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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

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Not the news

A lot of grim things are happening in the world, the sun was awol for much of January, and I succumbed to one of the season’s cold viruses last week. (And now Jean is complaining of chills.)

But hey, instead complaining at length about all that, I’ll list a few things that made me happy in the past few weeks.

1. KW Glee: Redux

Two years ago we were blown away by a KW Glee (show choir) + KW Symphony concert. This year they did it again. There’s just deep entertainment value in watching a huge group of talented, enthusiastic, and attractive young people sing and dance to popular songs, in costume, while accompanied by a full orchestra.

Last time I had mentioned that I didn’t know a lot of the songs performed—they were too current for me. This time they rectified that with a set from various eras. To the point where I felt kind of bad that they were played so little of of their own generation’s music, though there was one Imagine Dragons song and one by David Guetta / Sia, both very powerful performances.

Other highlights were:

  • That old Gap commercial come to life during “Jump, Jive, and Wail”
  • The outstanding youth singer (a girl—don’t know any names) wailing through the Jackson 5’s “ABC” and “I Want You Back”
  • The beautiful contemporary dance accompanying “Falling Slowly”, from Once
  • Not one, not two, but four different lead female singers proving they were up to the challenge of singing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”.
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Performed in full, featuring two lead singers, one male, one female, and treated not as campy fun, but as the somber piece it actually is. Outstanding.

  • The virtual re-enactment of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” music video.
  • The youth choir’s 80s attire during one segment, some of which looked like it actually dated from that time. The “Frankie Say Relax” T-shirt was my favourite.

Remember the 80s? These kids don’t, but they’re dressing the part anyway.

  • The youth boys running scared during “Ghostbusters” only to be have the youth girls toughly emerge, declaring that they were “Bad”.
  • The use of sign language during “Imagine”—very touching, somehow.
  • The terrific soul singer who performed “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)”. (It is great that so many of the participants get to try a lead, but with some of them, you do wish for more than one song!)
  • The reprise of “Hallelujah” that blew everyone away last time, performed by the same quartet, back from university for the occasion.

A Spotify playlist of their set list!

2. The Good Place

Holy motherforking shirtballs, The Good Place was good.

This is a half-hour, 13-episode, network TV show starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, debuted this year to very little notice—Jean’s the only other person I know who watches it.

But it’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen. And I’m loathe to even say that much about it, as it was so much fun to go along for the ride. And it’s so full of twists! Also, hilarious! Week to week, it was the show I found myself looking forward to most.

I will give the premise. Eleanor (Kristen Bell), a not-so-stellar human being while alive, is surprised to find herself in “the good place” (yeah, that one) after she dies. They have somehow mixed her up with some good Eleanor! How does she stay in the good place?

Look, I know there’s too much good TV, no one can keep with it all. So I won’t say you must watch The Good Place. I will just point out that if you do, it might make you happy. And that at 13 22-minute episodes, it’s less time-consuming that many series. And that despite mediocre ratings, it has already been renewed for season 2, so you don’t have to worry about being left hanging.

If nothing else, you can watch this Season 1 trailer—just 2:20

3. Sandra Shamas: The Big What Now

We were in Toronto last weekend.


And by the way, Jean won another photo contest recently. (Not with this photo. Just thought I’d mention it now.)

8875While there, we went to Sandra Shamas’ one-woman show about “climbing mount menopause”. Despite that intro and the predominantly female audience, it wasn’t all about the hormonal challenges of being over 50. She covered a gamut of topics from her life.

Having recently dealt with a series of similar plumbing issues, we could relate to the mix of disgust and determination in which she handled the events that started when she flushed her toilet and it “came up my bathtub”. I took (hypothetical) heart in her discovery—having failed to make herself lesbian (“turns out it’s not a choice!”)—via dating apps, that plenty of 20-something men will seek the attention of women in their 50s. (She can’t bring herself to take advantage. “Does your mother know what you’re up to?”)

I wonder if I, too, will soon be entering my “ranting” years. (“I always talked to myself. Now I do it in public. And I’m angry!”) And it was hard not to be inspired by how she made it through a serious ice storm two years ago: “I was without hydro for 8 days. But I was never without power.”

