Maya, Louis and the CSO (and Artie Shaw)

Last night I went to the first of four Cincinnati Symphony concerts for which I have tickets this season. It is the inaugural weekend for the new director of the symphony, Louis Langrée. When I bought the tickets several weeks ago, I called the ticket office directly and had someone lead me through the purchase and help me select seats. I could have paid more and sat lower or closer, but by choosing the gallery, I had a good combination of view and value, and it sounds great once people stop whispering and start letting the music take hold. So I'll be in the 3rd or 4th row of section Q this season, and that suits me just fine.

Don't you like knowing there are still a few places you can call without fear of tedium, long hold times, and short-tempered or nonsensical people at the other end? It always seems like such a toss of the dice, and I'm not much of a gambler.

If you haven't attended a performance at the Music Hall, or not recently, you should know that it is a thing well worth doing. It's safe and well-lit, and there are people everywhere who seem happy to help you enjoy the experience. As I recall from last season, the coat check situation could be improved, but I'll see how that goes later this month.

I had the GPS on my phone lead me right to the parking garage entrance, because I don't spend enough time in that area to remember one way navigation, especially after dark. When I got in, Dr. Maya Angelou was already on stage speaking, and I was immediately captivated by her voice, cadence of speech, and personality. She was wearing a lovely long white dress and sat in a wheelchair discussing her life and what she believes people can and ought to do for themselves. She's had a remarkable life; broad and rich and worthy of honor and emulation.

Oh, and then the orchestra began to filter in, taking their seats and warming up. This always thrills me, and makes me wish to be a part of it, because there is nothing like orchestral music that is surrounding you as you contribute to it. It isn't just the sound; there's energy and a sort of electricity that infuses you. At the same time, the auditorium seats were filling rapidly. Naturally, I was in front of a man who did not know how to keep still or tuck his feet beneath him, and his wife was a whisperer. Well, this happens. To me, a lot. Anyway.

After the concertmaster arrived, the brass section stood up and played a fanfare for the new director! It was very cool. And when he walked on stage, all stood and applauded his arrival. I felt it was odd at first, yet somehow fitting, that the first piece of music began with the amazing talent of eighth blackbird, an unusual and impressive group of musicians who played Jennifer Higdon's On A Wire. The orchestra joined in after a few minutes, and at one point, nearly every musician on stage was making a percussive sound with their instruments. It was fantastic.

The first time I heard a Jennifer Higdon piece, I wasn't sure I'd like it, because I'm never able to be pulled into what has been a too-long atonal trend in contemporary orchestral compositions. However, she uses a great deal of inventive technique that builds into what feels like an astonishing cohesiveness. Really, I'm hardly anything like an expert, but I think she's got real genius. I'm always leaning forward to take in more. She's going to be looked back on as an influence, and how great is it to be a tiny part of that? I mean, I think we haven't yet heard the best of what she can do; we're just building up to it.

Next up was Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait. (Read lots about it here.) I love Copland. I'll write about why sometime. Three screens were lowered to show old photographs while the music played; images of battlefields, slaves, Abraham Lincoln, slave trade announcements, and civil rights demonstrations. Dr. Angelou was brought on stage and helped into a seat which allowed her to speak from a semi-standing position. She had changed into a gorgeous black evening gown. The music plays for quite awhile before the recitation of quotes from Lincoln, and about Lincoln and his life are spoken. She made it thrilling. One thing Copland did that I always admire when it's used well is to repeat the opening lines poetically. And it suits her particular oratory style perfectly. When the piece was finished, there was thunderous applause. I have been to some great symphonic concerts and some truly memorable rock concerts, but never have I wanted to stand with a crowd and applaud like it would somehow become some solid and lasting thing to give and to carry away. You know, manifesting it into being.

