Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Late Night with the ESO

Thanks to an invite from Phil, I was able to attend the "Late Night Paris" concert last night at the Winspear Centre. Instead of detailing every meticulous musical moment from the concert, I will choose a laidback attitude in this blog entry (since the concert itself was relaxed) and document random details from the evening.

I have never been to a late night concert in the series since 9:30 pm is a late start time for a symphony concert. However, I must note that the concert had a very nice relaxed vibe to it. People were dressed in a range of attire from jeans to dresses and alcoholic beverage consumption were not only requested but encouraged. The two conductors from the evening, Eddins and Waldin, jokingly engaged in a light banter on the topic of alcohol as Eddins ordered Waldin to get some bubbly for him and Waldin eventually brought a glass out but proceeded to sip from the glass himself. Eddins had to emotionally appease himself with the fact that he would enjoy a martini in the lobby afterwards while listening to the live jazz trio and invited the audience to join him as well.

The evening was filled with French pieces which included two movements from Bizet's Symphony in C major, Poulenc Aubade and Suite francaise. For Poulenc's Aubade concerto for piano and orchestra Eddins played the piano solo but beforehand he took the audience through the musical highlights of the piece and played some of the musical motifs that they would soon hear later in the piece. It was nice to get a musical roadmap of the melodies to listen to and it was just entertaining to listen to Eddins passionately talking about the story being told within the piece which revolved around the character of Diana the Huntress. It felt like we were in Eddin's living room and he was just sitting at the piano and chatting with us.

Since I promised random musings in this post, this random thought is something that kept cycling in my mind. Waldin is the resident conductor for the ESO this year and the first time I saw him was at the ESO's Symphony Under the Sky Festival. I remember a bunch of middle aged women around me drooling at this curly-haired, statuesque figure standing on the pavement in his black, long-sleeved conductors shirt. The women around me were visually devouring Waldin with their eyes while my curiosity got the better of me and I craned my neck to try to get a better view. When he eventually turned around, I just thought, "Whoa! it looks like he stepped out a Viennese period film set in the 1700s!" His angular features and piercing eyes formed a composer-like profile that reminded me of the composer posters that used to line the walls of my elementary school music room. If he just wore a white wig, put on some tailored breeches, and a militant jacket, it looks like he could have been chumming around with Mozart in 1783! Once in a while I come across a face that looks like they belong from another time period and Waldin's is definitely one of them. Even though I expect Waldin's musical career will continue to flourish, if anything ever falls through, I could easily see him being in a production of Amadeus. I mean this in the best way possible of course! Since it's probably hard for you to picture, here's his artists' profile picture from the ESO website:

What do you think? Yay or nay to his period film profile?

Until next time, take care and hope you enjoyed my random post!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

San Fran Day 3/4

In order to wrap up some travel sights here are some quick snapshots.

We visited the famous Alcatraz prison and it was actually surreal to imagine that the most dangerous criminals were kept here. It kind of felt like I was walking through a movie set but by far the most creepy were the isolation cells in the most secure block of the prison. An awesome audio commentary accompanied the tour and it was eerie to hear the voices of prisoners and wardens describe the prison and the famous characters through it's walls. They also detailed the multiple escape attempts that occurred and described how the prisoners would be able to see the lights of the San Francisco nightline in the evening and even the sounds of peoples voices during New Years Eve. Those happy voices a taunting reminder of the world they are locked away from.

The gorgeous Crown and Crumpet Tea Room.