Toronto Star review of the show

4. Queen + Adam Lambert

They’re back! In North America, back! And they kicked it off with an appearance on the Late Late Show that soon went viral:

Front man battle: Adam Lambert vs. James Corden foronting Queen

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Skating’s greatest hits

The KW Symphony’s intersections series was about combining orchestra and… something else. Physics. Fiddling. Food. Heavy Metal. Though Friday’s concert was not part of that series (sadly not offered this year), it was still of that ilk. The partner this time was figure skating.

cover_kurt-browning-bea9d304There was no way I was missing this one. Particularly as it was being hosted by three-time world champion, first man to ever land a quadruple jump in competition, Kurt Browning.

Jean was considerably less enthused about attending.

If wondering, no, they did not somehow bring an ice rink into Centre in the Square, not have the symphony decamp to play at a hockey arena. Instead, most of the skating seen on video.

After an opening performance of An American in Paris, our celebrity host explained that while music was incredibly important in figure skating, it had to go through a certain amount of mangling to fit the sport’s requirements: Cropped to fit into the time constraints. Tempo adjusted to match the tricks. Bit recombined to create certain moods.

This meant that when the symphony played the soundtrack to a video of Browning’s world championship performance of Casablanca, they couldn’t just the pull out the sheet music for “As Time Goes By”. Instead, the conductor had to write a new orchestral score for the Frankenstein version of that piece that Browning skated to.

It was gorgeous.


Example of Cranston’s art

Browning was so moved by it, he barely knew what was on next, so conductor Lucas Waldin stepped in to explain that it was a tribute to Toller Cranston (who apparently pioneered this whole orchestra / figure skating idea), featuring selections from the ballet Gayane.  This time, the screens showed scenes of Toller’s amazing paintings and decor before showing his Sabre Dance skate with live orchestra. Just fab.

Given the chance to recover, Browning emerged to point out that while artistic, figure skating is still a sporting competition with some serious rivalries over the years. The Symphony played Sing Sing Sing while we saw clips from the battle of the Brians, the battle of the Carmens (though they didn’t mention that both were defeated by Canuck Liz Manley), Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan (remember that?), Virtue/Moir vs. Davis/White, and so on.

We then moved on to a montage tribute to skaters past, when they had to skate outdoors (!), and future, in the form of the youngsters at the KW Skating Club. And Kurt Browning introduced Don Jackson, 1962 World Figure Skating Champion, who was in the audience. Cool! Oh, and the tune played for that piece was Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

The next bit seemed to be interrupted by a badly timed cell phone call—only it was Kurt Browning’s phone, and on the line was Olympic Bronze medallist Joannie Rochette. (Seriously.) She talked about she managed to get through that Olympic performance just days after her mother died. Then the symphony played La cumparsita to a video of it. (Using a few stills so as to not have to cut the piece down to exactly 4 minutes.)

YouTube of Rochette’s Olympic performance from European TV

Kurt then dragged out a collection of his costumes from over the years, selecting a purple velvet hat and robe for conductor Lucas Waldin to wear. We then got a montage of some of the more interesting sartorial choices figure skaters had made (admittedly, many from gala and not competition pieces), to selections from Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

Kurt emerged in his Singin’ in the Rain outfit, and we got a singer! And tap dancer, it turned out: Mr. Geoffrey Tyler. With all that going on live, this song was not played to video footage of that famous skating piece. Instead, via roller blades, we got some live Kurt Browning skating! And the first standing ovation of the night.

The video we didn’t see of Singing in the Rain

At intermission, Jean said we very pleased about high entertainment value of the evening so far.

And he was not being sarcastic!

The second half kicked off with the Symphony playing Phantom of the Opera, on their own. Kurt came out to discuss the fact that many skaters tried to skate to that piece—but none had really succeeded in achieving an iconic performance with it. Too big a song, perhaps, for the white, bright, bare stage of figure skating competition.

Singer Tyler returned to perform What a Wonderiful World, a show piece of Kurt Browning’s. Tyler also talked about how he’s worked with figure skaters. on the dramatic aspects of their performance, on connecting emotionally. We then did a bit of a 180 into an Abba medley (though Abba sounds great orchestrated!), highlighting scenes from the world of professional figure skating.

And then, the hauntingly beautiful Mahler piece, Adagietto from Symphony No. 5. Conductor and Browning discussed how only very special skaters could do it justice. Katerina Gordeeva was one; she skated it solo as a tribute to her partner, Sergei Gringov, after his sudden death.

Ekaterina Gordeeva 1996 Celebration of Life / Mahler – Symphony No. 5 (Serguei Grinkov Tribute)

Another were Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won Gold with it at the Vancouver Olympics. The video played to this beautiful piece wasn’t either of those performance in their entirety, but compilations of them along with some from Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who didn’t use the music (that I know of) but certainly brought emotion and drama to their pairs performances.