After the intermission, Langrée set Beethoven's Fifth Symphony off like a rocket. At first I thought it was going to gallop too frenetically for me, even in Beethoven terms, but then I realized that it wasn't galloping, it was rolling. I hadn't heard it played quite like this before, and I began to enjoy it. The Fifth is by no means a favorite of mine, but we played the final movement in high school (I've been trying to figure that out for awhile, I don't know,) and I do love that. It still marches through my head frequently. What I liked about last night's performance was that near the end of the scherzo, the third movement, there was this sense of almost running out of breath, and then the fourth took off again like the first. It was palpable. It's…well, it's sensual. There could be a metaphor in it. It wasn't a deep performance, but it was pleasurable.

The final ovations were enthusiastic and sincere, and I liked that. It was a great night and it's going to be a great season.

Okay, I wanted to share that on the trip to the Music Hall, which is 18 miles for me, I was listening to this goofy 90s playlist I made recently. Just as I hit downtown, Kid Rock's "Bawitaba" began. I found this hilarious for some reason. On the way home, I thought Beethoven in my head would be enough, but it took a billion minutes to get past the casino and back to 471-south, and by then I wanted external sound. Classical isn't really good in my car, and who knows what would turn up next on that playlist? The Spice Girls? So I turned on Artie Shaw, and that was a good decision. He was a gigantically egotistical ass, but he was a real musician. 


My Bi-Weekly Cincinnati Outing: Report #5

Two weeks ago I went to the symphony to hear a somewhat unusual concert. Unusual for me, at least. The one playing this weekend featuring Sarah Chang is more my speed. But I wanted something different. 

Watts Plays Beethoven's Emperor with Mei-Ann Chen, conductor, and André Watts, piano was the title of the program, but it also featured two contemporary pieces of music; "Poem," by Zhou Tian, and Jennifer Higdon's Concerto for Orchestra, which is just a real big experience to watch and hear live. Stunning, actually. If you can listen to the fourth movement, I recommend you do so but it's actually a satisfying piece of music altogether, though possibly a bit outlandish for anyone whose enjoyment of orchestral music is firmly pre-20th century. It's also not all that complex or intellectual, etc., if for some reason that's your thing. 

Here's a review of the whole concert. Afterwards, I went to Coffee Emporium for a late lunch before driving home.

Here's a little phone photo-log of my afternoon. It was very yucky out, and began snowing just as I got back home. 


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Today should be outing #6, but it is not to be, that is, it will be delayed a couple weeks, but hopefully not more. A sudden change in plans occurred, which I will talk about in the next post. 


My Bi-Weekly Cincinnati Outing: Report #4

I hope you enjoyed my little audio post. I'm going to do a better one, hopefully this evening, but for now, here is a long "dates with myself" entry, with a few links and photos for you to enjoy. There would be more photos, but my internet connection seems to feel about as well as I do just now. 

Two weeks ago I spent my afternoon at the Cincinnati Art Museum. I'd been there once or twice before, but not in nearly a year.

I have visited major art museums in Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. They each have something special about them. In New York, in that massive old building, you see art you've heard about all your life. In Philadelphia you see what seems like a true richness of creativity. Lots of good examples of 20th century style; Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, etc. Detroit has some great sculpture . I remember least about Chicago but what I do remember is being completely immersed in culture. Pittsburgh is a city that is practically made of art and beauty amidst a certain amount of decay. I'd want to talk more about the contemporary art there and could write pages.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is one of my favorite places to be out of everywhere I've been. It's beautiful, inside and out. There is a wealth of treasure there, literally, particularly the Imperial Chinese collection. And it's free, so you can wander in and out as you please, as you enjoy the complete outdoor setting, most especially in late Spring and early Autumn.

So for me, the Cincinnati Art Museum has a lot to measure up to. It does, you know, in one particular area of focus I'd never seen at another museum. That is local art, and in particular, the local art movement here in the 19th century. There was a thriving art culture here, you see, and the museum has great examples of it, but especially very good education on it. You really *learn* when you are at this museum, if you wish to.

