A Mellow Day. It was a perfect outing to match a mellow, warm autumn day. Friends arrived to take me with them to their daughter’s marching band competition. We saw several creative, well-executed displays of bands from NC, VA, KY, TN. We had a leisurely lunch at a tavern and took a pleasant amble in formal gardens. Good music, good times with friends.
Traffic Circles. On my travels to a grocery store where I shop, I drive through four traffic circles. I like the British term, “Round-Abouts.” Why? Because that’s what you do: you go round and then about. Sometimes it’s good to call a carousel “merry-go-round,” because that’s what you do: go around merrily.
At the State Fair. We saw award-winning livestock, produce, flowers, garden plots, and antique farm equipment. We talked with a woodworker from the Outer Banks, a cider press operator from the Piedmont, and a Christian camper coordinator. We shared a fried Snickers bar. It tasted like chocolate pie–yummers! We had lunch at a Methodist food establishment. We strolled down the midway and had a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl. The day was beautiful, though in the low 80’s before we left. On our way to the exit gate, I bought two caramel apples to bring home to friends. We left tired and happy. All good things that a day at a fair should be.
The Winston-Salem Symphony. The opening classic series concert of the year was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and a twenty-first century piece, “Ode,” by Mason Bates (1977 – ).
Before this performance, I had never liked this symphony. I thought it too big, too halting, too excessive. Because of Maestro Robert Moody’s interpretation, I saw it as a forceful, magnificent work.
Moody kept the themes coherent through a steady, unrelenting movement that carried the themes in a lateral pull that did not overwhelm the listeners.
His pause before the final movement allowed for the well-choreographed entry of the 126-member Symphony Chorale, turning of the instruments, and focus for the last movement, the choral ode to joy.
The vocal soloists and chorale were an integral part of the orchestra, not a separate entity performing with the symphony. Various parts, often emphasized in performances, became moving parts in the whole musical concept. The march in the fourth movement, which I had always heard as a Nazi goose-step, became a merry Turkish march, highlighting cymbal, triangle, and drum. (And the donning of fezzes by the players during applause.)
Projected translations of the choral and solo parts worked well, and I was pleased to notice that Maestro Moody conducted without score.
The symphony was played without pause following Mason Bates’s “Ode.” Bates uses motifs from Beethoven’s ninth symphony to make a statement about our ability to overcome the horrors of life with joy and peace. According to program notes, Bates was completing the piece in New York City during 9-11. The piece climaxes in a loud cacophony, followed by a denouement of serenity, a feeling of reconciliation.