Music and art

Friday morning we went to a rehearsal at Avery Fischer Hall for the Mostly Mozart concert to be held that evening. It was really fun to see everyone dressed casually but playing this very disciplined classical music. When the conductor and the soloist, Joshua Bell, came on the stage they looked like two teenagers about to make some mischief. Of course, everyone under 60 looks like a teenager to me lately.

Being a very visual person I was   enchanted with the look of Avery Fischer Hall, particularly the pattern created by the EXIT signs. Beautiful music and I am obsessing over a black and red sign.

We met a friend for a long lunch then walked down to the Museum of Art and Design where I particularly enjoyed this exhibit. There were a couple of interesting videos and some good dioramas. Almost like dollhouses it's fun to see large things made small, although the subject matter wasn't always charming.

Freezing rain and beautiful music

The rain is  my excuse for staying home this morning, although I'm not sure it's even raining–just dark and dreary. Each year I'm finding it a little harder to deal with winter. It doesn't mean I'm off for warmer climes. Just more suffering. I think we are lucky here in Pittsburgh. This storm seems to be all over the country but we are seeing very little of it.

On to better things: the music. Yesterday was my first Osher class for this year, and it was fantastic. The teacher is Jim Cunningham, a host of our classical music station, WQED, who brought three members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to introduce us to the music of Erwin Schulhoff, a Czech composer and pianist. Schulhoff worked between the first and second world wars, was classified as "degenerate" by the Nazis and died in a concentration camp in 1942. Along with many other composers and musicians of the time, his work was essentially lost and only now is slowly being brought to light. Among other works we heard his concertina for flute, viola and double bass. The music was beautiful and there is something very special about listening when you are within 30 feet of the performer.

Busy week

Finally listed my apartment for sublet on Craig’s List. I spent all week getting it ready: making each room tidy so I could photograph it. Of course, this meant moving stuff from one room to another to get it out of the way. Now I have to make it all neat so my prospects can come and see it.

This is going to require a huge feat of organizing. Everything I will need or want in the next six months has to go to my daughter or to my storage room in the basement. It will be an interesting challenge to see how sparsely I can live for the better part of the next year while I travel.

When I wasn’t working on the apartment I was exercising–still working on those leg exercises in addition to walking and going to the health club. I went back to the mobility clinic. They think I’ve done well in strengthening my hip and butt muscles but still need work on my knees. When I go down stairs I lose control of the last two or three inches of my descent. I am sure they are correct and this is why I had  problems in Japan.

On Wednesday night we went to a concert by Mike Seeger. My family always listened to folk music or classical music: no rock and roll. Chicago has a great folk music scene, thanks to the Old Town School of Folk Music. Even the Beatles didn’t make much impression on us until one of my
husband’s cousins, an Oscar-winning musician, told us the Beatles made
wonderful music. Then we listened and loved them. Going to the Mike Seeger concert was pretty nostalgic. He’s 75, in great shape and gave a great concert.Today we are going to Rootz: the Green City Music Festival. I plan to go early but don’t know how long I’ll stay–too hot today.

Folk Festival

Spent the weekend at the Folk Festival. I went to two of the three evening concerts and visited the workshops on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. My nephew, Jerry, came to the Saturday workshops, so we had a chance to visit while we listened to the music. On Sunday, I went to an interactive Klezmer workshop where I learned to sing a Klezmer melody. I really loved it. Sometimes I think I’d like to take singing lessons.

Workshops were held at Ida Noyes Hall on the UC campus. I spent a lot of time there when I was in school; it was the women’s physical education building. There was a swimming pool and a bowling alley in the basement, now long gone, and the dean of women held a tea for entering women in the library. The building was very elegant with dark wood paneling, overstuffed sofas and chairs with carved wood decoration. Tea was elegant, also. We wore dresses and white gloves, very ladylike, as ladies were defined in 1950. Did I ever write about how much I hated white gloves? I could never keep them white; I was certain this was an indication of some deficiency on my part, until I found out that Queen Elizabeth had a lady in waiting who carried many pairs of white gloves so she could have a new clean one whenever necessary.

Several of the workshops were held in that library, and I sat there thinking about the tea, the white gloves, the swimming pool and Dean McCarn. Only the Klezmer workshop, where I was singing, kept me in the here and now.

Here is Charna playing her fiddle at one of the workshops. You can see the wood paneling behind her. It’s still in great shape but the floors need redoing and most of the furniture has been replaced. Sometimes it makes me sad to go in the building, but it seems to be put to good use.