Eating ridiculously large chocolate dipped strawberries

High Tea at Lovejoy's tea room. By far one of our most delicious finds in San Francisco! It's away from the heart of downtown, further into the subburbs, but upon seeing the website and hearing some reviews, I knew it would be worth it to trek all the way out. It was in such a cute area of the city! Lots of cute little boutiques and salons lining the street. The tea shop looked like an eclectic grandmother's living room in the UK and the service and food was excellent. It was also nice to have a high tea in a very non-pretentious atmosphere. Often you have to head to 5 star hotel for high tea but the atmosphere here was so relaxed. I've never had tea choices described to me like wine so Christina and I opted for the signature house black tea to start with and we ended our tea experience with a pot of China rose petal. We munched on cucumber sandwiches, sugar cookies and warm scones with devonshire cream and strawberry preserves.

mmm high tea

After our high tea, we had to book it to make our 2pm performance of Peter Pan. The production is new to San Fran and I thought it sounded pretty cool since it is on the harbour and the special 360 theatre allows 360 images to be broadcast. Thus, when the actors are flying, they are actually flying through the the London night sky! It was so neat to watch the Darlings, Peter Pan, and Tinkerbell swerve left to fly around the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral and other famous London attractions! The show itself was amazingly done with aerial acrobats as mermaids, an amazing puppeteer handling Nana and the crocodile (complete with a ticking time piece in it's wire-framed centre), and singing pirates actually playing their instruments. One of the most magical moments was when Tinkerbell lies lifeless after drinking poison meant for Peter and he beckons the audience to chant "I believe in faeries" to revive her. Adults were hesitant at first but then I heard the sounds of whispering children all around me repeating that phrase with such dedicated fervour! Tinkerbell slowly began to twitch as the volume of chanting escalated until she launched into the air soaring through the theatre. Intermission was lovely too since outside the 360 digital theatre were tents and grassy areas to hang out on. It was a beautiful day and a great way for kids to run around for a bit of a break from the show.

After Peter Pan we walked Chinatown for a bit before heading to the Orpheum Theatre to see Wicked. Christina and I had seen Wicked before in different cities but it was nice to end our trip with something familiar and enjoyable :) Overall, a fantastic trip!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Tourist's Day in San Fran

Our second day in San Fran was filled with tourist-friendly activities due to the fact that we signed up for a city tour with Dylan who takes people around in his own personal shuttle bus. He was a super friendly dude and I enjoyed the fact that he took us into random nooks and crannies of San Fran that I've never been to like the Latino Mission district (mental note to return to have an authentic burrito). Christina and I grabbed some breakfast at Sears fine food where we ate delicious oranges, pancakes and eggs benedict. Then we sat in Union square and just chilled until the time we were going to be picked up by the tour.

We went through a ton of San Fran areas which included:
  • The Tenderloin area where there was a definite increase in free clinics, homeless people, and other social service buildings, it was also where movies like the Pursuit of Happyness was filmed
  • The Mission district where I noticed a plethora of multicultural Latinos population the streets and oh so many delicious Taqueria joints
  • The infamous rainbow Castro district where the Harvey Milk movie was filmed and Christina and I gawked at the beautiful men who had nicer bags than us
  • The Twin Peaks to get a great view of the whole city
  • The Haight-Ashbury district which was the centre of the hippie/summer of love movement in San Fran and checked out the homes of Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Jimmy Hendrix
  • The Pacific Heights district where all the beautiful mansions in the city are located. The homes were so beautiful and each one so unique! We also saw the house that was used in the film Mrs. Doubtfire
  • Drove by the waterfront before heading onto the Golden Gate Bridge to go to Muir woods where the Redwood forests are located. It was nice to get out of the city and take a hike through the woods and get some fresh air
  • Then we visited the seaside town Sausalito for a quick stop to pick up some lunch.
  • We got dropped off back in Union Square and Christina and I proceeded to have one of our most productive shopping sprees yet. Niketown, DSW shoes, Nordstroms... and numerous other places where we picked up beautiful goods.
  • We headed back to Fishermans' Wharf afterward to see if the tea shop in Ghiradelli's Square was open, alas, it was closed, but we received directions to a highly recommended seafood place called Scoma's. It's a good sign when the fish receiving station is right beside the restaurant :)
  • Topping off our evening with a hot fudge sundae from Ghiradelli's!
Overall, a deliciously productive day!