The next piece didn’t need, and therefore didn’t get, video accompaniment: Ravel’s Bolero, forever synonymous with Torville and Dean. Though Browning informed that Carolina Kotsner is one of the few who has successfully skated to the piece since that team’s perfect performance.

Our finale was the theme of the Vancouver Olympics, I Believe, featuring the adorable singers of the Grand Philharmonic Children’s Choir. And then they gave us an encore! (Note: This is rare at the symphony.) Conducted by Kurt! The Toreador Song.

As a figure skating fan, I was thrilled to bits with the evening.

As a non-figure skating fan, Jean declared that he glad he had been “dragged out” to this performance. (Again, not sarcastically.)

It was a great intersection.

(Thanks to Skate Canada for all the footage they provided they provided for the show. Much higher quality than what you can find on YouTube…)

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So you think you can dance

The email from the KW Symphony on February 18:

Thank you for purchasing tickets to the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony‘s Dancin’ Through the Decades. To enhance the overall concert experience, we have added a dance floor for these concerts. The dance floor will be located between the first row and the orchestra musicians. Since this floor is on one of the moveable lifts, it will be 14 inches lower than where the seating starts, in the first row, and should not obstruct the view of any patrons.

That seemed neat, but logistically problematic.

“We’re not going to go there in our dance shoes,” said Jean, pointing out the snowy climes.

But our early spring meant that we could, in fact, go there in our dance shoes without wrecking the soles.

However, it remained that our seats were right in the middle of the row, meaning we couldn’t get out to the dance floor without disrupting half of the people in said row. (And it was a pretty well-attended show.) Plus, we definitely didn’t want to be the first ones on the floor.

We stayed put during the swingin’ “In the Mood,” as did everyone else—much to conductor Matt Catinghub’s chagrin. But then a few brave souls made their way onto the floor.

“What is this one?“ my husband whispered as they launched into the new tune. And by that he meant what dance beat is it, not what song title. (Which is just as well, as now I can’t remember the song title.)

“Slow fox,” I answered.

Well, slow fox is like dance cat nip to my husband—he just can’t resist. We proceeded to disturb everyone in half the row and made it down the dance floor.

But, that’s about all the disturbing we did, because then we just stayed on the floor for the whole show.

For ballroom / Latin dance aficionados, the first half, with music of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, was especially appealing. Along with a number of slow foxes, we got to tango (I think), waltz to “Unforgettable” (I know), jive to “Twist and Shout”, and cha-cha to “La Bamba.”

I have never danced to such beautiful sound. The Symphony are terrific, of course; the Centre has some of the best acoustics on the continent; and the guest singer (Anita Hall), drummer (Steve Moretti), and saxophone players were also fantastic—and very energetic! (Matt Caringhub also did some keyboards.)

If you do a Where’s Waldo on this tweeted photo, you might be able to spot us

At intermission we drank a lot of water—and received compliments on our dancing from passing strangers, which was nice! (Maybe we can dance.)

The second half was 70s, 80s, 90s, and current. Disco like “Night Fever” is basically a samba, and I actually know the steps (yes, there are steps) to YMCA.

Of course, everyone knows the chorus part of this dance

Then we got some “Hotel California,” “Don’t Stop Believin”, “Africa”, “Vogue”, “Rock Lobster” (featuring KWS Assistant Conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser on vocals), and “Happy” by Pharell Williams. So a lot of really fun songs—but also a lesson in why no one does partner dancing anymore, since that just doesn’t work as well to those beats.

But hey, it was a really fun night, and I’m so glad the symphony offered the dance floor setup. It was totally worth the sore muscles the next day!

(As for the television show So You Think You Can Dance, I find their new gimmick of featuring dancers age 8 to 13 completely mystifying and utterly uninteresting. I do not plan to watch.)

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Rebel music: Tanya Tagaq and the KW Symphony

I wasn’t prepared for Tanya Tagaq.

Oh, I had my concert tickets, which is good, because both her shows were complete sellouts. And I knew she was an Inuit singer who had her own take on traditional throat singing. I remembered her winning the Polaris prize in 2014.

But I hadn’t listened to any of her music in advance.

And thank goodness for that! Because you can only hear Tanya Tagaq for the very first time once in your life, and what better way than seeing her live, from just a few feet away? (We were in the second row.)

The problem is, I have no idea how to describe her sound and performance to you. I’ve never heard anyone else do anything like what she does. As we were revelling in her show afterward, Jean made an attempt: “It’s like she took you on a journey through a whole lifetime of dreams.”

This is traditional throat singing:

The adorable 11-year-old Inuit girls throat-singing at Justin Trudeau’s swearing-in ceremony

Tagaq does use this technique, but—in own words—in a completely punk way. She plays with pitch, vocal styling, breathing, making no literal sense but clearly conveying emotion. And she puts her whole body into it, swaying, gesturing, sinking to the floor. It’s just mesmerizing.


Tanya Tagaq’s Animism album on Spotify

And how does that work with the symphony? Well, first they prepared us to hear some unusual sounds by presenting the works of two Canadian composers (both in attendance, both women), along with a version of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” that was so rockin’ it rivaled The Who’s take on the same.

They then let Tanya Tagaq do her thing on her own, totally improvised.

Next was a work by another Canadian composer, Rodney Sharman, (“I texted with him today,” said Tagaq. “He seems nice.”), and she improvised over that soundtrack.

Finally, Tagaq and orchestra came together on a chamber music piece written for her, called “Cercle du Nord III”. Ms. Tagaq said that the fuller sound provided by the larger symphony (vs. original string quartet) gave the piece another dimension.

(Her personality is quite charming, by the way. For example, she was taken aback at having to come back and acknowledge the rapturous applause she was receiving. She was unsure to do, she said. What does she normally do? “I go out for dinner,” she answered. She then told us, mock sternly: “OK, I’m leaving now. Don’t make me come back out again!”)

A few years ago, Edwin Outwater, Musical Director of the KWS and this concert’s conductor, gave a Ted Talk in which he argued that rock / pop music wasn’t the music of rebels anymore. That classical music was.

I think he has a point. Much as I still love rock music, there isn’t much danger or innovation in it anymore, is there? What is more choreographed, corporate, and scripted than a big, modern rock show? Who can improvise when everyone has to play to same click track?

Whereas tonight’s Tanya Tagaq concert could be a whole different experience than last night’s.

And this is following on two other KW Symphony shows we saw recently, in which they:

  1. Completely reconceived German opera Die Fleidermaus with local references, a hilarious narration absent in the original, and even a special guest spot for a former mayor.
  2. Along with the Art of Time, presented the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper not just orchestrated, but truly rearranged such that every song was both familiar and strange (though wonderfully so, in my opinion).

As rock retreats to safety, the traditional symphony is taking it to the edge. Don’t let the strings and horns fool you: today, this is punk.



Lights, camera, gala! Singin’ in the Rain

When we arrived at the KW Symphony’s gala fundraising dinner, we immediately noticed a glamorous-looking woman in a shimmery dress with a long train that we made a mental note not to step on. Next thing we knew, after getting a drink from the bar, she was introducing herself to us.

I’m Patricia Ward Kelly. Gene Kelly’s wife.

That would be Gene Kelly, actor, dancer, director, and star of Singin’ in the Rain, the greatest musical of all time. And no, Ms. Kelly is not 90 years old; she’s maybe 50?

“Big age difference when they met,” I told Jean, after we’d thanked her for talking to us and moved off into the next room. He was a bit stunned, not having read about Patricia Kelly in advance, as I had.

Everyone got dolled up for this “black tie optional” affair, which is always kind of fun. (Though I only have a picture of me, not a set of the well-dressed crowd.)

Me in a dress

We weren’t able to convince any of our friends to join us at this affair, though, so we were seated with three other couples we didn’t know. (Should have been four, but one set was a no-show.) They proved to be good company. We had interesting conversations on topics such as travel, books, and Future Shop (which had suddenly closed that morning).

The event was held in the ballroom of the Crown Plaza Hotel (so, far from the pool smell…). Cocktails started at 4:30, dinner at 5:30, and they did an exemplary job of getting through speeches, an auction, and the three-course meal in time for us to get to Centre in the Square for the show.

As for the food, I think everyone was happy with the salad appetizer and the dessert, which was a choice of carrot or chocolate truffle cake.


Le salade

For the entree, I overheard some complaints of it being cold or the meat tough. Maybe just luck of the draw, then, but Jean and I found our meals quite fine.

Chicken entree

For the auction, it was interesting that bidding was fiercest for the items that were essentially donations: for sending a school to a concert or for the symphony’s music therapy program. Instead of just taking the largest bids, Patricia Ward Kelly suggested accepting all the highest bids as multiple donations. Good idea!

