Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Opera at the Ballpark

One fun thing we did last month was attend Opera at the Ballpark. It was a LOT of fun, and scored high on the Fun Cheap Date scale. This is basically a simulcast of the live opera performance, on the Jumbotron in the SF ballpark. The opera being performed was Lucia di Lammermoor. The event is free, so all we paid for was the train tickets to get up to the city.

Thousands of people attend. We arrived early, and the throng, I mean line, was already wrapped around the ballpark. The afternoon was borderline scorching, too, but Sugar Daddy (a prince among men) fetched me an milkshake from the ice cream place down the street, while I held our place in line. Strangely, despite the massive crowds, we happened to run into a couple of friends, V. and M., while standing in line.

Even though the line was long, we scored a primo spot on the baseball field and spread out our picnic blanket. Dinner was a picnic of sandwiches (free, courtesy of a Panera Bread gift card), a salad of field greens, chips and dip, fresh strawberries, cherries, and chocolate. Yum.

The late-night weather was perfect - pleasantly mild, which is almost unheard of in that part of the city, even in summer.

I enjoyed the show. Sound quality was surprisingly good for an outdoor music event.

We headed home on the train. I broke out a pack of playing cards for a friendly game of rummy on the slow ride back. Strange coincidence #2: we ran into two more friends, J. and A., on the train. They were returning home from a different event.

All in all, an awesome date and I would do it again. Here is a fun YouTube video that someone posted that captures the Opera at the Ballpark experience quite nicely.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jazz is not dead

We just went to the student performances for the Stanford Jazz Workshop and it was exciting. They had three different stages with various combos playing at different times. Ages varied from middle school to high school; skill levels varied too. Some kids were good for their age; many were just plain good.

Performances ranged from young'uns getting started playing basic riffs on a blues progression, to older ones delving into tunes with a high level of harmonic and melodic complexity. It's exciting to see the advanced students trying out a broader palette of tone colors, dynamics, phrasing, interaction with their fellow ensemble members, etc.

The rhythm sections were surprisingly strong across the board. I don't know if that was by design or because the slots for those instruments were especially competitive. But it worked out really well, because the rhythm sections served an important function in keeping everything together during those times when individual student soloists weren't totally secure. I saw teen and pre-teen bassists and drummers who were pretty damn solid, and I'd be glad to have them back me up. And some of the pianists...wow.

Some of the workshop faculty are quite inspired and inventive. One of them brought a troop of 15 violinists and a cello onto the stage. I half-expected a group "Twinkle Twinkle" a la Suzuki, but instead, he led them in this jam in which all of the players simultaneously improvised at a level at which they were comfortable, yet the end result sounded fascinating.

The whole event reminded me that I've been doing too much left-brained stuff lately and need to do some more right-brained activities. Perhaps more music listening, exposing myself to genres I don't listen to often, more music playing.