Before I continue let me encourage latecomers to check out parts 1, 2, and 3, beginning here, and thus be brought up to speed.
Like any concert venue, when you are ready there is a helpful usher (Link to the next chapter.) to guide you from place to place when you are ready. ;-D
As intermission began I asked a nice lady to take the photo I proudly call "Portrait of a "New" Journalist at Work". ;-D
I spent some time chatting with one of my row-mates about our impressions of the first half of the program.
It was obvious to me the guy had a grasp of the nuances of music appreciation, and orchestral, and chorale performance that I don't, but i still found what he said interesting, and even agreed with a few of the points he made.
I walked to that area of my level that overlooked the stage, just to see what it was like from there, and got an interesting perspective from people sitting there.
Where the Bowed Piano is concerned the audience with this view gets a perspective that the rest of us don't get unless we are looking at the Big Screen.
Those sitting here also get a close-up look at the members of the orchestra in action that everyone else does not, and get to enjoy all the funny faces the conductor makes while exhorting them to play, with each wave of his magic wand, and gesture of his hands. ;-D
Back in my seat it was time for the show to continue.
Up first was Ferde Grofe's "Sunrise" and "Cloudburst" from his Grand Canyon Suite, of 1931.
Grofe made a name for himself in the 20's when he orchestrated Goerge Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, but it the Grand Canyon Suite that was his true claim to fame.
As the February Program Magazine describes, the two movements played were the first and last (This part has titles, in the score, of "Approach of the Storm", "Lightening", "Thunder in the Distance", "Rain", "Cloudburst at its Height", "Storm Disappears Very Rapidly", "Moon Comes from Behind the Clouds", and Nature Rejoices Agin in all its Grandeur."), and the Flute opening and orchestra repeat of it, was pleasantly familiar from somewhere.
I knew it, but couldn't place it for the life of me!
I had a huge grin on my face, the whole time the piece was played, because of its familiarity. ;-D
Next up was the World Premiere of Crying for Justice, by Curt Cacioppo, a piece he wrote in 1998.
Before it was played the composer talked about the stories he learned about the historic mistreatment of American Indians, while researching for his piece, and talked about some of the unique Indian Instruments used in the performance (Water Drum, Deer Toe Rattles, Cornhusk Rattles, Grinding Stone, and others.).
I found, after reading it later, that what he said in the Program magazine and in an inteview in the Program itself, did more to help me understand the piece.
Crying for Justice is the last movement of an orchestral suite he called Scenes from Indian Country.
It was his effort at setting to music "impressions of Native American Life.
This portion "begins with a whisper" and goes on to try to convery an sense of outrage at the fate of Indiands at the hands of Manifest Destiny, yet also express the "spirit of tenacity and determination that American Indians demonstrate in the face of severe obstacles, the will to survive."
That being said...I found the piece to be very nice, with some unique sounds adding a different sort of mood to the whole.
The last piece on the program was the Suite from Billy the Kid by Aaron Copland (1939).
This piece is the most familiar part of a longer work and, as the Program Magazine explained, has had a great influence on the sound of the Hollywood Western, covering many of the same themes of the loneliness of the prarie, the boisterous atmosphere of your typical saloon, the violence of a gunfight, and those who engaged in them.
I had another big grin as I recognized several familiar melodies, though it took a look in the magazine to learn their names.
Copland quotes, or reworks for his own purposes six pieces including "Whoopee Ti Yi Yo", "Git Along Little Dogies", and "The Dying Cowboy" ("Oh, Bury me not on the Lone Prarie!")
There are 8 seperate movements in this piece, with their own themes, sounds, and moods, telling the life of the famous gunslinger.
I didn't need to know their specific titles to get the gist of the story the piece was telling, but here they are:
1. Intro: The Open Prairie
2. Street on a Frontier Town
3. Mexican Dance and Finale
4. Prairie Night
5. Gun Battle
6. Celebration (After Billy's Capture)
7. Billy's Death
8. Open Praire (Reprise)
I liked how the Big Screen had an image of the the cover of the 5 cent Wide Awake Library Ed. of "The True Life of Billy the Kid (1900), and how the drums were used in the "Gun Battle" sequence to signify gunshots.
