Saturday, October 31, 2009

Westover area in Arlington VA offers two free outdoor concerts Halloween afternoon

The Westover neighborhood of Arlington VA hosted two ad hoc concerts Saturday afternoon, Halloween, Oct. 31. The weather was cloudy and mild, in the 60s. This is still the "Upper South" you know.

At the Westover Market, a rock trio performed (“So Beautiful!” etc.) in the Beer Garden. The performers, according to the Market, are Joe Rathbone and The Walkaways.

Across McKinley St, at the new renovated elementary school and library, a New Orleans jazz quartet performed.

November 8, the Market has an event “Be brave and shave for kids’ cancer, Children’s National Hospital Event”. I hope that means “shave heads”. The Beer Garden link is this. (Remember, old Griffith Stadium in DC had its Beer Garden to increase the Senators’ home run output, as well as the visitors’.)

Last picture: Halloween band at Ballston, National Science Foundation atrium, Arlington VA.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dudamel conducts LA Philharmonic opening with Adams, Mahler #1

The 2009 Inaugural Concert for the Los Angeles Philharmonic with 28-year old Gustavo Dudamel conducting took place Thursday October 7 at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The LAPO link for the program is here. Many PBS stations carried this concert on Wednesday Oct. 21. The program comprised two works:

John Adams: City Noir
Gustav Mahler: Symphony #1 in D Major, the Titan

Adams, as we know, wrote the opera “Dr. Atomic”. The “City Noir” does indeed make us think of the Frank Miller “Sin City” movies. The music is polytonal, with lots of fluid string passages and climaxes built of chards of sound. The conclusion is very loud.

I got to know the Mahler in high school, when station WGMS sometimes played it; my first recording of it was the Vox Box with Jascha Horenstein (coupled with the Ninth, considered a great performance). The opening is a “derivative work” of the opening of the Beethoven Ninth, starting out with descending fourths in the tonality of A before smoothly shifting to D. Dudamel takes the exposition repeat, and builds to a whirlwind for the jolly climax. Dudamel does not play the Blumie movement, which I think should be included (Fischer’s recording has it). His tempo in the Landler is surprisingly measured. The do-re-mi of the third movement leads to a wistful Wunderhorn middle section. The Finale opens in the remote key of F Minor and will migrate (with the passionate second theme) to D-flat before the transition (recalling the same transition to the recapitulation in the first movement, as the horn players stand), to the triumphant, brassy concluding D Major, with “He shall reign”.

Attribution link for Wikimedia picture of Walt Disney Concert Hall. It looks a bit like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain.

Attribution link for Viennese horn picture

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"It's not about you, or me": Two sermons make a two-man "play"

I don’t review sermons on the “drama” blog very often, except when a sermon has a dramatic impact, or is like a play. That happened today at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC.

The sermon by Dr. Randall Ashcraft was “It’s not about you.” He added, “or about me”. He did not mention the start of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life”, or Warren (controversial at President Obama’s inauguration) at all for that matter, but the message was the same. The supporting scriptures were Job 38:1-7, Hebrews 5:1-10, and Mark 10:35-45. The sermon mentioned the "fall" in the Garden of Eden as like using "knowledge" as "power", that is "the knowledge of good and evil" (that is, of "WHOIS" good or evil) as a reason to become distant from others. He gave some examples, such as the Madison Avenue oxymoron, "An Army of One", indeed interesting given the "unit cohesion" arguments used to justify "don't ask don't tell".

We do have a paradox. The signature mantra for both libertarianism and progressive liberalism (the Obama kind) is “personal responsibility.” Another related concept is “equality.”

But the “communism” of early Christianity started out as the antithesis of modern ideas of individuality. The Gospel took up the plain truth that within any society people are very unequal in talents and circumstances, let alone outcome. It was a flexibility, a malleability to serve others for a higher purpose that marked the experience of the faith. Incredibly, this led to Western thought that made individualism as we know it possible and meaningful. One reason is that there are countless examples of problems in the modern world that go beyond the narrow meaning of “personal responsibility” or the libertarian notion of harmlessness, public health being one of them.

