more than one event taking place in the area on a given evening. This night it seemed to be attracting a young, hipster crowd. A portion of the population of my Chicago neighborhood has a similar, although perhaps slightly less well heeled, aesthetic. In my day we shopped in thrift stores, today's fashion is culled from H&M. The existence of these crowds suggest that while times and fashions change, youthful innocence and exuberance does not.

As we neared the house Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Jo" played on the radio. I hadn't heard the wonderfully ambiguous song in a long time. It was a welcome epilogue to a lovely evening.

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