Oh, and the sound of snorting Buffalo! (Was it the oboes or the bassoons?) ;-D
With the show over some of the audience made their way to in front of the stage again for a confab with the conductor and composers, where they took some questiions.
As I came out into the Fourth floor lobby, and headed for the elevator to go to the discussion, I came up behind a pretty young lady, moth wide open in a GREAT BIG YAWN.
I piped up: "Was the concert THAT boring?" ;-D
Her eyes got big, her face turned beet red, and as she truned to look at me she quickly put her hand over her mouth.
I smiled, laughed, and said: "Don't fall asleep!"
She and her girlfriend smiled sheepishly back. ;-D
The best question, at the discussion, came from a poor man who had issues with the Harrison piece, this "new music" as he called it, which was not at all like the Classical Music he was used to.
The conductor, Carl St. Clair, was so taken by the implications of the question that he spent considerable time answering it, passionately talking about listening to, and experiencing the music from "within", and not just "with your ears."
He talked of how understanding the piece, for him and his orchestra and chorale, was not an overnight thing.
He recommended a 40+ yr. old classic book of reviews of the works of famous composers as a way of seeing how reviewers of the times thought of some, now, very famous works -- LEXICON OF MUSICAL INVECTIVE: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven's Time by Nicolas Slonimsky [2000 Ed. has an intro by Peter Schickele ("P.D.Q. Bach").]
Then I asked his to respond to my thoughts on listening to the piece (Described in Part 3), as a counterpoint to the other guy.
I then learned that the 4 intersting poems I noticed in the magazine, but did not get a chance to read, were actually the words "warbled" by the Chorale!
If the it had been made clear in the onstage intro to the work that they were what was going to be sung I might have read the words as I listed to the performance.
Reading them later definitely gave me a different appreciation for the work. ;-D
Mr. St. Clair remarked that the conductors job is to not like or dislike a particular piece, but to give birth to this musical "child" and give it the best "life" he can.
One lady felt that bowing a piano makes the poor piano seem almost eviscerated, and emasculated, and anoterh person said seeing all those hands in its innards reminded him of open-heart surgery, and that in one piece it was if the audable "heartbeat" of the piano could be heard.
A thrid person, a pianist felt that the piano had its "suit and tie removed" thus becoming something less "buttoned-down".
Thinking back on the performances I tend to agree with those observations.
Mr. Scott said that he feels he allows the piano to be something it never was before and has a slightly different "soul" and different musical life.
Another question was a two parter: How does a conductor make a famous piece their own, and would hearing a recording affect his own performance?
Mr. St. Clair said it depends on ones respect for the conductor and orchestra as to how it would affect how he interprets the piece himself.
He also said he "talks" to composers in preperation in order to try to recreate what inspired them to put the notes on the page.
After the discussion was over I was approached by an older lady, whose name escapes me now, with whom I walked outside.
As we walked we talked about the performance, and she suggested that in the future I try to see about being seated in different places in the hall, including above and behind the stage (Which she personally likes.) so as to experience the performances in different ways, and like the other concert goer I'd chatted with I told her about my blog, and gave her my card.
As I said good-bye and began to walk down the street toward the bus stop on Bristol, my attention was grabbed by an amusing sight.
A jacket flung over a poor, defenseless, fire hydrant, apparently left behind by someone who must have been in a great hurry to flee the concert as quickly as possible and didn't even stop when the jacket got snagged on the hydrant (Get thee behind me, Classical Music!), hee, hee! ;-D
So there I am holding in my hands this most excellent Cutter and Buck Medium-sized long-sleeved jacket, and wondering what to do with the little darling.
After pondering my options I decided I didn't need another jacket and went back inside to turn it over to someone in case the owners better half slapped him silly and orderd him to return and retrieve her Christmas present to him, forthwith. ;-D
And so ended a most enjoyable, interesting, and entertaining evening, the first of what I hope will be many more to come.
One final note: The colorful Program Companion for The West: Music Inspired by the American Frontier was a pleasure to read this past week.
The "Idea of the West" intro, and the "The West moves West" piece by Joseph Horowitz, and the interviews with Stephen Scott, and festival "Composer in Residence" Curt Cacioppo, were interesting, and informative, adding much to my enjoyment of the whole experience.