November 03, 2008
My apologies for the title of this blog. It has nothing to do with anything, and it would be much more topical (although no more appropriate) if it was still 2005. But the joke practically wrote itself; who I am to get in the way of humor? To be truthful, I’m just struggling to find an entry point, because I just got home from LACO’s performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, and, well, it wasn’t my cup of tea. My friend Jen loved it, though, and thought it was peaceful and soothing, and it reminded her of Jane Austen movies, and she was waiting for Colin Firth to show up.
I had a hunch I wasn’t a fan of Baroque music, and this evening confirmed it. Not because of the concert itself, or the musicians, because the musicians sounded fantastic, and the music seemed challenging. It’s just that I don’t care for it, and find it forgetable. I wasn’t bored, just never got wrapped up in it. And because I never got wrapped up in it, my mind wandered a lot. I’m sure this has happened, every once and a while, to everyone (if it hasn’t happened to you, speak up in the comments section!). I used to feel bad when I would doze off at an opera, until I heard a NPR story about how lots of people, including critics, aficionados, and singers, have admitted to falling asleep during performances. So I’m rather confident that I’m not alone when my focus wanders from the stage.
One thing that kept my attention were the spike marks onstage. For those of you unfamiliar, spikes are made from colored, easily-removable pieces of tape, and mark where things should be placed. I did some stage managing for plays in college, and we spiked things all the time, so during quick scenery changes, we knew exactly where a piece of furniture goes, so it’s in the same spot every performance. It didn’t occur to me that an orchestra would spike things, but, apparently they do. They spike a lot. And since I was sitting in the balcony and had brought my binoculars, I could see them all. The first thing I noticed was that the harpsichord was spiked. That struck me as odd, because LACO will only perform this concert once at Royce Hall, and I assumed that once you put the harpsichord where it goes, it would stay there, eliminating the need for spikes. Wrong. There were 6 concertos, and the harpsichord was moved into a different position for each one. Twice it was rotated, but other times, it was moved a matter of inches. Twice it wasn’t even on the spikes at all. You’re probably bored by this paragraph, but this is the stuff that fascinates a theater nerd like me.
When I wasn’t looking at the spikes, my eyes were wandering around the room. The ceiling of Royce Hall has a stunning grid of ornately-painted insets, each with identical moldings and patterns. Ever wonder how many there are? 63. I counted. Twice. I tried to figure out how Teresa Stanislav’s (who plays violin) dress was constructed – the bottom of it flared out in such a way that I couldn’t tell if the fabric was folded or made of strips sewn together. For those of you who watched “Project Runway” this season, it looked like a dress Leanne might have made.
Despite it not being my favorite concert, it still served as educational for me. The program notes mentioned that Bach wrote these concertos for the Margrave of Brandenburg. Anyone know what a Margrave is? I didn’t. Turns out it’s a German rank for men that lorded over border and frontier provinces. Another thing I figured out is slightly embarassing: turns out what I thought was an oboe is actually a bassoon. Minus 10 points for the LACO Newbie.
In addition, I have questions. David Washburn played the trumpet in the concert, but it didn’t look like a trumpet to me, because it didn’t have any bends in the brass. What kind of trumpet was it? Are there many types of trumpets? And I was curious (and impressed) that Margaret Batjer led the orchestra while playing violin, and there was no conducter. Does Margaret use visual clues that the other musicians pick up on? Or they just stay together because they’re that good?
Before I wrap this up, I want to thank Bob Bragonier for answering my questions in my last blog (and Lacey for clarifying a point). I also appreciated the nice things Bob had to say about my writing (and learned what ‘erudite’ meant in the process) and was flattered when he quoted me in one of his blogs in the same sentence as the LA Times critic. I’ll still have questions, Bob, and I hope you’ll consider providing erudite answers. I’m not sure I even used that word properly.
I just reread what I’ve written so far, and I hope my discussion of my wandering mind isn’t interpreted as disrespectful or unappreciative of LACO, the musicians, or the music being performed. Rather, I strived to be honest in my perspective of the evening, and, in doing so, hope to be relatable. Lastly, I teased in my previous blog that I’d be writing about working out, and I will. Next time.