Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Disney Hall

Lately I have had several chances to hear concerts at Disney Hall in LA. Sometimes I feel like I never get out of Loma Linda, so to be able to go to LA to hear concerts two weeks in a row was really unusual. The first one, two weeks ago, was a recital by Hilary Hahn, one of my favorite violinists (26 years old, how jealous am I). She played sonatas by Janacek, Mozart, Beethoven, and Tartini. I think I was most interested in the Janacek. I was not aquainted with that piece, only his Sinfonietta (orchestra with 12 trumpets, yeah!) and a couple of his string quartets, all of which I like, although they have kind of a sparse, lonely, Eastern European feel to them. The Tartini sonata ("Devil's Trill") was exciting, but had too many devilish trills. I love Hahn's tone--very silvery, shimmery vibrato, although by the same token there were times I wished she would use a bit more variation in tone color, since so many of the works on the program were from different periods. I went with my friend/colleague Jenn, and we sat in the "choir loft" section behind the stage. We agreed that these were pretty good seats, despite the unusual angle--the sound of solo violin and piano was very clear anyway, and we were very close to the stage. I also have to mention the pianist, Valentina Lisitsa, who I didn't know, but I loved her playing and the ensemble was amazing.

The second Disney Hall concert I attended was the very next week was of the music of Steve Reich by the LA Master Chorale. If you are reading this because you know me, you may already know that I am a fan. Apparently I am the only person I know who likes Reich's music. (I went to the concert with my brother Karl, and I don't think he was very impressed.) So I was excited to hear the West Coast premiere of Daniel Variations, a piece for small choir (about 15 singers) and instrumental ensemble (amplified string quartet, 2 clarinets, 4 pianos, 4 mallet instruments and other percussion--fairly typical Reich instrumentation) based on a few texts from the book of Daniel and also quotes from Daniel Pearl. Also on the program was the "You Are" variations, which was written for LAMC and premiered by them last year. I liked both of those pieces, but they sound very much the same. In the past few years, it seems like Reich's music has grown more and more formulaic. His music has always been formulaic, but this particular formula reached its peak a few pieces ago. Reich's greatest masterpiece, in my opinion, is still Music for 18 Musicians, written in 1976.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Brilliant minds

I just read a fascinating news article which states that a new study shows that keeping your mind active may help ward off Alzheimer's disease. I'm sure nobody had ever thought of that before. (If they had, they might not have gotten Alzheimer's so quick, huh?)

This is why I'm trying to learn the last movement of the Barber concerto. Gotta get a head start. Although by the time I can actually play it, senility may have set in. Who will win--Barber or Alzheimer?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How A Disobedient Cat Can Save You A Useless Hour of Driving

This comes under the category of "worth blogging about?"

I usually teach at the academy all afternoon, from about 2:30 to 6:30 on Wednesdays. Tonight I had a rehearsal scheduled at 7:30 in Ontario, about 30 minutes away. With traffic, grabbing something from Del Taco, and wanting to arrive early, I wouldn't normally go home before heading off on the I-10 freeway. But today, a very unusual thing happened--Just before I was heading off to teach, I remembered that my cat may still have been outside, and I always want him inside after dark, for fear of coyotes. I called and called and got out his favorite treat, veal baby food, to bribe him in, but he never showed up. Finally it was literally 2 minutes before my first lesson was to start (good thing the school is 2 minutes away), and I really had to leave, so I left him. I was worried about the poor guy all afternoon, so before I left for rehearsal I squeezed in a trip home, just for a second, to check on him. There he was, safe and sound, on my bed; he had been inside the whole time. Since I was there anyway, I happened to check my new messages on my machine, and of all things--the orchestra manager had called at about 4:30 that afternoon and left a message that the rehearsal was cancelled! I would never have checked my messages if it weren't for my cat, and I would have been on my way to Ontario, an hour out of my way, only to find an empty rehearsal room.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jury duty

This past Tuesday I was called to jury duty. For the benefit of those who have never done this, I'll give a report of what happened.

I was a little concerned about having to do this, mostly because I am self-employed. Although I actually think it would be kind of interesting to participate in the process, I don't have an employer to pay me for jury time, as most employers do (I guess they're required by law). But if I had to be there all day or all week, I would have to call each individual student to cancel or reschedule, and unless I could reschedule (which is a hassle for 40 private students) I'd lose the money, also my poor students have not had lessons for two weeks over vacation anyway, and some of them are having to re-learn their bow holds as it is... It would be fine for a day or two, but not good for two weeks. I sent in the slip to be excused, but it was denied; they no longer excuse people for being self-employed.

I called the court the night before as they said, and yes, I still had to show up at 8:00 the next morning. So, into San Bernardino at 8 AM I went, not having a clue what would happen. I kept my 3:30 class scheduled for later that day, hoping that I would either be excused or I'd be able to call the school to cancel it before then.