She herself was quite a good speaker, talking of her meeting with Gene Kelly, when she didn’t know who the heck he was, and how they fell in love, and she’s become the keeper of his legacy. She’s never remarried. She was also very gracious about the community and the symphony organization.

The final part of the evening was at Centre in the Square (taxi ride to and from included), where Singin’ in the Rain was played with a voice-only soundtrack, and the KW Symphony played all the music live. Ms. Kelly spoke briefly here as well, and one of the items she told us was that all the original scores were thrown out by the studio, and had to be re-created later, by ear.

Evan Mitchell came back from Kingston to do the conducting of this show, and he did an amazing job of keeping the symphony in sync with film being shown. All really seamless, except for occasionally hearing the musicians turn the pages!

Jean concluded he hadn’t ever seen the entire movie before. For me, it was certainly the first time I’d seen it on the big screen. It’s so good! And for once, it totally made sense to applaud in the middle and at the end of a movie.

Good Mornin’ from Singin’ in the Rain.— the only song Debbie Reynolds actually sang in this movie. Otherwise, her voice was dubbed. Ironically. (This is I learned only last night…)

After the performance there was another reception downstairs, in the fancy member’s lounge. While it was nice to be in that room again (and get more desserts!), it wasn’t a terribly entertaining event, so we didn’t stay too long. We ended up cabbing back to the Crown Plaza with the Assistant Conductor of the KW Symphony.

Singin’ in the Rain plays again tonight (without all the gala accoutrements).

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Valentine / Family Day weekend

We originally thought of taking a day trip this long weekend—maybe do some snowshoeing—but the record cold temperatures dissuaded us from that plan. Instead we found entertainment closer to home.

Friday night we had dinner with friends at Aqua, the new seafood restaurant in the not-so-new Crowne Plaza Hotel. The service was a little iff-y—bit inattentive—but the food was pretty good. We all went with the Valentine’s special menu. The highlights were the beet soup with smoked trout, the ravioli and beef entree Jean had, and the two desserts: A chocolate mousse cake and a cookie with ice cream concoction. We all concluded we’d eat here again, amidst that special chlorinated pool ambiance. 🙂

Afterward we all attended a symphony concert. It started with a modern piece that our friend accurately described as interesting, but not that musical. Then we got Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concert no. 2 in C minor. For me, this would be the number 3 Rachmaninoff piano concerto I have heard live, and he is three for three in my books. I always enjoy them. The second movement of this one sounds so much “All By Myself” that Eric Carmen still pays royalties to Rachmininoff’s estate. (True fact!) The third movement was lively and sensual. The featured pianist was an attractive and obviously talented young woman named Natasha Paremski.

The second half of the concert featured Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, which was also good though, for me, not as good as the piano concerto.

Saturday was actual Valentine’s Day, and we don’t generally go to restaurants then. But it being a holiday, I decided to make a nicer dinner.

I tried a new (to me) Jamie Oliver recipe for slow-cooked duck pasta. We weren’t able to buy the duck until that morning, and it was frozen, so the main challenge was getting it defrosted in time for dinner that day. That required a whole lot of rinsing.

Otherwise, the recipe wasn’t tough: Just required time. The duck cooked at 350 for 2 hours, in its juices, and I had to turn it every half hour. Then in a fry pan I sauteed some pancetta, then I added various vegetables and some can tomatoes and red wine to make a pasta sauce. After the duck cooled, we removed the meat from it, and added that to the sauce. Then it was a matter of cooking rigatoni and mixing it all together, topped with Parmesan.

by Jamie Oliver. Valentine Dinner at home

Quite delish. We served it with a Chateauneuf du pape.

For dessert I made a chocolate mousse cake. No flour, just cocoa, unsweetened, and bittersweet chocolate with eggs and Cool Whip, basically. It was another new recipe (to me), and it turned out well—not too sweet, good texture.

.... or is that chocolate mousse? Too much wine with dinner .. Valentine Dinner with my one and only :)

But we weren’t done eating yet. 🙂

Sunday we braved the cold and drove to Wilk’s Bar, which is at Langdon Hall, for lunch. It isn’t a cheap place (though cheaper than the Langdon Hal dining room), but they do a nice job.

Valentine Lunch at Wilke's Bar at Langdon Hall

We had the “From the Land” sharing platter to start, along with four oysters. The oysters were amazing. The land platter was fine, but not outstanding. The highlight of that was probably the almonds!

