November 3rd, 2006

Milwaukee Symphony, "Resplendent Symphonies"

Like probably every other classical music organization on Earth this year, the Milwaukee Symphony is conducting a "Mozart Festival," consisting of two programs, "Resplendent Symphonies" (symphonies 39, 40, and 41), and "Philosophy in Music," (Overture and 2nd Act Finale from "The Magic Flute", and the "Requiem") There was a rare mid-day performance of the symphonic program on Friday October 27th at 11:15AM. Georgie wasn't working that day, and the concert hall is three blocks from my work place, so I gut us both tickets and arranged to take a "long lunch" for the performance.

I met Georgie at the performing arts center a bit after 11, and we settled in to a very enjoyable concert. Music Director Andreas Delfs conducted with vigor and bounce--occasionally literally, as I distinctly saw both his feet leave the podium at the same time at least once. His enjoyment carried over to the orchestra, who were right on and flawless as far as we could tell. Delf had good mastery of the tempos, particularly in the 40th Symphony which, with its feeling of urgency in main themes, I have often heard done an unnecessary shade faster.

I was able to stay for 39 and 40 (which is a favorite of mine) but when the second intermission started I decided I had to get back to work, which peeved me a bit. Come on, MSO! Do you really need to have a 25 minute interval after 25 minutes of music? Seriously, they had Symphony 39, 25 minutes. An intermission, 20 minutes plus. Symphony 40, followed by a second intermission of equal length, and the program would have closed with #41 at 29 minutes, which ends up with a program 130 minutes long, of which 80 minutes was music. I thought back fondly to Vienna where, even for grand opera, fifteen minute intermissions are strictly enforced, and this in a venue where they not only serve drinks (as our PAC does now, also) but food at the intervals. (The Statsoper had some very attractive small open-faced sandwiches on display, including smoked salmon and caviar--). I really don't see why two long intermissions would be called for in a program of this length. Common wisdom in theatre communities is that the average audience can sit for 90 minutes without a break, so it wouldn't strictly speaking have required an intermission at all. I know every arts organization and venue is perennially strapped for cash, but I can't believe the PAC made that much money on cola and beer during the second break. One interval between the second and third pieces would have been plenty.

Rant over. I was particularly glad to have had the 40th Symphony, since it is a particular favorite of both of us. Georgie was able to stay through the 41st, famous as the "Jupiter" symphony (a tag added after Mozart's death)and said that it was played with the same skill and verve as the others, although she does not care for that one as much as the prior pieces.

"Halloween Weekend", Part One

The weekend of October 28-29 was a busy one for us as it usually is. Unfortunately, due to some illnesses and departures for other jobs at the Library, Georgie had to work through a lot of it this year.

The weekend started off with Milwapa collation at our house. I had tastefully decorated the downstairs with my (increasingly) extensive collection of 12" monster action figures. New this year were the "Barnabas Collins", Christopher Lee as "Dracula", "Dr. Phibes," and "Willie Wonka." "Willie Wonka" you say? Well--I think that when you take the figure of the vaguely sinister Depp in the Edwardian outfit and replace the candy cane with a long knife and a doctor's bag, he makes a good Jack the Ripper--.
We also had out some of our ceramic Halloween houses and the Jack-O-Lanterns of the season. Georgie always does the traditional Schnobrich pattern: Round eyes, traingle nose, grinning mouth with one square tooth. I try to do a different monster each year, and managed a creditable "gargoyle" pumpkin.

Once the collation was well underway, I fired up the DVD player and inflicted a slide show of our Vienna trip on the helpless captives (the horror!). They retaliated by producing Wierd Al Yankovick's new DVD/CD which was played. Three words:"Weasel Stomping Day". This cheerful and totally non-PC video is funny and gross in that bad-little-boy way Weird Al can carry off.

In the evening, Georgie and I went to the annual Lytheria Halloween party. I went as "V" from "V for Vendetta" and made a good entrance declaiming "Remember, remember the fifth of November!" (Scary thing, all I needed for this costume was the mask. Years ago, a Halloween party had actually fallen on Nov. 5, so I went as Guy Fawkes and still had the hat and wig. The boots were from my Ren Faire garb, and doesn't everyone have a long black cloak?) I wore the mask most of the night, and was surprised at how many of the other guests found it unsettling--.

Georgie, having had one of those ideas that would not go away, went as "Grendel's (Soccer) Mom." She made crude-looking skin shoes, and covered a simple dress with scraps of hide and fur, draping it with a gray-green shawl reminicent of lake weeds. The killer, of course, was her spiel: "Hi, I'm Grendel's mom. Grendel's a good boy. I think the anger management classes are working for him. Little Rolf's your boy isn't he? How's he doing? I'm glad the scazrring won't be too bad--." To that effect, delivered in that sincere, parent-teacher conference voice--. I must get her to write it down so I can post it. I didn't take pictures at the party, but pictures were taken, so I will post or link to some when I get them.

"Halloween Weekend" part 2: Trick or Treat

Milwaukee trick-or-treat falls on Sunday afternoon, so that is when the great Lytheria trick-or-treat production goes on. This year, the theme was "Mount Olympus" and we had a good turnout of Gods and Goddesses to make the kids work for their candy. We had Poseidon and Pan working the sidewalk, Hades and Charon controlling traffic, Haephestus and Urania entertaining the line waiting to be admitted to the Throne Room, and Athena and Artemis acting as gatekeepers there. Zeus and Hera entertained the visitor's petitions, and the Oracle of Delphi pronounced futures on the way out. The sorceress Circe showed up fashionably late and charmed the guests.

While a neat idea and resulted in some neat costumes, we had to give some thought to our "shtick." We didn't feel we could very well demand that the kids pay us homage or worship us. (Although one or two did bow to us. I gave a candy bar to one little boy who responded, "Thank you, God." I suppose there are worse things than thinking of God as a nice man who gives you candy.) (On the other hand, Lee Schneider ("Hades") reported asking one party, "Don't you know who lives on Mount Olympus?" and being answered "Santa Claus?")

I, as Zeus, and Therese Roden as Hera, were fitted up with microphones hooked to amps with some SERIOUS subwoofers under the porch that actually caused the floor to vibrate. The effects lights were also hooked into the system, so that when I boomed out, "I am ZEUS, the Great and Terrible!" lights flashed and thunder rolled. (None of the kids seemed to get the "great and terrible" joke--sigh.)

Once the visitors were before our thrones, we demanded why they had sought us out. A remarkable number were tongue-tied, and needed prompting to get out that they wanted candy, which Hera and I dispensed from a chest between our thrones.

Pictures can be seen at: