Monday, October 29, 2012

Yo-Yo Ma in Mobile

Curtis and I had the unique opportunity to see Yo-Yo Ma perform with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra ("MSO") last Wednesday.  The MSO is not very old, but was fantastic.  It performed the first half without Ma, first playing a Verdi overture which was impressive, followed by the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra.  I wasn't crazy about how it sounded, but it certainly sounded technically difficult and the MSO did a great job of it.

Then after the intermission Yo-Yo Ma came out, looked so pleased to be performing, and first did the Schumann Cello Concerto in a minor, opus 129 with the MSO, and to be honest, he clearly had it memorized and while he was enjoying himself, it sounded like something he's performed often (not unlike the Bach that he plays in The West Wing, which he did not play for us that night but had performed the night before in Mobile).

Then, I think we had the real treat, because, in honor of John Williams birthday, he performed an Elegy that Williams wrote for Cello and Orchestra, which was BEAUTIFUL.  Seriously, I was blown away.  It also has a unique history:


Elegy for Cello and Orchestra

Composed: 1997-2001
Orchestration: 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet , 2 bassoons, 2 horns, harp, strings, and solo cello
A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine, a brilliant young violinist, lost her two young children in tragic circumstances. For the memorial service for little Alexandra and Daniel, a group of composer colleagues and I each contributed a small piece to mark this occasion, which was not only heart-rending, but also one that was suffused with a great deal of love.
A short time before this event, Yo-Yo Ma appeared as soloist on my soundtrack recording of Seven Years in Tibet. The score included a short melodic fragment which I thought might be expanded, so I shaped it into the form of the present Elegy, always with the cello in mind. The original version of the piece was for piano and cello and was beautifully performed at the memorial service by John Walz, an outstanding Los Angeles cellist. When the opportunity to record a CD with Yo-Yo Ma emerged, I decided to orchestrate the Elegy and Yo-Yo kindly agreed to record it.
— John Williams

After that, it was the end of the MSO program, and Ma then proceeded to delight the audience with 3 encores of solo music.  Even Curtis, who has very little musical background, enjoyed his performance and was impressed with his ability.

I was concerned going into the concert that I would be overly emotional - I had a hard time getting through the beautiful music at my Grandpa's service since he loved music so much.  But I was prepared and did well, and had a wonderful time listening to the beautiful music.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


It has been a little crazy lately.  If you're still checking the blogs and wondering where I've been, here's the scoop:

First, let me note that most of this has nothing to do with me, that my health is fine and my little family in LA ("Lower Alabama") is fine. Plus, there's the (admittedly trivial) fact that all of this is happening during the fall and football season, which already involves travel, and thus I'm busier than normal.

So what is bringing me to California for 3 of out of the last 5 weekends (this weekend included)?  Well, mostly sad events.  I was in CA Sept. 20-23 to see my Aunt, who, at 44 years young, is dying of cancer.  In so many ways, this trip was a blessing - we got so much quality time together talking and laughing, and although the outlook is devastating and cruel, and although we spent most of our time together in the hospital, it was a good visit and well-worth the trip and time.  I will say that, it's hard to look at cancer the same way after going through it with her. It takes too many people and destroys too many families and the road to a cure seems far away.

It also turned out to be the last time I would see my Grandpa, who suddenly passed away about 2 weeks ago after a car accident. It's still hard to talk about because I really miss him - he was one of my favorite people in my life.  But knowing that he is with my grandma, and that he will be with my Aunt in spirit as she makes her transition, has given me and my family great comfort.  I am SO SO lucky that he and I were able to have a great time together just 2 weeks before.  We had such a fun dinner together where he ate more sashimi than I thought was possible, and he was in good form and we just talked and talked and enjoyed each other's company.  I'm thankful for the relationship we had and for how good he was to me.   I will be in California for his service this weekend.

On a happier note, in between all of this I flew out to San Francisco to go to my 5-year Stanford Homecoming Reunion.  I had such a nice time visiting with close friends and with people I hadn't seen in a long time.  I flew out just a few days after Grandpa's death and it was a nice distraction and something I had been looking forward to.

During these last 5 weeks I've also traveled to Tuscaloosa for a football game and to New Orleans to see a friend.  I hope to recap all of this at a later time, but if you've noticed that I've been a little ... absent shall we say? at least from the substantive, "this is what is going on with my life" stuff (since I still am active on Facebook with little things), the above is why - it's just a lot of travel and a lot of emotional stuff all at once.   When I'm home, I'm focused on spending time with Curtis and Kenny since my absence has had an effect. And I'm trying to stay ahead on my sleep and on my stress.  When I'm at work, I'm try to stay busy. But I wanted to take some time out today to update the blog and say hello.

Have a good week :-)