Rachel Barton Pine Performs With the Phoenix Symphony Sunday, Apr 23 2017 

Last night we attended our last Phoenix Symphony concert of the season. Franz Schubert’s Symphony in C Major, D 944 was the main attraction advertised, for example, on our tickets. However, the featured soloist, Rachel Varton Pine, performed the world premier of a violin concerto by Earl Maneein, Dependent Arising. As the concert notes detail, this new work converges with heavy metal intersecting with classical music based on the Buddhist concept that all things arise in dependence upon other things. Conductor Tito Munoz commissioned this piece and he and Pine reviewed the score at various stages of completion and made suggestions. The Phoenix audience enthusiastically applauded this new work and the composer joined the orchestra on stage to receive our appreciation. In a departure from our experience with most soloists with the Phoenix Symphony, Ms. Pine performed an encore. And, not just any encore, but an extremely difficult Paganini Caprice. Amazing! In May Avie Records will release her performance of all 24 Paganini Caprices. I look forward to adding that to our personal CD collection. Last night’s performance started with another new work, Christopher Cerrone’s Invisible Overture which was originally intended at part of his opera Invisible Cities. The Phoenix Symphony is very progressive about introducing new or little known works. We were fortunate to attend a memorable concert.

Those British Girls Saturday, Mar 4 2017 

Those British Girls

Those British Girls

We attended last night’s performance of Those British Girls at the Elks Opera House. We fit the profile of the crowd – older adults. From the balcony we had a good view of the stage. Three musicians played guitar, keyboard, and percussion. The “British girls” (Laura Berger, Payton Bioltto, Mariela Deangelis, Kayla Kenzior, and Crystal Stark) hail from Anthem, Glendale, Phoenix, and Peoria. Their high energy performance included songs by Adele, Petula Clark, Lulu, Dusty Springfield, and Amy Winehouse among others including three theme songs from James Bond movies. There were several costume changes that required different wigs and shoes. I especially liked the sparkling glitter on the British flag outfits. The dance floor featured several locals showing their moves. “Shout” was just one of the songs that garnered audience participation. A crowd favorite involved a fellow from the front row selected to go on stage to caricature Elton John wrapped in a boa, adorned with huge glasses, and sporting a big mouth piece that was manipulated like a puppet. What fun!

Feddeck Conducts the Phoenix Symphony Sunday, Feb 19 2017 

James Feddeck conducted the Phoenix Symphony in the concert we attended last night. The concert notes informed us that he studied oboe, piano, organ, and conducting at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Thus, it is likely there is some connection with Michael Christie, the former musical director of the Phoenix Symphony. We particularly enjoyed the Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5 in D Major that concluded the concert. Interestingly, in the first movement we hear a distinctive horn call (given that a horn soloist was featured in the Benjamin Britten work). We especially liked the violin solo that conveyed the serene but passionate third movement. The fourth movement has the cellos introduce a theme echoed by other instruments, and ends with the horn theme from the first movement. Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings, Opus 31 featured Paul Appleby as tenor and Cassi Walck on horn. Without a doubt the horn is a difficult instrument to play, and not often included as a solo instrument, but some of the sounds in the Prologue seemed harsh and not quite right to me. I was glad that the concert notes included the words of the six poems of the Serenade. Several of the movements effectively intertwined the words with the horn. The Epilogue with the horn offstage was quite effective. The evenings performance began with The Walk to the Paradise Garden by Frederick Delius. I had selected this concert because it was advertised as “romantic” music. Since it so closely followed Valentine’s Day, I misinterpreted the word “romantic.” The Delius and Britten pieces give significant time to dying. So, this concert, like Phoenix weather this weekend, was dreary.

On the Gleaming Way Thursday, Feb 9 2017 

Smoki Exhibit with Harvey Leake

Smoki Exhibit with Harvey Leake

Today we were privileged to visit the local Smoki Museum with our neighbor Harvey Leake. He has shared some of his personal artifacts in a special exhibit devoted to his great grandmother Louisa Wade Wetherill, known as Asthon Sosi or Slim Woman among the Navajos. The exhibit, “On the Gleaming Way: Slim Woman and the Kayenta Navajos,” expresses sensitivity to Navajo culture. John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, wrote in his book On the Gleaming Way:

The Navajos: So poor they are … Yet the note which their life strikes is exuberance and joy, a winning note and the note of the dance and the dancing star. How can so rich a flower bloom in a soil so rocky and nearly waterless? In terms of life, not of goods, it is we who are poor, not the Navajo.

