The Epistle of Q — Chapter Fourteen

Q #1
Can a person actually self-overload on culture and the arts?

Since my Thursday experience with the Kitchen Stove Film Series was so interesting, it seems that I have gone a a bit of a bender.

Friday started off as a ski day but the pictures from the day before were rather misleading. Before reaching the ski hill we all became enveloped in fog and low-lying clouds (whatever the difference is actually escapes me, especially when I am trying to ski). Only managed eight runs and less than three thousand Vertical Metres (VM’s) before calling it a day and coming back to the Valley. The one great moment was during the drive up when we were able to listen to an interview on CBC with the guest performer for the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO) that evening — he was a great interviewee…

Then things really got interesting. There was an invitation to go to Kelowna to take in the OSO concert there — now possessing season’s tix to the Penticton concerts would suggest no need for such a trip but there was a bonus. I would get to go to a reception (with free wine and cheese) and meet the Lt.Gov Hon Gauichon (sp?). That seemed like a worthwhile event. In addition, before the concert I could try out another “Social House”. In my earlier life these places were called Neighbourhood Pubs, but this new title seems somehow uplifting — there are so many pubs (which had earlier replaced bars) that it is nice, even in one’s advancing years, to go upscale and drink and dine at a Social House. Interestingly enough, no one came over to our table to socialize, but being in a hurry to get to the concert, that didn’t really bother me…

The concert started in a very vice-regal way which was wonderful, given the contrast to the USA inauguration that had taken place in the morning. The Lt Governor’s short speech was all about hope, youth, music and the great future the Valley has, given the number of kids now involved in some aspect of music. The orchestra was focusing on Beethoven for this weekend’s concerts and started with a short piece that was lovely and got us into the mood — good choice.

Then out came the guest performer along with a $200K Steinway, and for the next 35 minutes I was blown away (and without any wind coming in through the doors). Ian Parker may be the best pianist in an extended family of tremendous keyboard masters. He played the Emperor’s Concerto — actually playing is too timid a word — he commanded the piano to offer up the concerto. The first movement was so powerful the audience burst into unruly applause, forgetting all decorum about waiting till the end. The rest of the work was performed with similar passion, understanding and command of the piano, although everyone restrained themselves with applause until the end of the piece. He was incredible and literally held everyone’s ears in the fingers of his hand. When he got to the end, everyone was on their feet. Wave after wave of clapping finally brought him back out for an encore — then without going and getting any sheet music, he simply stated that he would play some of the sunny parts of the Moonlight Sonata — and he did… to even more applause.

The invited guests then went to a special lounge to meet with the Lt Gov and also there were Ian and the OSO Conductor… while there was not a great deal of time, the people from Sandhill Wines did a great job making sure we had our glasses adequately filled and then we were privileged to chat with the star of the evening and the Lt Gov. Both are very gracious people and so the short visits were quite informative and real conversations as they asked questions of us as well.

The second half of the concert was B’s Symphony #7 and it was lovely. The conductor, Rosemary Thompson, who is a very bright musician in her own right, seems to really like #7 and she really drew it out of the orchestra. It didn’t matter the section or the place in the score, everyone gave their utmost and it was a totally amazing performance. It too brought a sustained standing ovation at the end. The entire evening really infused me with great mental restoration.

This restoration seemed to linger as this morning I decided to take in the opera, Live From the Met in HD. It was Romeo & Juliette. The two lead singers were a tour de force, the direction was superb as were the sets and costumes. It lasted well over three hours but it was worth it. There were some interesting moments in the performance. For one, and this seems to be happening to me more and more, there are always some performers who either remind me of people I have known or else do something that triggers a recall moment of an earlier time.

First of all, the priest reminded me of a young man who I had met about a dozen years ago in Ottawa. That fellow was a politico and a former college football player without obvious church leanings and I never heard him sing. Yet in today’s production I couldn’t get over the similarity and I wondered if the reason I had liked the guy as a person was this hidden pulpit-connection!! The other major moment revolved around the story of the two houses that are in hateful opposition to each other (Capulets & Montagues). The lead female star reminded me of a young woman I knew in high school who was Roman Catholic and went with a Protestant who looked (as near as I can remember) quite like the male lead singer. As these images criss-crossed the stage and the story, I thought back to those high school days and reflected on the fact that there was at times a significant divide between RC’s and Protestants. What is even more weird is that I think the young couple in high school eventually broke up due to parental interference — the “no son of mine will marry one of those” attitudes which is a variant on the central theme in Romeo & Juliette. So, even though most of us have studied Shakespeare’s take on the theme, and the opera was written quite some time ago, it is apparent that we still have a ways to go in accepting each other, no matter what. Especially poignant as we contemplate a period of “hate mongering and cyber-bullying” from the White House.

It has been a great deal of artistic infusion and it isn’t over yet — am shortly to leave to take in a high school jazz performance. What is most interesting already? When acquiring the tickets from the head of the music department at Pen Hi, his comment was — who are you connected with in the group? He was stunned to hear “No one”. It is sad to think that with all our complaining about today’s youth, when a group of artists get together to put on a performance, usually in this town only those with familial connections bother to buy tickets. Makes me more determined than ever to go — musical overload this weekend or not!!