Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It’s summertime and the music is marvelous

I had the good fortune of attending last week’s Picnic Concert at the Music Academy of the West, thanks to my tenacious friend Bunny Bernhardt, who nabbed some last minute tickets returned by Jill and Barry Kittnick to the ticket booth an hour before the concert.
Still, there had to be somewhere between 20-30 empty seats in the dazzling new Hahn Hall, meaning that a number of season ticket holders don’t return or call in their unused tickets, which is a shame for many who hope to listen to the fine young musicians, known as Academy Fellows, perform.

The evening began with the thrilling announcement — and a standing ovation from the audience — that Seymour and Shirley Lehrer had made a huge donation to the campus. The Lehrer’s pledged $3 million dollars, including a $1 million “challenge grant” to cover the recital hall’s renovation fundraising campaign: Matching funds must be raised by the end of this year.
Additionally, unrestricted donations of $1 million and $1 million to fund future upgrades, not to mention a previous $1 million to fund the creation of Lehrer Studios at the Academy add up to a sweet pot of money for the campus. The entry of Hahn Hall (which is named for Stephen and Carla Hahn who have given over $6 million to the Music Academy), will be named the Lehrer Lobby and next summer’s program will be dedicated to the Lehrers. Bravo Mr. and Mrs. Lehrer!
But back to the evening and the music bravos. I sat between one of the visiting faculty members, Dennis Michel, second bassoon for the Chicago Symphony, who was attending to listen to one of his talented students, Rachel Young, perform and former alumni/composer/pianist Kary Kramer, who lives in Carpinteria and attended the Academy in 1984-1985.
These days, the students are asked to give a short speech to the audience before their performance. I asked Kary Kramer if they were required to do so when he attended, as I didn’t remember it from years past. He confirmed my thoughts. I must say it’s a lot to ask of these hugely talented musicians, many who are by their very nature shy beasts, to stand before a crowd and (god forbid!) speak, but they all did an admirable job.
I enjoy comparing notes with fellow listeners after the concerts and was pleased to discover that Kramer and I both agreed that one of our favorite pieces was the Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67 performed by the (pardon my shallowness) ultra-stylishly dressed Harold Reeves (violin), Edward Prevost (cello) and Ivana Alkovic (piano). But my very favorite piece of the evening was the moving and hypnotic Greig’s Sonata No.3 for Violin and Piano in C Minor, op.45 beautifully performed by John Irrera (violin) and Tina Chang (piano). I found myself oddly lost in a reverie of my past listening to this moving and hypnotic piece of music.
If you get a chance to visit the new Hahn Hall with it’s mandala-like ceiling, infinitely more comfortable plush seats and fine acoustics, you will not be disappointed. It is muy elegante, not to mention the stunning, and much roomier, ladies loo.

First Thursday
Prior to the concert, I dashed downtown at the invitation of the delightful Jennifer Voss, owner of Gardefacts Landscape Design. Jennifer, and her niece Serena, had invited a small group of friends and neighbors over for a glass of champagne and nibbles before walking to First Thursday’s Artwalk. After chatting in the kitchen with artist Joanne Dufau and her significant other, Steve Bonser, we headed downtown. It was great fun learning plant identification along the way with Jennifer, who knows her stuff.
We first popped in to Patty Look Lewis’s Gallery which was packed for Irma Cavat’s show. One of our group wanted one of the $32,000 pieces, but decided it was beyond his budget. Next highlight? Seeing beaming, proud father David Dart tending the wine bar for his daughter Ashley Dart’s accomplished show, “Wildthing,” of large-scale paintings at Erika Carter’s upstairs Studio 3 East gallery. Couldn’t get much further, as it was a double-header event night.

Moonlit Kayaking
Greg and Sheri Lowe have participated in Patrik and Oceanna's Kayaking Adventures and recommend their potluck supper and moonlight paddles.
“Kayaking up the Goleta Slough under the full moon is a very easy, yet very special experience. Also, they provide wet suits for late afternoon ocean kayaking, if one is so inclined,” Sheri reports, “Patrik is great at giving instruction to people who have never been in the ocean kayaking and the food is always great — an all around fun evening!” For more information on the Augusts 14th, $30 kayak and potluck, contact Patrik (805-798-3427) or Oceanna (805-331-1331). The gathering starts at 5 pm and goes ‘til 9 p.m. Future full moon paddles are planned for Sept 18th and Oct. 17th and there’s even a 3-day paddle to the islands on the schedule.

Microwave Contamination?
I had to wonder if microwaves were zapping me as I drove home past the gigantic—and I do mean GIGANTIC—satellite dishes set up outside Ennisbrook by CNN for the news station’s endless reporting on the John Edwards affair last week. That, combined with the noise pollution from the news helicopter circling overhead, provided a different experience on my normal route. Guess they zapped that “other woman” right out of Ennishbrook. Any scientists out there care to comment?

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