Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Busy Weekend -- Lieder and Ringtones and Cake, oh my!

I've written before about our very good fortune in having, on our island, a small core of musicians and of music-lovers who regularly organize house concerts. These have ranged from jazz to folk to classical, and although I got roped into page-turning for the pianist at the last one, they have all been wonderful ways to experience great music in an intimate setting.

This past Friday evening, we were very happy to be invited to our first Vancouver house concert, a brilliant event in a gorgeous home filled with superb musicians and attentive music lovers. (and the sommelier-chosen lieder-matching wine didn't hurt either!) The evening was under the auspices of a new-to-me Vancouver organization, the Vancouver International Song Institute, more easily known as VISI. While VISI offers many programs and events to those already knowledgeable and talented in the matter of song, the evening we were part of,  I Love Lieder, was designed to give those who weren't as sure about classical music some tools for appreciating and talking about it. Rena Sharon, a renowned concert pianst and a Professor at UBC, gave a very lively lecture, although that word is perhaps too weighty to convey the fun we had. Every concept that Sharon introduced was then illustrated by her playing a short passage, letting us hear the taut anxiety of Schubert's Gretchen or the seductive charm of Liszst's Lorelei -- even before we heard their vocal counterpart. And once the voices were added, in the form of talented (and very easy to look at) young singers, a synergistic leap in pleasure indeed! For this is the particular charm of lieder, as Sharon, if I'm paraphrasing her fairly, explained: the voice and the piano complement each other such that the whole is much greater than the sum of the two parts. And behind the evening's performers, of course, are not only the musical conceptions of the composers involved, but also the words and ideas -- and universal truths -- of some of the finest poets past and present.

If you're in Vancouver, you can learn "Learn to Love Lieder" yourself at an upcoming evening at the Vancouver Public Library on June 2nd. Free admission! for a combination of entertainment and education that  will leave you with a newfound or a reinforced appreciation for art song.

Having ticked off the "culture" box on Friday night, we moved on to "maintain fitness" with our respective runs on Saturday morning -- I ran the Seawall, Pater went madly off in another direction (that phrase may only resonate with Canadian readers -- do tell, does anyone out there 'get' it). After that, we stopped at "our" crêpe place (La Bretagne on Jervis at Robson) where we were extremely gratified that not only did the owner remember our usual order (two number 5s on buckwheat with coffee, cream) despite our long absence, but he also brought over a clean copy of the Saturday Globe for us to read while we waited. Half an hour later, well fortified by the delicious apple, cheese, and sausage repast, we headed off to choose new phones. and, judging from the paperwork, to become indentured servants of a huge communications conglomerate for all eternity. We now each have shiny new Android-powered smartphones (Sony Ericksson) that can do all kinds of exciting things. Mostly, for the next week or two, those things will not involve new "apps" but, rather, will involve the two of us swearing and trying to figure out how to answer a simple call.Son Zachary assures us that while the learning curve may be steep, we will soon be old hands, enjoying the convenience.

Today we're taking our soon-to-be son-in-law shopping for his wedding shirt and tie and then this evening three out of four of our young couples, plus one little girl, are coming for Nana's birthday dinner (albeit two days early as my birthday's not 'til Tuesday).

So a lovely weekend here, despite the constant grey skies, low temperatures, and rain, rain, rain. Sorry for the lack of photos, but I promise my next post will more than make up. What have you been up to this weekend? And tell me, what do you know of lieder -- or of classical or, better, art song in general? Have you ever had the opportunity to attend a performance of classical music, perhaps chamber music, where the performer(s) introduced the music and explained it to you? Do you wish that happened more often?


  1. Interesting experience, thanks for sharing your classical music experience. I don't think I've experienced anything similar since the symphony in my town hosted school groups when I was in elementary. I forget what the program was called, but they symphony would play portions of famous pieces, then the conductor would explain them. It was a great introduction to music.

    As for the weekend, we've been out to dinner twice this weekend at two different places owned by the same locally owned group. The menu and ambiance are different at each of the group's restaurants, and all have great food and service.

    I switched to a smart phone about a year ago and love it. Yes, there's a learning curve, but I'm also using it for so much more than just phone calls.

  2. Oh, your musical evening sounds fantastic! We attend the Long Beach Symphony concerts, but don't arrive in time for the program lecture beforehand (we *could* skip dinner, I suppose, but...). The program notes on the evening's selections are often very informative, but lack the multi-sensory presentation you enjoyed.

    Sounds like a wonderful weekend all around! I forced a grumbling monsieur to lay out his clothes for the trip last night (grumbling because I'd given him a limited packing list, which forced him to make choices rather than just packing everything, his usual M.O.).

    Word verification is "flyhi"...indeed!

  3. I've never been to Vancouver, so I googled the Seawall to try to find a hint to your puzzle - all I learned is that it must be a simply wonderful addition to your city!
    This weekend, and indeed for the past week, we have been squiring around town my husband's replacement in the job, together with his wife. They are a similar age, also two sons but they are early twenties. We have had a lovely time together and I'd like to think that we've been helpful. Beginning to feel a little sad that we are leaving, even though we are excited about the next place.
    Lieder - no, I don't believe I have ever attended such a concert, but, not knowing too much about classical music, I'd certainly welcome a little lecture/explanation beforehand! P.

  4. Nancy: Sounds like a lovely weekend, if busy. and I'm glad to hear that the smartphone experience gets easier!
    Pseu: We're the same with the opera, passing up the pre-show lectures in favour of dinner. What I like with the kind of evening we attended on Friday is that the whole is integrated, interpretation and performance. It's something that does seem to happen more often with chamber music, thanks to its more intimate nature, I guess.
    Patricia: I can understand that you'd have some mixed feelings about leaving, even as you're keen to pick up life in Canada again. You've had some very special years there and your young boys are turning into young men. . . .as for the music, I think many who like classical music yet don't know too much about it would welcome a bit more background, if not a full-on lecture.

  5. oh, and Patricia, sorry for making you resort to Google searching. The reference is to "madly off in all directions" an expression straight out of Stephen Leacock, and picked up as the title of a long-running CBC radio show featuring Lorne Elliot. very Canadian indeed, but perhaps generationally-limited.

  6. Lieder, to me, are some of the most emotionally honed pieces of music one can ever listen to.

  7. Mater - yes, that reference is indeed before my time as a Canadian! :0) P.

  8. Lisa, yes, this is a great way of describing lieder, "emotionally honed"


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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