Valentine Lunch at Wilke's Bar at Langdon Hall

Muskox stew with mushroom risotto in the background

Both of the lunch entrees were very good, though. I had the wild mushroom risotto and Jean had muskox stew. The glasses of wine were quite nice, also.

But no time (or room, really) for dessert, as we had tea dance tickets for 2:00. After a detour to the wrong location, we got to that event around 2:15. It was a fun time, and a chance to work off some of the food—especially dancing to “Jump, Jive, and Wail”! Wow, that’s a fast song. (Which is why the wailing after the jiving, I guess.)

And then, we dashed to a 4:20 showing of The Theory of Everything at the Princess. Pretty interesting movie about the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane. Definitely shows the challenges of her having to cope with his increasingly serious illness. Though of course, as we know, he continued to do amazing physics work through it all.

Then we were ready to go back home and relax. Family Day was pretty quiet, and that suited us just fine. Especially as we got some news Sunday night that definitely had us thinking about family.


A symphony concert like no other issue

For “Edwin’s Orchestra Follies”, we were promised the wacky side of the KW Symphony, and they delivered on that!

The premise was that due to the symphony’s financial challenges, they had to try some new approaches. Like, striking a deal with new sponsor, Power Goop. Like offering a new Siri-like app, that seemed to be hearing-challenged. Like having a mascot: a big guy in a cat suit.

Cat mascot, singer, Edwin in track suit

Cat mascot, conter tenor in the center, and conductor Edwin Outwater in his Power Goop outfit. Photo by Scott Belluz.

Some jokes worked better than others. They were throwing a lot of stuff at the wall, and only some of it stuck, if you will. By as my friend, who isn’t a typical Symphony attendee, remarked: “At least I’m not bored!”

Oh, and they did play music too. One surprisingly great piece was Leroy Anderson’s “Typewriter”, that did, in fact, feature a manual typewriter as one of the “instruments”. It was “played” by one of the members of the Youth Orchestra, who had to have been a novice on that device, given his age.

Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter” on YouTube. It’s actually a thing!

Several pieces were by P.D.Q. Bach, “the oddest of Bach’s 20-odd children.” Outwater commented that while father Bach’s pieces required great musicianship, “any idiot could play P.D.Q. Bach”, then invited an audience on stage to prove it. We got a young woman from Colorado (what?) who seemed slightly mortified by the whole thing, but nevertheless did a fine job of rising and hitting cymbals together when so directed by the conductor, earning an angry glare from the cat mascot, every time. This was during the Hindenburg Concerto, featuring balloon releases at various points during the piece.

The first half ended with Haydn’s Farewell Symphony. Outwater pointed out before starting that everyone had partaken of Power Goop before the concert. Throughout the piece—it’s written this way—various members of the orchestra leave, until no one is left playing. Only the way it was acted out, they were each leaving due to some sort of intestinal distress!

You had to be there, but it actually was pretty funny.

And the second half began with a response in the form of P.D.Q Bach’s Howdy Symphony. It starts with a “conductor solo”—that’s right, just Edwin Outwater flailing away in the face of no music, no musicians. “Ssh,” he said, as the audience took a few minutes to settle down. “This is my solo. You don’t get a conductor solo very often!”

And then all the musicians gradually ambled back in, one by one, and started playing.

Edwin’s supposed even greater intake of Power Goop felled him on the third piece in, and he collapsed on the couch (which was on the stage for the cat mascot, of course). “Get that girl!” he managed to wheeze, and our Colorado visitor got a turn at the baton, for “Flight of the Bumblebee”.

Probably the funniest piece was the final one, P.D.Q Bach’s “Ipheigenia in Brooklyn”, featuring the pictured countertenor. It’s a mockery of the aria form, with the singer having to take rather absurd leaps in vocal range, while singing even more absurd lyrics about “dead fishes… Dead, but still smelling of fish” and “running, running, running, noses”. The singer played it all very straight, which was perfect. The piece was nuts and I was in stitches.


And for some completely different, last night we went to see Travis Wall’s “Shaping Sound” dance troupe. He is a dancer and choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance, and the troupe featured a number of other dancers from that show and Dancing with the Stars.

I won’t get into big description. It was some amazing, upbeat group numbers set off by angsty and sometimes sexy contemporary pieces. I quite enjoyed it. Their take on “Bohemian Rhapsody” especially stood out.