The exhibit spans four walls and includes a large display case. A Wetherill guest register displays original art work by one of the guests. A water basket is displayed adjacent to a picture including it in a book. A woman’s dress and a man’s wearing blanket offer color. We learned that Louisa Wade Wetherill documented extensive Navajo plant lore. We saw a picture of a Navajo sand painting. I wonder what the connections might be with Buddhist sand paintings. Interestingly, this exhibit is sensitive to children visitor’s by catering to themes that might be of interest to them and placing them at the bottom of the display walls. One of the walls uses the theme “Walking in Beauty” and another wall “On the Path of Light.” This special exhibit will be at the Smoki until July 5th.

Lights of the World Monday, Jan 16 2017 

Acrobatic Show

Acrobatic Show

Last night we visited “Lights of the World” located at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler. We learned about it when we attended this year’s Arizona State Fair. Claiming to be the largest light festival in the country, it has been open since November 18 and will run through January 29. We claimed some good seats for the first acrobatic show. There were several impressive examples of strength and agility. The young women smoothly glided through acts of contortion. They performed faultlessly with gymnastic moves while keeping a twisting rope device in motion or thrown in the air. Two young men hopped into separate, connected rotating cages. One of them clamored outside, atop the cage where he juggled, jumped rope, and even kept his balance while blindfolded.

Saint Basil's Cathedral

Saint Basil’s Cathedral

The U.S.-China Cultural and Educational Foundation sponsored some 75 displays and 30 carnival rides and games, too. Dinosaur Park presents several different dinosaurs that children could not resist reaching out and touching. I was impressed by a Stegosaurus and a 25-foot high T-Rex each constructed from 10,000 recycled bottles. Children could also beat on Korean drums, swing in a hanging circle of color, or stand on one of multiple dots that then changed color. One of the largest displays presented a representation of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square. Other famous representations include the Eiffel Tower, Egyptian pyramids, the London Bridge, Dutch windmills and giant shoes, the Lost Kingdoms of the Maya, and the Statue of Liberty. China, of course, was well represented with Beijing’s Temple of Heaven and a Chinese opera stage. A slinking 217-foot dragon was constructed using 20,000 china plates. A 16-foot high panda was surrounded by numerous smaller fiberglass pandas that kids loved. Terracotta warriors and a blue-and-white porcelain treasure also showed off Chinese treasures. Exhibits celebrated both Christmas and New Years. “Lights of the World” gave me an opportunity to take lots of pictures.

Arizona State Museum Saturday, Dec 31 2016 

Arizona State Museum

Arizona State Museum

“Paths of Life: American Indians of the Southwest” examines the origins, history, and life today of the following cultures: Seri, Tarahumara, Yaqui, O’odham, Colorado River Yumas, Southern Paiute, Pai, Western Apache, Navajo, and Hopi.

“Snaketown: Hohokam Defined” uses 13 photographs to document the archaeological digs headed by Emil W. Haury 1934-35 and 1964-65 on Gila River Indian community lands. This site documented the complex irrigation systems, impressive ball courts, striking pottery, and remarkable jewelry of the Hohokam from 450-1450 A.D.

“Pieces of the Puzzle” features researchers at Archaeology Southwest answering the question of “What happened to the Hohokam culture?” The four puzzle pieces are:

  1. What does Hohokam mean?
  2. How do archaeologists determine how old things are?
  3. How do archaeologists know ancient people migrated?
  4. How do archaeologists count ancient people?

Their conclusion? The Hohokam population declined due to small changes in birth or death rates combined with some movement of people out of the region.

Pottery Project presents the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of Southwest Native pottery. By the time we got to this exhibit we were too tired to really appreciate it.

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