IN MY OPINION
Books Read in 2007
PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS
20 March 2007
I didn't realize it was going to be a busman's holiday. After six years, "going to a show" is like "going to work" for me. When Walt sees something that sounds like it's going to be interesting and asks if I want to go, especially if it involves a 160 mile round trip, I generally tell him no and encourage him to go himself, if he wants.
But this was different. It was a notification card we received from a choral group called Cantare con vivo, based in Berkeley. We aren't exactly on their mailing list, Jeri is, at our address--and she doesn't know how she got on it. We've been receiving their notices for years and have never attended a concert, but this time they were advertising an organ concert featuring "nationally renowned guest organist Paul Fleckenstein."
Paul was the keyboardist for The Lamplighters' very special 1985 production of a little show called Something's Afoot, about which I wrote an entry three years ago. It was one of the most special shows that I have ever been involved with and so I have a soft spot in my heart for anybody who was also involved. Paul and I remained in contact for a brief while following the show and Walt and I had also been to previous concerts that he had given in Berkeley prior to his move to Delaware, where he now serves as Director of Music for Westminster Presbyterian Church. I have not really had any contact with him since he moved out of California.
Walt bought tickets for Sunday's concert and we headed to Berkeley. In truth, I didn't know if I was going to write anything about the concert or not, but when oboist Kathy Connor, whom we have known from Lamplighters forever, asked me afterwards if I was going to make her famous on my blog, I knew that I would have to write something up. So, Kathy--this one's for you!
And besides, the pressure is off. If this had been an assignment, I would be terrified, knowing that I didn't know enough to give it an "intellectual-sounding" review. But hey--this is my journal. I don't have to sound like I know what I'm talking about, and my observations really didn't concern the music as much as it did other things anyway.
The concert opened with Symphonie Concertante by Joseph Jongen, chosen to showcase the church's brand new organ (there is a full page of statistics about the organ in the program which talks about things like bourdons, Gedackt Pommes (32 pipes), Rohr Gedackt (61 pipes) and Fourniture V (305 pipes)...a whole page full of stats like that).
As for the work itself, it is described as "by any standard a thriller....the organ has a virtuoso role, playing almost continuously for 35 minutes--52 pages for an organist who must possess a black belt in organ technique." Obviously they had imported the big guns and Paul was ready to let all the stops out. Literally!
And the piece is magnificent. Four movements, the last of which is a Toccata, when Paul took the sheet music down and just let 'er rip (later, when I accused him of being a show-off, he told us "I love that part, the hell with the notes..")
However there were a couple of moments that took my mind off the beautiful music. One was when Kathy and her co-oboist, took advantage of a spot where they weren't playing to clean their instruments, which I know musicians do all the time during concerts. They have to. Any musician who blows into a wind or brass instrument knows that. But somehow I watched the cloth slide through the tube of the oboe and got fixated on oboe spit and it took a bit of doing to bring my attention back to Paul and the organ.
The other thing that I began to concentrate on was the Triangle Girl. The Triangle Girl sat off to the side of the orchestra with a book of sheet music in her hand. She sat through two movements of the piece and then she got up, picked up a tiny metal triangle, watched the conductor carefully for her cue, hit the tiny triangle once, and then sat down again until the final movement when she hit one more note to end the piece. Don't get me wrong--they were perfect notes, but I was wondering if she was being paid by the note.
There was an intermission after the piece and I still hadn't really thought about writing a "review" of the concert. But as the second piece, a Maurice Duruflé Requiem began, I couldn't help myself and I rummaged in my purse for a pen so I could jot down notes in the margins of my program.
First of all, it's very difficult for someone who has spent 12 years doing gynecological transcription to see the word "Introitus" and think of music. 'Nuff said.
But then there was the drooling. Or possible drooling. There was a violinist who played with mouth hanging loosely open over the instrument and I was convinced that at any moment I was going to see drool roll down off the lips and onto the violin. It never happened ,but I was fascinated, waiting for it.
The Sanctus was glorious and and I wrote in my program that it sounded like a tropical breeze blowing through palm trees on a deserted island, ending in the arrival of a monster storm. Perfect blending of orchestra and chorus.
A soloist sang the Pie Jesu and I never could figure out why she took her high heels off to walk up the steps to the altar and sing, and then put them back on again after she finished singing and sat down again. Seems to me it would have been the other way around!
The Agnus Dei surprised me because it was the familiar Gregorian chant that I remember from my childhood, but then Duruflé builds on it, takes different versions of the same chant and weaves them together into this glorious musical tapestry.
Triangle Girl had sat mostly quiet through the Requiem as well, but when it came to the Libera Me, she stood up and actually got to hit a high hat cymbal, softly. Triangle Girl did not break a sweat during this concert, lemme tell ya.
When the Duruflé ended, they did César Franck's Psalm 150 (technically, I guess it's King David's Psalm 150, but Franck set it to music), which was perfect for this large orchestra:
...etc. It's kind of like a biblical Bolero, without the sex. And Triangle Girl got to actually crash the cymbals together once for this. I'm sure she was going home to nap after her strenuous day.
When the concert was over and we had chatted with Paul and walked toward our car with Kathy (Thanks for the great parking place, Gilbert!), we drove out to San Ramon to have dinner with Char and Mike and see their "new" house (they've been in it two years, but we hadn't seen it yet).
They are the only people I know who park their cars on white carpet.
It's so like a Prius owner!
...and just one final note, today is my 7th Journalversary. Whoda thunk 7 years ago that I'd still be around tapping out these silly entries 7 years later?
PHOTO OF THE DAY
First Congregational Church of Berkeley.
This is entry #2546