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Entries in music (38)

Friday
Mar222013

{field trip} Alvin Ailey at the Detroit Opera House

Spring arrived this week to the tune of snow squals, high winds, and minorly frigid temperatures, and it just keeps on coming like that. This kind of snow is wasted on the spring. In December, even in January or February, the beautiful, white, dancing flakes filling the air would make life feel cozier and more beautiful, but in March they're just pitiful and they make me feel cold. At noon I'm freezing just sitting in the house and I still have to convince myself to suit up and head out for a run. Calvin and I have been sneakily bumping up the heat a couple of notches every afternoon and snuggling under blankets on the couch to get cozy enough to read. I'm sure it's a mental thing, since it when it was in the single digits back in January we had no complaints at all. Calvin would even spend hours outside playing in the snow. No, it's not that the thirty degree temperatures are really a problem, it's the constancy of the thirty degree temperatures even in mid March that's getting us down.

We heated things up a bit today, though, by joining some of our homeschooling friends at the Detroit Opera House for a special mid-Friday performance by the Alvin Ailey dance troup. Stunning, rhythmic, emotive, sensual, amazing...there are so many ways to describe the performance. It was a shortened version of their typical shows, including excerpts from their piece Grace and the entirety of their signature piece Revelations. We loved it so much we considered grabbing tickets for one of their weekend matinees, but what we really wanted to see was Grace in its entirety, and they were only performing that on Saturday night, which we decided was too late for Calvin. I hear they come to Detroit fairly often, tough, and if they come next year we'll be sure to get tickets then.

Overall, defintiely an A plus for the Friday afternoon trip, which included lunch with friends afterward at the Detroit Beer Company, followed by a ride (twice around) on the People Mover. And we weren't even freezing.

Monday
Jul302012

He's with the band

Jazz in an intimate setting. Three very talented jazz musicians were brought to town to perform at the Piano Institute last night. It's an elegant but comfortable setting that holds fewer than 100 people, and the performance was kept to a small enough number that it felt like they were performing just for you.

It was a full length performance, which we knew would be a stretch in terms of sitting still, so we let Calvin bring a book. We asked him to watch as well as listen to at least the first two songs, and after the third song he sat relatively still and quietly read his book. But later, in the car on the way home when Jon and I were discussing the music and sharing details about some of the songs, he surprised us by piping up with tidbits like song names and instrument details, proving that he'd been listening all along after all.

He put the book down of his own accord for the last three songs, too, and enjoyed the music well enough that he asked us to buy a CD and then politely requested their autographs. Then while Jon and I helped clean up the snacks, he proceeded to chat with the trio, and before we knew it he was hamming it up with them at the piano and they were requesting photo opportunities. It was hard to tell who was having more fun.

Visit Jeremy Siskind's blog (and see Calvin's guest spot), or listen to the Finger Songwriter trio. We recommend it.

Sunday
Feb262012

Off Broadway

The Off Broadway production of Mary Poppins made a stop in Grand Rapids this weekend, and we met it there. Months ago our friends asked us if we wanted to get tickets and we've been counting the days since then. We have great friends in that city that we don't get to see very often, so we got tickets, and made plans to stay with them one night while we were in town. Seeing them alone was worth the trip.

Then...I had forgotten the wonder and magic of a Broadway musical—or perhaps I'd attended so many children's plays with Calvin prior that my expectations had become skewed. The voices, the dancing, and ooooh the set. The set was like a fantastical pop-up book.

Calvin loved very minute of it, and my joy was enhanced by his as he tapped out the rhythms and laughed at the comedy and gasped at the magic, sitting on my lap to better be able to see.

A stop for dinner at the local brewery (a big favorite of ours)—one more chance to see good friends—and we were headed back home with good memories in tow. We'd bought a CD of the live production so we listened to it all the way home, the timing so perfect that we were just finishing the curtain call as we pulled into the driveway, shortly after a usual bedtime. And that was a perfect day.

Journal to follow shortly.

Sunday
Dec182011

7 days: Music in the air

Today was recital day. We baked treats, we started a crock-pot dinner, we practiced the piano like crazy, we straightened the house. The recital went well. Some of Jon's students have come and gone over the years, but a couple of them have been around for us to watch grow up. There's a certain joy in that. I realized today that I've been baking for recitals for about seven years now, although it feels a little different now that our own child is among the performers. Calvin seemed to take it all in stride, and he did well, but apparently I got nervous enough for him that I forgot start the video camera on time, and I failed to take any stills while was playing. Thankfully we shot his practice session at home.


After the recital we came back to our house with all four grandparents for that crock-pot dinner and some more piano, this time some good old fashioned Christmas carols. The art of caroling through the neighborhood seems to have perished, but carols around the spinet are another matter, at least in our house. We each have our favorites, be they traditional or more modern, and we have enough piano books around here, and piano players, to have every song covered, so we play and sing a lot and it was fun to share it with our families, too. Calvin did the playing tonight from his newest Christmas book.

Obviously we're music fans around here, and Christmas music is something that we collect—not just for the piano, but recorded music as well. Like with Christmas books, we buy each other a new album, or at least a new song or two, every year. We have sort of eclectic taste, and our collection ranges from big band swing to traditional classical, and some more modern pop collections. Some of our favorite albums from over the years (not in any order):

Lou Rawls's Merry Christmas Baby
Sufjan Stevens's Songs for Christmas
the Singers and Songwriters Christmas album
Stevie Wonder's Someday at Christmas
James Taylor's At Christmas
Ray Charles's Spirit of Christmas
the Goodyear Presents Christmas Favorites album (a holiday collectible from the tire people back in the 90s)
the Kohl's Cares for Kids Ultimate Holiday Collection 2008 (Merry Christmas Baby, by Otis Redding!)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (of course)

And O Holy Night as performed on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip by Trombone Shorty and a group of musicians from New Orleans just getting back on their feet after hurricane Katrina—one of our all-time favorite finds. It's a stunning and emotional arrangement worth hearing, although I'm not sure it's still available or download anywhere.

Plus we're always open to new suggestions if anyone has any...we're still looking for this year's awesome, eclectic album to add to our collection.

Sunday
Nov132011

Children's Concert Series

This afternoon Calvin and I went downtown to the Michigan Theater to see the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra in the first performance of their children's concert series. Over the past few days, in preparation for the event, we'd been listening to the program pieces (via YouTube concerts) and reading a bit about the composers and their compositions. Knowing that Calvin really will sit through a concert and enjoy it, I opted for seats in the front row of the balcony, thinking that the stage would be clearly visible from there, but other squirming children would not be. It was a children's "training concert", after all, and squirming and some disruption were to be expected.

I had not expected the mayhem that actually took place, however. Parents playing tag or hide-and-seek with their children, and another group of families that sat in a circle on the floor attacking each other with tickles, all eliciting excessive screaming and screeching in the lobby. And during the concert the occasional seat kicking, semi-loud exclamations of excitement, or standing to listen and bouncing to the beat are happily expected, but the children playing hopscotch in the aisles or holding loud conversations about toys and/or school were too many in number, and disruptive in a different, not enjoyable, way.

In all fairness, though, I think I was the only one of the two of us who was actually distracted. We made instruments, tried out real instruments, and decorated elephants before the show, then settled into our seats to enjoy the music we'd learned a bit about at home. There is only one more concert in the series (the pair?), but that doesn't come until March, so I will be looking for other symphony opportunities in the meantime.

The Story of Babar, Francis Poulenc

Toy Symphony, Leopold Mozart

Sorcerer's Apprentice, Paul Dukas

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