I arrived early, in case I didn't know where to park, which of course was the case. I parked in a lot that had absolutely no signs or any indication of who was/wasn't supposed to park there, but it did have quite a few important-looking men in suits and briefcases coming out of their cars. I took my chances. I had to stand in a long line to get into the courthouse--they were just opening at about 7:45, and everyone had to go through airport-style security. I put my purse on the X-ray belt and was about to take off my shoes to go through the gate, but nobody else did. Guess nobody has tried to blow up a courthouse yet using a shoe-bomb.

When you enter the courthouse, the first thing you see is a hot dog stand, which I thought was kind of strange. All sorts of seedy characters were hanging out there, eating pretzles at 7:45 in the morning. Were all these people jurors? Soon I noticed that they started heading upstairs to traffic court. Now I get it. But where do I go? There were no signs for jurors. Finally I followed another juror, who was as lost as I was, but we managed to go down several halls and an elevator to the basement juror assembly room.

I knew that there are 12 jurors on a criminal trial. I assumed that they pick several extras to dismiss if their uncles are the lawers or the defendants or whatnot. I even thought that there may be more than one trial going on that day. But I didn't expect to see about 300 prospective jurors in one huge room! I stood in a long line to get checked in, which grew longer until everyone had arrived, by about 8:45. With all these people, I figured I had a pretty good chance of going home early. As I watched the line grow, I thought, "All these people, in the San Bernardino area alone, and a new batch every day, and I don't know a one of them. There are a lot of people in this world!" I did, however, end up knowing one of them, a trombone player named Brett who is on the church vespers committee with me. He came and sat by me and we chatted to pass the time. He told me that last time he was called he did have to serve on the jury--it took them 2 days to select the jury, and 2 days for the trial. All day long.

After another half hour or so, they posted everyone's names in groups A-E on bulletin boards. I was in group C, along with about 75 others. Brett was in group A. After another half hour, his group was called up to the courtroom. I just waited; they never said anything about my group. (Bring a book.) After another half hour or so, he came back, he was excused--conveniently enough, his wife is due to have a baby in a few weeks, so he could use that. Groups D and E were also excused. Finally, at about 10:45, the judge came into the room for Group C. He said they had settled the case, so we were not needed. Thankfully, I got in line to receive my pink slip which said I was free to go and wouldn't be called for another year. I'll continue this story next year, when I'm sure to be called again.

Friday, January 05, 2007

David Asscherick groupies

Back to normal life now...I had a lovely visit with my parents at their home near Dayton, Ohio (hi dad) over Christmas. It was wonderful to have some time to relax, talk with them, visit a few old friends, and generally do little else besides curl up by the fireplace. Too bad there was no white Christmas. In fact, it was pretty much in the 50s the whole time...the entire eastern U.S. has been having an extremely mild winter, unfortunately for the ice-fishing competitions in Minnesota, but fortunately for the golfers in Chicago. Must be global warming. (Oh, wait, there's a gazillion feet of snow over the Rockies...)

(See, Dad, I didn't really complain about the gloomy weather!)

After a much-needed rest and visit at home, I went to the General Youth Conference in Baltimore. As always, it was filled with nonstop challenging seminars and messages from the A-list of truly dedicated, Scripture-based teachers and evangelists. Wow. Some of my favorite parts were the seminars I went to by Samuel Pippin (excellent series on the authority of the Bible and how to deal with some of its difficulties which are often attacked), and sermons by Michael Hasel and David Asscherick.

Speaking of David Asscherick, here's a little description of the kind of young people you can find even in America today.

First of all, it must be said that pretty much every teenage girl has had some "idol" at some point. (Before you get offended at the accusation of "idol worship," let's define this as the kind of crush a girl gets on someone that she really admires, at the point in her life when she is working on maturing emotionally.) If you're a female, admit it, you've had one. Most average girls have crushes on either actors or rock stars. (Mine was Joshua Bell, of course.) If you're a male, I can't speak for you; I don't know what was going through your mind when you were 14.

My friend Jenn put together a chamber orchestra for special music Friday night, and there were a couple violinists sitting near me who were high school girls. As we were onstage preparing for the service, one of the organizers came out and told us that we would be staying onstage for the entire sermon. At that, a few of the girls started piping up, "What!! David Asscherick is speaking, right?? You mean, we actually get to sit right here the whole time while DAVID ASSCHERICK IS SPEAKING!!!??" After the service was over, we exited to offstage, and a couple of the girls just surrounded him, chattering to him with that all-familiar kind of nervous girlish talk, which goes something like, "Yeah, I'm a sophomore and I go to an all-girls private school in Chattanooga but next year I think I'm going to Collegedale Academy and our volleyball team always plays them and my sister goes to..." and so on.

The point is: isn't it refreshing that, if girls will be girls anyway, that there really are girls of the caliber that would idolize...a conservative, Bible-preaching Adventist evangelist?