31 March, 2010
“I don’t base my support for the legislation on the deterrent effect. I base it on the prophylactic effect of the legislation. Prophylactic means taking repeat, violent offenders out of our communities for longer periods of time.”
28 March, 2010
24 March, 2010
22 March, 2010
17 March, 2010
Music speaks to me. I’m so atttuned to music, I can do just about anything with it – relax, energize, calm, soothe, excite – whatever. Since I was small I always allowed it to move me. Because of this I have a very eclectic music taste. On my iPod I have everything from David Banner (A truly dirty, dirty song called Play) to Eminem, Metallica to Vivaldi, The Charlie Daniels band to Black Eyed Peas. You get the idea.
My favourite song in the world is "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". I remember racing down to my father's workshop whenever I heard it on the radio as I was growing up. He used to laugh and turn it up. I love that song.
I’ve been lucky in my life to hear songs and have some of them tell me stories, and very lucky to have heard some beautiful symphonies played by some very good orchestras. Kitchener-Waterloo has an excellent orchestra and I have seen everything from Canada’s world famous Prima Ballerina Karen Kain to Christopher Plummer reading excerpts from Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Grieg’s incidental music is easily my favourite suite; "In The Hall of the Mountain King" is my favourite classical piece by far.
Once – probably the only time I'll ever get to do so – I sat no more than 30 feet away and listened to a concert that featured a Stradivarius violin. I no longer remember the performer or the pieces played but the feeling leaves me bereft of speech to this day. I have always loved the string section of any orchestra, and that Strad spoiled me, I measure all concerts by that one. If you haven’t heard a Strad live, you may wonder why they cost so damned much money. In the right hands, this instrument is a weapon. It will spear your heart, rip out your insides, make you bleed and leave you changed. I’ve heard all the arguments, but for a semi-sophisticated lady born of red neck parents, that Strad and the young Asian man who played it, there is nothing that could match. Last night came close – the closest ever and takes a place right beside it in my heart.
Sometime last year Ken and his friend Craig started emailing about some concert. I don’t pay much attention to these emails – these two are major musical buffs – Ken plays piano and Craig is a professional trumpeter. Ken asked if we could go to this concert, as a birthday present to him. I said sure, why not. And put it out of my mind. The end of the year came, along with the price of this special concert - $87.50 for each seat. In the balcony. Woof – that’s pricy. I don’t mind paying for good music, or comedians, but I never heard of this guy – just that the orchestra was ‘world class’. And so I put it out of my mind again.
The Olympics came, and we enjoyed them very much. We watched the opening ceremony and then the closing ceremony. During the closing ceremony I was particularly impressed with a conductor in Vancouver directing an orchestra in Moscow. Then a few days later, Ken asked me if I was excited about seeing this guy again. What? Wait, what?? Then he explained to me that the concert we were going to was with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Ok, that stopped me in my tracks. I’ve heard world class conductors before and some pretty impressive orchestras, but this is a topper. And in Roy Thomson hall. I’ve never been before, but a little research showed me that this is probably the best concert hall around. The website advertised that if you unwrap a candy in the balcony they could hear it in the pit. Wow…
We headed out about 3:30 for Toronto. The ride was fantastic, smooth sailing -- unusual! We met our friends for supper in a wonderful restaurant called the Old Spaghetti Factory. Between the four of us we managed to order four different things, none of them had spaghetti. It was quite a feat, as there are only a few things there that don't come with spaghetti.
Then to the concert. I suffer from some pretty serious vertigo and we headed up, up, up to the top of the hall. When we emerged from our doors to the hall, I thought I was going to pass out. Roy Thomson Hall is shaped like a funnel, with the stage at the bottom. I crawled my way to the seats and watched with my stomach in my throat as other people danced lightly to theirs. It was a good 15 minutes before I could look down at the pit without wanting to throw up. I took my glasses off so I couldn’t see it more clearly.
Ken had been reading me bits about Gergiev, about how animated he was, how passionate. How he conducted sometimes with just a toothpick. He jumps around alright, and is clearly passionate, but he was not what caught me. The orchestra was fantastic. Here is what I thought we were going to hear:
LIADOV: The Enchanted Lake
RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 15
This was going to be exciting, I like Rachmaninoff and was glad not to be hearing Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky is by far my least favourite composer. I find his music discordant, and choppy. Late last week we realized that we were looking at the wrong date, and this is what we were going to hear…
BERLIOZ: Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens
BERLIOZ: Selections from Roméo et Juliette
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5
Ulp… Berlioz can be a little discordant as well. So I was going to have to sit through this and a 50-minute symphony by my most hated composer. I spent the first half of the concert dreading the second half. Oh, the music was beautiful, people were clearly transported. It was easy to tell that this was indeed a world class orchestra and conductor. But ugh, I was dreading the second half. It was all too tempting to skip out, pretending I couldn’t get back to my seat on time. To sit outside in one of the comfortable chairs with all the leg room I needed and see it on the tv’s scattered around the hall.
