I’ve been travelling again…
This will be a multi-section chapter as there really is quite a bit to talk about. But let me start with my experience with arts and culture because over the last couple of weeks it seems that it has been a big part of my schedule(s).
It actually started even before I left. Over two weeks ago I attended a film showing at our Art Gallery’s Kitchen Stove Series. The film was shown in our town’s Landmark multi-screen theatre so the seats are very comfortable and the viewing is excellent. The film – Maiden – was exquisite. The story of the all female crew that competed in the round the world race at the beginning of this millennium was captivating as well as thought-provoking. It certainly addressed stereo-types that need to be put to rest and reminded me why the idea of no women allowed likely has never been a good idea, and not just in sports or the arts.
Another thing that this film did however, it is got me thinking about the responses different people have to art. Films tend to gain more followers than still pictures; going to a movie house is oft-times much more popular than going to an art gallery. And today, people do more streaming of events than actually attending them in person – and when live acts are available, big names (even if old) gain more interest than specialty or new acts. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad or even negative thing. But it does impact how we need to address the evolving world of support for the arts as I shall discuss throughout this chapter.
On the Friday night I was in Oliver to see a play put on by a local amateur theatre group. Without going into all the specifics, I just want to say that it was a well done production. Some of the actors were very good, the entire evening was more than enjoyable and it showed off the Venables Theatre in a different light – that place is as good for drama as it is for music. The next evening I attended Many Hats Theatre in Penticton. It too is an amateur group that utilizes a more compact playhouse setting. Again the acting was good and the event was well worth the price of admission. In between, on Saturday afternoon, I took in a concert by the Capilano University Singers. This is a very talented group of musicians – not only are they wonderful as a chorale, we also were treated to a variety of solo and small group performances. The only problem? St. Saviour’s Church (the site of great Jazz Vespers services) was not even half-full. As disappointing as that must have been to the performers, it never showed – but a good many music lovers missed out on a special treat by not attending. Sunday I participated in a fondue event with a small group of arts-minded people – that in itself was special. Made me realize once again, that just because people like the arts, doesn’t mean they can’t be wild and crazy kind of people.
After skiing on Monday I headed for Atlanta Georgia. Weather delays meant that I arrived later than I’d planned, so my trip to South Carolina (to a different conference I will discuss in another section of the chapter) was in the dark. Luckily even though the rains came back on Thursday, the return trip was in daylight so I was able to view the countryside. And I got back in time to attend the Atlanta Symphony concert. And that is really more germane to this chapter.
First of all, the Symphony Hall is part of the Woodruff Arts Centre, a massive complex that takes up a good city block. The Centre also contains a major Playhouse and an Art Gallery & Museum. Secondly, the Symphony’s level of sponsorship is nothing short of amazing – with both Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola leading the way with contributions of at least one million each annually – it’s not hard to see why the organization is so first class. The Hall itself is very functional, with excellent acoustics, great sight-lines and very comfortable seats. The Atrium will hold comfortably over a thousand people and they can empty the place in about fifteen minutes (major doorways at both ends of the lower atrium). The evening I was there focused on the music of Jean Sibelius which was something different for me. Furthermore the conductor was Thomas Sondergard, a Scandanavian of considerable talent that was well displayed throughout the evening. While I have often heard Finlandia performed in orchestral settings, I was not as familiar with any of his other works. While this in itself would have made the evening a treat, the bonus was that the featured violon soloist was a young Canadian – Blake Pouliot (who played the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Minor). If this person is ever in your neighbourhood, make sure you attend the concert or whatever presentation he is performing at, as he is something special. It all came together in a way that made me appreciate how lucky we are if we live near to and thus can attend live orchestral performances. The Atlanta Symphony was well worth the price of admission – it is a great orchestra and the venue gives it a special audio ambience. While I would love to attend more of its concerts, I at least have the benefit of regularly hearing the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and occasionally the Vancouver Symphony which are two superb alternatives.
My musical month concluded upon my return with a jazz night at Zia’s Restaurant in Summerland. The Al Crossley/Larry Crawford ensemble are always good, but this evening with Yanti adding her superb vocals it was probably the best jazz night I’d ever attended at that venue. Music was simply toe-tapping. Food was good too (can’t comment on the wine because it’s Lent and that is one of the things I have temporarily given up!!). The table was made up of the same gang as participated in the above-mentioned fondue event – so it definitely added to the wonderful mood of the evening.
The next evening I was invited to the Dream Café to a special performance by the Naramata Choir. Now this is a very good group under the direction of one of the Valley’s more progressive musicians. I just wasn’t sure how they could fit everyone on the small stage. Well it turned out that the presentation was considerably different: it was an electic mix of soloists and small groups presenting their personal most favourite songs – backed either by the director himself on the piano or a trio (piano, bass & drums). The range of music was extensive and the quality of sounds was very good.
And then Saturday morning I attended the Live from the Met performance of Agrippina by Handel – what a tour de force. I’m still trying to absorb it all. Again it simply proves that sometimes going to a theatre allows you to gain special moments of entertainment that avoid having to fly to New York and pay high end ticket prices.
All in all this month has been very good to my well-being. Music is certainly a great brain stimulant and the dramatic arts (even in film) provide lots of food for mental thought. And, with the exception of the trip to Atlanta, ALL of this special brain nourishment was obtained within fifty kilometres of my domicile by both amateurs and professionals. Getting this much stimulation certainly helped overcome the more depressing news about the unfolding health crisis coupled with the disastrous tearing apart of the social-cultural-economic fabric of our country that is occurring as I write.