Continue reading "My Bi-Weekly Cincinnati Outing: Report #4" »

My Bi-Weekly Cincinnati Outing: Report #3

Two weeks ago I went to Clifton to see what that's all about, and to see Amour. I'm really looking forward to going back there. The movie theater is pretty cool, there are many interesting restaurants around, and little shops to poke through. 

I'd been looking forward to seeing Amour for months, but then I kept putting it off because it looked so sad. But I decided I wanted to see it before the Academy Awards, so I went ahead, and I'm so glad I did. It's the best movie I've seen in quite a long time. 

Before the movie, it was hard to decide what to eat, but I ended up going pretty ordinary, to a place called Olives for their breakfast buffet. I had a Bloody Mary, and was entertained by people behind me having a very joyous birthday party. These were real friends enjoying each others' company. It was nice. And the food wasn't bad. I'll go back and try something from the bar, something from the regular menu. 

There's a nice park overlooking it all, and I drove up to it for a couple minutes. It will be very pretty in a few weeks. I'm going to add some links later, for now, a few pictures.  And I'll probably share about today's art museum outing tonight or tomorrow, instead of waiting two weeks. 


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weekend randomosity

This first bit was posted to Google Plus. (Good morning. Or whatever. I mentioned last week I've been doing my blog for over ten years now. I'm going to share in this box the way I shared early blog entries. The only difference is that the pictures have to be clickable down at the bottom, instead of inserted with html.)

I slept in this morning. When I looked at the phone it said 8:51. That seemed quite like enough to be going on with. Getting older is funny that way. The sky is lazily spitting snow at us again. Most of our snow this winter has been so; occasionally it sticks together at the surface, but not with any earnest effort. Today we're going to see Parsifal through the Met's live streaming program, but instead of going to our usual big movie movie theater, we're going to our #2 spot; Newport on the Levee. That's one of the places (along with Monmouth St., such serendipity, you don't even know) I'll go to for a date with myself, but when it's warmer out. Anyway. We think Newport AMC might have better speakers for HD opera than Milford Rave. I hope so.

Oh! (Most of) You don't know this because I don't blog all the details anymore since we have "social media" and also now and then I use discretion, but a few days ago, someone ransacked my car and stole my Kindle Fire out of it! I...replaced my key battery after that happened. The oddly good news is that I have "extra" money this month, so I ordered the Fire HD and it should be arriving today. I got the same size; I like it to fit into a handbag, but it will have better sound, better wi-fi, and double the hard drive space.

It would not be easy for a typical hoodlum to break into our house, but leaving the car in the driveway,  that should be safe as anything where I live. Yet it was not. I felt just creepy and awful, but a person I know online had her whole house broken into recently, and that had to feel much, much worse. 

When I went downstairs to make a cup of coffee and retrieve my laptop, this enchanting message appeared on my phone:

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And when I went to check notifications at Google+, I got to see this: Screen Shot 2013-03-02 at 9.32.33 AM

I have many friends at G+ and talk to them semi-privately more often than not, but when I post public links, sometimes I get responses that aren't super relevant to what I'm sharing. It doesn't matter much but you see the notification number and you're all "ooh, someone liked my, I guess not."

Finally, a word about March weather. March is typically very difficult for me, breathing-wise. But last year was super! Okay, it was a little creepy and "is the sun falling from the sky," and so forth, but I felt really, really good. Here are bits of data for you to look over if you can possibly muster interest. 


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My Bi-Weekly Cincinnati Outing: Report #2

Two weeks ago for my date with myself, I spent a little time in an area called Mariemont. I will write less about it, less to say, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow's date and hope to spend more time out there in the world. 

I spoke of the serendipity of finding Quartet the same time I learned we could see Rigoletto, which we did last week; at the same time I "discovered" my new love Jonas Kaufmann and next week we are seeing him do Parsifal.

