16th Annual Prescott Chamber Players Society Winter Concert Monday, Jan 21 2013 

Yesterday we joined other Prescott music lovers for the 16th Annual Winter Concert at the Trinity Presbyterian Church. It is encouraging to know that more than two dozen area residents continue to share their musical skills as performing members of the Prescott Chamber Players Society. The program included a dozen works performed by different combinations of soloists such as clarinet and piano; flute and clarinet; cello and piano; flute violin, and viola; flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn; three cellos and piano; violin and piano; flute, clarinet, and bassoon; four cellos; flute and piano; flute, oboe, and bassoon; four clarinets. The composers included familiar greats such as Saint-Saëns, Brahms, and Beethoven lesser known works by  Popper, Pfeiffer, Franck, and Devienne contemporaries John Rutter and Carole Neuen-Rabinowitz as well as local resident and Society President John Bresnahan. An entertaining afternoon of chamber music.

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The Planets – An HD Odyssey Sunday, Jan 13 2013 

Last night we launched from the Phoenix Symphony Hall for a quick tour of the seven planets in our solar system. Musical director and conductor Michael Christie presented a multimedia production of Gustav Holst’s The Planets using high-definition images from NASA footage. The Houston Symphony worked with NASA to put together this program which included images as recently as from the Mars rover, Curiosity. “Mars, the Bringer of War” used a brutal percussive ostinato rhythm to form a relentless mechanical sound. “Venus, the Bringer of Peace” contrasted with a patient, gentle sound typical of an andante movement. The violin concertmaster evoked this spirit with her solo corresponding with planet images in soft pastels. “Mercury, the Winged Messenger” was a scherzo with a perpetual motion rhythm and sparkling orchestration. “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” offered a big orchestral jump for joy. The introduction of “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age” brought forth snickers from the audience, soon mellowed by Holst’s serene and subtle orchestration. “Uranus, the Magician” reminded us of the march of the brooms from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. “Neptune, the Mystic” completed our delightful journey with women’s voices from the Phoenix Symphony Chorus.

As musical director Michael Christie is prone to do, he presented a new work, Afterlife, along with a classical favorite. Mason Bates, composer in residence with the Chicago Symphony, was commissioned by Judith and Edwin Wolf for this work which uses poems by Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, and Judith Wolf. It explores the theme of death in three movements: “From Those Left Behind,” “Bittersweet,” and “From Those Departed.” Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano sang the poetry text. The electronic sound of a buzzing fly was uniquely fitting for the final Emily Dickinson poem. This work introduced the evening’s program and, as is his custom, Christie interviewed Mason Bates, who performed the electronic music with the orchestra, and Jennifer Johnson Cano on stage during the intermission. This was our first concert of the season, and what a concert it was!

Pueblo La Plata Monday, Jan 7 2013 

Pueblo La Plata

Pueblo La Plata

Pueblo La Plata is one of the largest prehistoric archaeological sites in the Agua Fria National Monument. Sitting on a strategic point at the northwestern rim of Perry Mesa, Pueblo La Plata would have been an imposing sight, showcasing a settlement of stone masonry pueblos with 80 to 100 rooms. Silver Creek, which runs through a canyon north of the village, provided a source of water. According to literature provided at the site by the Bureau of Land Management, the prehistoric people grew corn, squash, and other plants. They also gathered wild foods, including grass seeds, edible weeds, wild barley, and agave. They hunted deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, cottontail rabbits, and jackrabbits. Between 1250-1450 CE, as many as 3,000 people are estimated to have lived on the Monument’s mesas. For reasons still unknown, they left the area after 1450. During our visit modern day hunters were looking for quail. Arizona’s hunting season for Gambel’s and scaled quail runs from October 5 until February 10, and Mearns quail runs from December 7 until February 10. In order to get to the Pueblo La Plata site one must drive 8.3 miles from Interstate 17 on Bloody Basin Road. The first five miles of dirt road is wide enough for two vehicles and has some washboard-like surfaces. The next three miles has narrower patches with more protruding rocks. We parked at the junction with road 9023. Fortunately, a car with visitors from Connecticut shared their map of the Agua Fria with us or it is unlikely we would have found the archaeological site. As we exited we made note of the Horseshoe Ranch, located about five miles from Interstate 17 in a valley adjacent to the Agua Fria. The property looked well maintained and may even have a helicopter landing site. By searching the Internet we learned that the Arizona Game & Fish Department recently acquired this property of 200 acres and held public meetings in October to establish its goals. According to the Agua Fria National Monument’s annual report, there were approximately 82,000 visitors in 2011. We were pleased to be among the first 2013 visitors to this unique cultural resource.

Constellation Trails Revisited Sunday, Jan 6 2013 

Lost Wall Trail

Lost Wall Trail

An eagle slowly looped above the Phippen Museum as we prepared to hike the Constellation Trails on a clear, crisp Saturday in January. The blue sky formed a great backdrop for a photograph of the “Bronco Buster” sculpture by Frederick Remington that sits near the front of the Phippen, celebrating the art and heritage of the American West.  After we used the low clearance Highway 89 underpass, we hiked the North 40 Trail which we had done previously. Then we proceeded to hike for the first time the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail, the Lost Wall Trail, and the Ridgeback Trail. This series of trail loops traverse more level ground than other Granite Dells trails and offered distant views of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff. Our trails at an elevation just over 5,000 feet above sea level also had some snow remnants. The name for this series of trails comes from a crash of a U. S. Air Force Lockheed Super Constellation on February 28, 1959 during a training mission out of Phoenix. A great first hike in the New Year.