Then graduate student (international relations) Mark Royce, in green liturgical scarf, speaking from the lectern, gave a Stewardship Testimonial that really did come across as a brief one-man play. He spoke in a deep “preacher’s voice” that seem to come from Puritan times, as if right out of Nathaniel Hawthorne. He spoke of an upbringing, one side spiritual and religious, the other secular, humanistic and nearly agnostic. His movement into the world exposed him to the competitive, individualistic and presumably “secular” world which he presented in a metaphor based on chess players on Dupont Circle [or Washington Square Park in New York, for that matter]. (Remember how the late Bobby Fischer used to say that when he won a tournament chess game, he would see his opponent’s “ego break”.) Today’s presentation was a moral calling back to the spiritual.

All of this is in marked contrast to a brief youth sermon last spring at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington by an graduating high school honor student, on the theme of "perfection."

Of course, social conservatives know the “compromise”, the “family”, within which karma is shared and quantum uncertainty is the moral norm. Because social structures are so easily abused by those in charge, the bridge between the “family group” and the “individual” might have to become the notion of a new “social contract.” More about that in future posts.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"The Barber of Seville" (was aired at Nats Park)

The Washington Opera presented Gioachino Rossini’s buffa “The Barber of Seville, or Useless Precaution” (“Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione”) in September, 2009, with a free jumbo-cast into Nationals Park. I missed that, but checked out the ArtHaus DVD of the 1988 performance by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Garbriele Ferro, with Cecilia Bartoli, David Kuebler, and Gino Quilico.

The best music in the 2-1/2 hour opera, for my money, is the overture, which I recall from my high school days. There is a little “storm and stress” in the thunderstorm scene, and a grand chorus, but a lot of the music sounds rhetorical and bit superficial.

Some of the elements of the plot, however, ring true. Figaro, the Barber, plays “uncle”, that is matchmaker, on request, and Count Almaviva pretends to be someone other than his true self. It’s is if someone like me had put on a wig because he had to.

The opera has a couple of arias that are sometimes sung in keys other than that which they were written (E major goes up to F, D major comes down to D-flat), which could lead to some odd transitions or tonal personality.

The mezzo-forte ending is underwhelming. (So it is with the Fourth Symphony of Sibelius.)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cox Farms holds fall festival, offers music and "chutes and ladders"

Cox Farms , near Centrevile Va and near the Fairfax County and Loudoun County line on Braddock Road, has been holding its fall festival, with website here. The park is filled with sheaves, “chutes and ladders” and tunnels, and hayrides.

There is a stage with country and western music throughout the day (“I’ve been workin’ on the railroad”, and the like). Curiously, in the sheeps’ pen, leading to a chute, was airing Debussy’s “Claire de Lune”.

There were plenty of teacher-led field trips in progress on a schoolday, a warm October day with temperatures around 70.

The market there certainly reinforces an old kindergarten lesson, “pumpkins are orange.” When I was five years old, I wanted to draw them as red.

Also: horse show near Millwood VA, Oct. 2008.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Washington DC AIDSwalk attracts interesting stage, music performances

On Saturday, October 3, Washington DC and the Whitman Walker Clinic and other sponsors held the annual AIDS Walk at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue. The walk itself is shorter than it was ten years ago.

A group called “CSDC” performed rap dances on the outdoor stage. Curiously, the audience was told not to record video of the group, dressed in purple and yellow outfits, somewhat resembling the “X-Faction” at Town DC.

But at Federal Triangle Metro, nearby, there was a street trumpet player, playing hymns (like "Amazing Grace") to recorded organ music, with some impressive volume, carrying all around the outdoor patio areas of the Ronald Reagan Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.