So who knows what tomorrow holds? 

The Mariemont theatre is pretty nice, and also is being updated so it should be even nicer soon. Mariemontexterior

I had a cup of lemon zinger tea, made with one of those little cup machines, and cinnamon-glazed pecans. The theatre was filled with old people who all had Junior Mints, I think. Right? Pecans

After the movie, I went to the Dilly Deli, which is a big deal around there, and had a salad with roasted squash, goat cheese and more pecans! The dressing was perfect; light, not acidic, exactly the right amount and balance. Kindletable

Then I got a phone call saying my new glasses were in, so I drove way over to Costco to get them… Glassesmirror

and then, but I have no photos, the boys and I drove way up to Montgomery to have a Very Cincinnati Evening; pizza at Dewey's, ice cream for them at Graeter's, and then we saw Identity Thief in a big newish multiplex. It was way more entertaining than I expected. Forgettable, but enjoyable. 

Last Friday night, the man still hadn't seen Quartet even though I ordered him to before we went to Rigoletto, so we went to Mariemont and had a very nice dinner at The National Exemplar, 20130215_185732
and then saw the film. And then Rigoletto the next day, which was really fun. On Sunday evening we played Facts in Five, 70s edition, and that's related as well, but needs a separate post.

It's been an unusually busy month, even though I have not felt well for any of it. February and March are my toughest asthma months. This year is far worse than last. I am so tired of licorice root tea.

This week I've been redevoting myself to recordings of "Waters of March." Here's a fun one.

Waters Of March—Akiko + Corinne Drewery


My Bi-Weekly Cincinnati Outing: Report #1

My New Year's Resolutions are more fun than yours. I started a new thing. Every other week I'm going out and hanging out with myself. Two weeks ago, I went downtown to the Ohio Book Store, which is a great place I will spend more time in when it warms up outside. Most of what I was interested in was on the top two floors, which were very cold when I was there.

But in general, that store is so fantastic, it practically aroused me. I had two simultaneous thoughts that in no way go together. First, I would enjoy having sex in there. But second, it's probably the only place I've been to in Cincinnati so far, except maybe Jungle Jim's, that I really wish my mom could see. She would have been mad for that place. Here's some of what I saw:


I bought two books, Penhallow by Georgette Heyer (1942 war economy compliant first edition with no dust cover—looks like this but is the first printing and in better shape for $7.50 not $88) and Transmission of Life by Dr. George Napheys, 1878 edition (much more on that another time,) and the May 31, 1954 issue of LIFE magazine. Can you guess why?

Then I went for a bowl of soup at Tom & Chee. It was several blocks away, and that made for a very cold walk from where I'd parked for the bookstore, but it was worth it. I'd enjoy going back and trying one of their grilled cheese sandwiches on a donut, when I've saved up a week's worth of nutritional points or something. 


I walked back to the car and drove just a couple blocks further from the restaurant to Coffee Emporium. It's my favorite coffee house in Cincinnati but I'd been only to the other location in Hyde Park. This one was better for indoor times; very spacious and comfortable, and I parked right outside the building. But in warm weather, the Hyde Park one has a lot of great outdoor seating. They both have people behind the counter who know what they are doing, and the coffee they use is roasted very nearby. I ordered a breve latte and sat for awhile reading a book I'd brought with me, then drove home, which is about 20 minutes or so from that area. 


And this is one of the cool things about going downtown or just way into the city. I live on the farthest eastern edge of the city but it's never a bad drive to another area, and there are very many things to do in the city all year round. I'll go back downtown again soon on a day that's better for walking around, and also spend more time in Over-the-Rhine, especially when the farmers at Findlay Market get going again. (First two links here and the one below are to cool photo galleries.)

Tomorrow I am going to hang out in Mariemont, at least for a little while. Whether I spend the whole day out will depend largely on how well I am breathing. 

Because the rest of the time, this is what I see when I leave the house...