But I went back in. And the shortest 50 minutes of my life went by. As the second movement closed, I thought that maybe the difference was hearing Tchaikovsky done by a Russian orchestra, in a beautiful hall with the acoustics just perfectly balanced. I didn’t have too much time to think about it, as the music started again, and I was transported back to my story.
Oh yes, I did mention that music tells me stories right? Sometimes they are little vignettes, sometimes a full story as rich as any film you ever wanted to see. Desert Rose by Sting tells me a story so purely and strongly, that I cannot listen to it while driving as I will not pay attention to the road. I’m not even particularly fond of that song, but it does move me.
This symphony was more like little vignettes. They were all about love though, which is a first for me with Tchaikovsky. I had beautiful images of lovers dancing in meadows, wedding ceremonies held in brightly lit castles, small children playing in a courtyard filled with flowers. There were dramatic moments that coincided with the music, but overall it was a most wonderful 50 minutes of music I’ve heard in a long long time.
Thank you Ken, Craig and Nicole for sharing this experience with me, and especially to Ken for allowing me to blog about this, and for – of course – being my husband.
I am so glad Eva enjoyed that, especially the second half. Unlike her, I love Tchaikovsky. I love his sense of drama, his tone colour, his energy that lurks even in the slow movements of his symphonies. Her impressions of Berlioz go double for me, though. As Craig said to me afterwards, "Tchaikovsky has musical ideas, Berlioz has musical ideas. Tchaikovsky speaks in full sentences. Berlioz stutters." Just when I had seized on a lovely little snitch of song, it was carelessly thrown away, and who knew if it'd ever come back?
But for the first half of that concert, Gergiev and his orchestra did their damnedest to make me like Berlioz. I was struck most forcefully with how utterly precise the Mariinsky was. You'd expect that of such a renowned orchestra, and yet...their dynamic control beggared belief. They went from startlingly loud to whisper-quiet in unison...and held that whisper-quiet note perfectly, just barely discernable and yet tremblingly beautiful.
It is said that Gergiev views any two notes as a melody. Sometimes two notes is pretty much all Berlioz gave him to work with, but Gergiev didn't seem to mind.
The Tchaik, though--
Wow. Just...wow. The work was expertly shaped and delivered, by turns full of intensity and quietly reflective. The horn solo that opens the second movement was performed flawlessly and with a maximum emotional impact. I was completely enthralled. And let me say that took some doing.
Eva, as she says, has a case of vertigo. I have a case of gutshot that affects me at the most inopportune times. Just after I took my seat, right as the house lights were dimming, a monstrous cramp wrenched its way through my stomach. Normally that's my cue to find a bathroom within about two minutes. That wasn't an option here: if I left, I wouldn't get back in until at least one piece was over and maybe not until intermission. I wasn't going to let a little stomach upset spoil a show I'd waited months for.
My stomach wasn't going to shut up, though. It Berliozed its way through the whole first half, firing up occasional sforzando rimshots of gaseous agony. I've been told in the past that I fidget and twitch too much when forced to sit still for any length of time, and so I was exceedingly conscious of the need to sit still--but every now and again it became a real chore. And at intermission, I chose to remain in my seat rather than brave a horrific washroom line, reasoning that any movement at all would trigger something best not thought of; and so the second half began as a race against time. So it really should tell you something that I lost myself in brilliance of Tchaikovsky's Fifth, played by the selfsame orchestra that had once premiered the symphony under the direction of Tchaikovsky himself.
I had a wonderful time--a time full of wonder. I'm forever grateful to have had the chance to see Valery Gergiev conduct. If you get the chance, it is not to be passed up.
15 March, 2010
14 March, 2010
Provincial Constable Vu Pham likely saved at least one life when he sacrificed his own.
03 March, 2010
02 March, 2010
As far as I can remember, I've always been this way. Most kids I've seen hate the very idea of bedtime...I don't think I ever did. Oh, sometimes I might have wanted to play a little longer, but once I got tired, I don't recall ever trying to convince myself, let alone anyone else, that I wasn't.
01 March, 2010
Thank you, Canada: For being such good hosts. For your unfailing courtesy. For your (mostly) beautiful weather. For scheduling no more than 60 percent of your float plane departures at the exact moment when I was trying to say something on television. For not seeming to mind the occasional (or constant) good-natured mimicry of your accents. For your unique TV commercials -- for companies like Tim Hortons -- which made us laugh and cry. For securing this massive event without choking security, and without publicly displaying a single automatic weapon. For having the best garment design and logo-wear of the games -- you've made wearing your name a cool thing to do. For the sportsmanship we saw most of your athletes display. For not honking your horns. I didn't hear one car horn in 15 days -- which also means none of my fellow New Yorkers rented cars while visiting. For making us aware of how many of you have been watching NBC all these years. For having the good taste to have an anchorman named Brian Williams on your CTV network, who turns out to be such a nice guy. For the body scans at the airport which make pat-downs and cavity searches unnecessary. For designing those really cool LED Olympic rings in the harbor, which turned to gold when your athletes won one. For always saying nice things about the United States...when you know we're listening. For sharing Joannie Rochette with us. For reminding some of us we used to be a more civil society. Mostly, for welcoming the world with such ease and making lasting friends with all of us.