Archive for November 13th, 2010

In the town that I call home there is the local theatre and center for the performing arts, the Clemens Center, that underwent a remarkable renovation a few years back and emerged as a spectacular and beautiful showcase.  It has real presence as you sit and take in the restored mural above the stage or admire the intricate carvings that form a frame  around stage opening.

Just a beautiful facility.  A gem.

Unfortunately, it is not always as well attended as one might hope, especially for events that are quite remarkable.   Seeing so few people come out makes me wonder if we deserve such a beautiful theatre or if our area will soon lose the ability to attract world-class musicians.

Last night, there was a performance by world-renowned and Grammy nominated violinist Robert McDuffie accompanied by the Venice Baroque Orchestra.  They were performing The Seasons Project which featured, in the first half of the show, Vivaldi’s  Four Seasons and, in the second half, modern composer Phillip Glass’ composition The American Four Seasons.  This new piece was written specifically for McDuffie and is inspirationally derived from Vivaldi’s seminal work. 

Let me point out that I know little of classical music and cannot speak with any degree of specificity about any piece of music.  I can only tell you what I like.  Like art, all you need to know is your reaction to it.

The Vivaldi was wonderful.  The sound of McDuffie and the 18 musicians of the Venice Baroque Orchestra played the well known work with passion and grace.  There is something quite amazing in the power of an acoustic orchestra and I found myself wondering what it must feel like to be one of those violinists when they are fully immersed in such a piece, with the sound of the other instruments all around them in unison.  Or how this piece  must have stunned audiences in 1725. Truly powerful.

I really didn’t know what to expect for the second half.  I had heard Glass’s work before and had found it always interesting, though not always pleasing to my ear.  I can’t fully describe the piece but I will say that as it grew I began to realize I was witnessing something quite remarkable, both in the compostion and in McDuffie’s performance.  His emotional rendering propelled the piece forward and as it climaxed all the pieces of the composition seemed to suddenly come together as a whole, giving the whole thing an impact that I hadn’t seen coming.  I know that is  hardly descriptive in musical terms but I can do no better.

It was breathtaking to see an original piece played with such passion. 

And for a theatre that was perhaps filled to one third its capacity. 

The elation of the show was tempered for me by the size of the crowd and thr realization that soon such shows would no longer be brought to our area for lack of an audience.  As I looked over the audience last night, I saw a tremendous amount of gray and white  hair.  I was among the younger set there and I am no longer young.  We, as an area, do not have a large number of young professionals that might take in such a show in larger metropolitan areas.  Over the years, we have lost many of our brightest and best to larger cities due the limited prospects caused by the financial hardship that seems to have a permanent home in this area.  The recession that swept the country over the last few years has been in these parts for about thirty years.

I guess that’s just the way things go.  For now, I am pleased to have witnessed something special and will put aside the fact that it may not be a possibility here soon.  If McDuffie is coming to a city near you with this tour, take advantage of the opportunity.

Here’s a small taste of the music…

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