Here is a workshop held in the theater on the third floor. The ceiling has been restored and the murals remain on the walls. Great space.


Eli and Romy were in charge of a workshop for children, where they did face painting. Charna was helping and Romy painted her face, also. I think she did a beautiful job. I think I need little blossoms on my cheeks.


More Concert Week

The first concert, Monday night, was all about jazz, with a jazz choir and jazz instrumental ensemble. Here is a picture of some of the choir. Dsc03140

They were great, as was the instrumental ensemble. Last night most of the vocalists in the program each sang a solo. In my first attempt at internet video, HERE IS CHARNA!

As she sang I kept thinking about another notable solo. She must have been seven or eight; she was part of a kids musical theater group. This tiny girl came out from behind a closed curtain, all alone, sat down on the edge at the left side of the stage and proceeded to belt out a song. I don’t remember what song, but I can still see her sitting there looking so alone and vulnerable I wept. She was completely confident and unafraid, unlike her silly grandmother.

One Enchanted Evening

Much of life in Pittsburgh is interesting, but last night was exceptional. Pittsburgh has an excellent classical music scene, symphony and opera. In celebration of their 25th anniversary, EPCASO, Ezio Pinza Council for American Singers of Opera, along with the Pittsburgh Opera, presented a fabulous concert featuring Samuel Ramey, an excellent orchestra, and the great voices of graduates and members of the EPCASO program and the Pittsburgh Opera Center. The music was glorious with many of my favorite arias. Ramey performed his Mephistopheles Serenade, from Gounod’s Faust, with its wonderful, chilling laughter and concluded the program with "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific.

My brother loved Samuel Ramey. For his 65th birthday, which he had never expected to reach, we celebrated with box seats at the Metropolitan Opera for a Samuel Ramey performance. Last night I enjoyed the music and spent much time thinking about Arvin.

Nostalgia Trip

I just came back from Chicago, where it was colder than here, but there’s not a lot of difference between six and zero F. In spite of the cold we had a great time. Robin, Steve, Charna and I went to the University of Chicago Folk Music Festival and, of course, to see Eli. Three of us were there on a great nostalgia trip. Robin and Steve worked for the festival while they were in school. It didn’t exist during my years there, but we listened to a lot of folk music and the buildings are the same. I helped wear the varnish off the railings and make the indentations in the stairs of Ida Noyes Hall more than 50 years ago. It’s strange to be back; things are the same, yet they are different. There’s even an elevator now, but I preferred to touch those bannisters again. I tend to live in the present; seldom look back. But I envy those kids at the University. Their opportunities are so much greater than mine. I would like to be back there again.

We went to the concerts on Friday and Saturday nights. During the day, Saturday, the family went to the workshops that are part of the festival. Charna brought her fiddle and had a chance to play with the other fiddlers. I spent the day with my friend, Betty. Among other things we drove out to see the nursery my grandmother built. It’s still standing and is now part of a large complex called Casa Central, a Hispanic social services center. The nursery, which functioned for a time as a Jewish old peoples home, now houses Hispanic seniors. Nursery1
Enough wallowing in the past. Time to do my homework for tomorrow’s class.


Yesterday I went to see the Met live broadcast of I Puritani at a nearby movie theater. The music was wonderful. I suppose this is their much touted "high definition." It certainly wasn’t the picture, which ranged from extremely fuzzy to romantic soft focus. I know that lighting has something to do with it, but I don’t really understand what was going on. For the most part I enjoyed it. However, I found the camera work very distracting.

I did not know what to expect when I entered the theater. I had hoped this would be an approximation of attending a live performance. I wanted the camera to show the entire stage from a box, or approximately ten rows back in the orchestra, my seats of choice. Occasionally I would like the camera to move in a little closer, like using opera glasses.  In fact, when I first took my seat the camera showed the stage and  about ten rows in front of it. I was happy. But, I soon realized they had three or four cameras and were using them to show everything from the singer’s teeth to the back of the performer looking out to the audience. There were many close-ups and fast cuts. It’s very distracting to have the camera focused on the singer and, because of camera movement, the candles behind the singer slowly rise. Or a shadow from some unknown source move across the screen, again because of camera movement. It’s enough to have virtuoso performers without the camera person, or director, also trying to give what they think is a virtuoso performance. I know these zooms and cuts are used a lot in film and TV, but opera is it’s own medium and makes different demands. The Met is trying to attract a broader audience for opera. I applaud their efforts, but they need to maintain the integrity of their medium.