Chilling out in Union Sq

A mural on the Mother and Childrens centre in the Mission district

The Grateful Dead house. Where all the band members and others used to all live together in a communal style living arrangement.

Jimmy Hendrix's mural outside his place on Haight Ashbury

Rusted stapes from numerous posters at the Haight Ashbury Intersection

A token tourist pic of the Golden Gate bridge

Redwood trees in Muir woods

A break from the city.

Friday, May 7, 2010

San Fran Arrival

I was able to get away for a few days to breezy and beautiful San Francisco for a much-needed break after an intense term of school. Christina and I packed a lot of activity in the 4 days we were there and I will attempt to document our activities in the next few posts. I didn't indulge in anything choral related there but I definitely made it out to see a couple of shows :)

Upon our arrival and hauling our packs to our hostel, we took the cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf where we proceeded to find some lunch in an open market-like area. Christina has never tried any shellfish of any sort. Perhaps I should have been more sensitive to this fact before asking her if she wanted to split a crab as she watched one being placed into the steamer right next to her with tentative fear. Maybe crab and shrimp cocktail and some clam chowder instead. No exoskeleton to deal with. It's always good to start off less intense :) Christina was a great sport and was keen to try any and all things I threw her way as her culinary experiences have been limited due to numerous killer allergies in her household.

Following our lunch we walked through the wharf and decided to check out a bike rental place: Blazing Saddles. I've wanted to bike the Golden Gate bridge since the first time I've visited so I was definitely interested. However, upon arriving at the bike rental place, I realized that not only did I want to bike the bridge, I wanted to tandem bike the Golden Gate bridge! I wasn't sure if the timing would work out, they said it would take 1.5-2h, I looked at my watch, just after 4 pm. The route included biking across the bridge to the seaside town, Sausalito, on the other side. From there we could take the ferry back and the last boat left at 630 pm. It was totally possible to do! I looked at Christina with ecstatic enthusiasm and our eye contact was consensus enough. Yay for spontaneity!

I tried to sit at the front but my short legs proved to be too short to ride in the front so the seat of prestige went to Christina. I sat at the back and tried to keep the bike from wobbling. It was tough to steer or do any sharp movements but we got the hang of it once we started cruising. We climbed some pretty intense hills and I do believe it was easier to bike them since we had the power of two to push our bike forward and we even passed a biker on a hill who cursed us for our speed. The ride was just gorgeous! Right alongside the Marina waterfront and we got to use the unpopulated bike lane sidewalk on the bridge so we could just enjoy our ride. We also had super friendly locals help us along the way when we weren't quite sure which path to take. I highly recommend biking the bridge. You get to go through a beautiful part of San Fran where cars aren't allowed and you can choose to tour at your own pace. Upon arriving in Sausalito, we locked out bike to a traffic sign and took a water pit stop at a local grocery store. I just loved the freedom biking gave us. We could spend as much time as we wanted, whereever we wanted, and we could take photo stops along the way! It was just such a speedy and unique way to experience the city.

After taking the ferry back to the San Francisco side from Sausalito, we walked over to Ghiradelli's Square which houses the beloved San Francisco Ghiradelli's chocolate factory. There was a store attached to a dessert bar but we weren't feeling particularly hungry for a sundae at this point. We decided to check out the chocolate milling process and peruse the cute boutiques in the square which included Kara's Cupcakes where cupcakes are made from local organic ingredients, an adorable tea room Crown and Crumpet, wine tasting places, stationery stores, and restaurants. However, most shops were closed so we made a mental note to return. Especially since Christina fell in love with a polka dot teapot in the window of the Crown and Crumpet store.

After our chocolate viewing we took a harbourside tram back to downtown and had some Thai food before turning in at our hostel for the evening. It was a very eventful day considering we only arrived that afternoon!

Stay tuned for more posts!