Audiences for classical music

September 29, 2009

Last weekend the Newport Symphony had a sold-out concert.  Not only that, we had lots of fun, making music with friends.  So the question is:  why is Newport able to do this, when it doesn’t seem to be a possibility in Portland?  Newport has a population of only about 10,000.  There is no music reviewer who writes for a newspaper or even a music blog (as sometimes happens for Columbia Symphony in Portland).

The audience in Newport is fairly gray — but I don’t think we should despair about that, because there’s a constant new supply of retirees moving into the community.  And with the NOAA West Coast headquarters moving to town, there should be a new supply of younger educated folks that might be interested in “culture”.  I think part of Newport’s success lies in the fact that we’re the only game in town.  We have a charismatic, friendly conductor with a world-class musical talent.

My one or two readers out there should come out to Newport and see what’s happening!  (I actually had a friend say he has read this blog — Amazing!)

Music weekend in Newport

September 21, 2009

We just returned from one of our whirlwind weekends in Newport – three rehearsals over two days, learning lots of new music, reconnecting with friends, and enjoying the beautiful beach weather (didn’t actually get out onto the beach).

5:00 a.m. Saturday morning is the start time.  Bleary eyed we eat breakfast and load up the van, hoping we haven’t left anything critical behind.  Like an instrument.  Or the music we’re about to rehearse (these things have been done, in the past…)  (One source of anxiety dreams – you know those dreams where you’re in college, suddenly facing the final exam in an obscure language, and you haven’t done the last six weeks of homework…  Only my anxiety dreams are about musical disasters.  I think the most memorable such dream of mine involved a locked concert hall, I could hear the musicians inside warming up; I finally got in, went to the stage, only to discover the orchestra was set up in the third balcony.  I make it up there, get my cello out, the end-pin somehow comes out, escapes over the edge of the balcony, falls down to the hydraulic pit, and between the edge of the pit and the wall, into the dark depths below.  I run down to the basement, which is raw mud, pilings holding up the building, rats running across the mud, water – perhaps from the Thames? – lapping up against the pilings, I can hear the orchestra starting to play up there in the third balcony…)

But I digress.  We head down the freeway, taking turns driving and napping.  We listen to all of NPR Weekend Edition-Saturday, then it starts again – if you were lucky, you were asleep when that part came last time.  We have our usual stops for changing drivers, getting coffee or a snack, finding a bathroom.  We pull into Newport about 9:15 for a 10:00 a.m. rehearsal.  We haven’t seen most of these folks since July or earlier.  The cello section (yay for us!) is all in place by 9:35, as other people straggle in for the 10 am rehearsal.  Craig unloaded just two timpani this time (a two-timpani gig – we could have done it in a smaller vehicle if ….)

This time, we’re doing Mendelssohn Reformation Symphony, two Ives pieces, Vaughan Williams Greensleeves, Jubel Overture (C.M.von Weber).  Most people seem to have practiced, we make good progress, Adam (our conductor) is happy.  But there are plenty of nasty bits to work on.  We work through the day – morning coffee at break, lunch midday (brought by wonderful NSO volunteers) and on through mid-afternoon.  By then we’re ready for a nap.

We stayed (as we usually do) with Buck & Sioux.  Sioux and I went to a play at the Performing Arts Center (very funny) while Craig and Buck dealt with their football addictions.

Today was another lovely sunny day at the beach, and we were inside struggling with Charles Ives, who seems determined to confound us with his rhythms.

This evening, after we got back home, we watched “The Soloist,” rented from Netflix.  Some of the scenes of homeless street squalor in LA, and the voices talking to Nathaniel as he descends into his schizophrenia, remind me in a perverse sort of way of some of my music anxiety dreams.  Perhaps it was the rat that appeared in Nathaniel’s sleeping spot in the freeway tunnel – apparently located nearby or maybe even underneath the Disney Concert Hall where the LA Phil plays.

Disappearing bloggers?

September 19, 2009

Ian wrote a comment on his Facebook page that all the bloggers are disappearing – perhaps being sucked in by the perfidy of Facebook or even Twitter.  I’ve never blogged – I’ve been lamenting the disappearance of the letter written on paper with pen-and-ink.  Maybe I need to move up a notch (from the letters I wish for but never write) and down a notch (from the Facebook that draws so much of my attention, for no apparent reason), and try writing a blog.  Or a journal.  Or whatever.  So this is the initial blog entry.

I’ve been writing all day, frantically, no let’s make that all week, on a project at work.  Great volumes of words – now up to 31 pages, single spaced – all to be picked apart by others, and then smashed back together again in a slightly less coherent (but more to their liking) way.  Working with the wonders of Word Perfect’s “review” function (which I pretty much get) and internal page cross references (which I don’t get yet), and trying to stay with the flow of the writing.  Try to stay consistent, so it’s always “Mr. So-and-So” rather than simply “So-and-So.”  Even if you detest So-and-So, you always have to give him the honorific.

So why is there so much work for lawyers (or at least my kind of lawyer) these days, when everyone else seems to be losing jobs right and left?  I figure it’s because, when times are hard, people start looking around for where they can get some money.  “That sleazebag doctor that makes so much money, let’s sue him.”  “That lawyer who didn’t get us the result we wanted – let’s sue him.”  If the lawyers and doctors get sued, then we (who defend lawyers and doctors) have work to do.  I don’t think all these plaintiffs ought to be so suit-happy, but I can’t complain too much, because it does provide work for me.  But politically, it’s not the right thing.  We are generating words on paper, eating trees and spewing carbon with our photocopy machines and printers, all for the promotion of the big pay-off for the plaintiff with the best lawyer.  How about we redistribute the wealth a bit, by capping liability awards, and redistribute some of the legal costs and liability pay-outs into a health care fund for all of us?  The plaintiff who is so badly injured – he shouldn’t get the giant pay-off, but should share the wealth with a national health care system that will provide for his care along with everyone else’s.

Saying “cap” of course, makes me a traitor to the liberal cause.  Saying “national health care system” gets me in trouble with most of my legal colleagues and conservative friends (do I have any conservative friends?)   So the truth is that I keep pretty quiet and don’t say any of these things, because I’d rather keep all of my friends, and not offend anyone.  (A definite character flaw!)

Is a blog supposed to be a coherent essay, or am I allowed to ramble, like I just did?  Will anyone read it if I ramble?