Saturday, March 25, 2017

About that Friday evening in March with Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra at the Ogle Center.

Last night we went to IU Southeast and attended the Louisville Orchestra's performance at the Ogle Center. It was wonderful, but first, a few bars of history.

There was a time during the 1990s, extending into the early twos, when I knew about the LO primarily from being pals (and having beers) with Sid King, who played double bass with the orchestra at the time.

Sid had various dealings with the music department at IU Southeast, where I attended university. The fact of my existence as owner/bartender testified to the power of the philosophy degree pinned to the wall nearest the Guinness tap.

Sid came into the Public House often (though judiciously, of course, and sometimes he even ate food). He brought his musician friends, and this led to the unprecedented cultural phenomenon of the Butt-head Bass Quartet's annual Christmas shows, which is a topic for another time.

They're good memories. Sid and I used to have long chats about the importance of bringing "formal" music to the masses where they drink, riffing on the notion of Paganini standing atop a table in a dive somewhere in Europe two centuries ago and orchestrating happy hour with his bow.

We never got around to implementing any of these ideas, but that's the nature of pub chat, and the point of this digression is to celebrate the LO's creative outreach into the community by playing venues such as the Ogle Center.

The craziness of my existence has abated to an extent that we're able to get back into a routine when it comes to the LO's performances, and while it's certainly not far to drive to downtown Louisville for music, the hop to IU Southeast is even quicker. It reinforces my undergraduate experience there, long before the Ogle Center was built, and it reminds me of the 1990s with Sid and the pub.

Last evening's program was entertaining and educational. The full orchestra opened with Mozart's overture from The Magic Flute (premiered in 1791), and closed with Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1, known as the Classical Symphony (1918).

The dates are important, because while the milieu of Mozart justifies the "classical" shorthand, Prokofiev's symphony is said to have been written in a classical style, but during the "modern" era -- or, as a "neo-classical" work.

One needn't know the difference to enjoy the music. As a pedant, I like learning the differences because it helps me enjoy the music even more. Of course, you're free to close your eyes and be transported to any happy place you like.

Between Mozart and Prokofiev, the LO broke down into sections and performed music intended to showcase brass, woodwinds and strings. This was a delightful opportunity to hear the nuances brought by individual instruments to the sum total of the collective.

Conductor Teddy Abrams noted that only percussion didn't get a star turn, but I rectified this upon returning home by going to YouTube and watching one of the "Neil Peart in isolation" videos.

I especially appreciated Abrams' effort to explain the universal appeal of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, which I've always regarded as the finest eulogy ever, to be played during the pause just before the world ends and the cosmic video screen dissolves to test pattern.

Somber, yes; but also uplifting.

The Adagio is something you feel, and it doesn't matter whether the feelings it engenders can be described with mere words. My mother died two weeks ago, and at some point I looked at the LO's program for the show we'd scheduled before she left, and saw the Adagio listed.

It wouldn't have been her kind of music, not exactly, but Barber's work certainly qualifies as precisely the sort of lamentation and celebration that I needed after her Thursday visitation service, on a Friday evening at the Ogle Center, thinking about life's joys and sorrows and long it's been since Sid and I had a beer together.

When all the threads start weaving themselves and there's music to make sense of the loom -- these are the best times of a all.

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