Friday, June 06, 2008

Rossini in the rain?

"Dress for tomorrow's concert will be white jacket, black bow tie, for men; white blouse for women; rain jackets, and umbrellas. And bring a sweater, and some extra warm clothing,"

orchestra manager Tim Rawlings said at the beginning of the rehearsal this morning. Tomorrow the CPO plays the annual "Beethoven in the Badlands" concert in Drumheller, and the forecast calls for rain, cold, and bluster.

The weather in Alberta rarely seems to cooperate with outdoor concerts -- already this season, we had a "Mozart on the Mountain" concert which was freezing and dismal, with a huddled mass of patrons likely yearning to go home. This past Wednesday the clouds stayed away miraculously, and we had a beautiful evening for Pops in the Park -- too bad I forgot my camera -- reminding me how glorious an outdoor concert can be. (Or semi-outdoor, since this one was under a tent in the middle of the park.)

Outdoor concerts might not be among orchestral musicians' favorite things, generally -- even when it's dry, there's often wind to contend with, or bugs, or seam-busting heat and sunshine. During my summer at the NRO in Breckenridge I learned to be very adept at securing the music to the stand with clothes-pins, since a gust of Colorado wind might easily blow the whole folder off the stand. At Spoleto Festival USA, there's an annual finale concert, loved by audiences and dreaded by musicians -- it's outside Charleston in a swampy plantation site, with enormous mosquitoes swarming and occasionally crawling onto music, clothing, and instruments. That one's coming up soon too -- it's this Sunday, June 8th.

For all their horrors and discomforts, outdoor concerts still can be sensational -- think of the Boston Pops on the Esplanade, the New York Phil playing Central Park, or the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl, all of which attract larger and more diverse audiences than any of their indoor concerts. Calgary has a great outdoor performance site too: Prince's Island Park, which is right in the center of the city. But the CPO hasn't played there in a while, mostly due to complications of weather and scheduling. In a town hall meeting this past week, violinist Steve Lubiarz suggested we should give that venue another try, now that "Mozart on the Mountain" has been shelved and "Beethoven" will likely get poured on as well. At least on Prince's Island, no one would have far to go to get away from the rain.

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