This time with less Mark!
So yes, I am aware that Artpark is technically not in Buffalo. However I went to see the BPO and the B stands for Buffalo so I'm counting it.
Mark was lukewarm when I first mentioned the idea of going to see the BPO perform. He seemed to perk up just a tad when I said I wanted to go to the Salute to John Williams, but ultimately he decided he wasn't really interested and I didn't push that hard. I would much rather go by myself and enjoy it than take someone who doesn't really want to be there. Anyone who was paying attention to my 100 Things will recall that I don't mind going places alone and I love a good road trip. Artpark is around 45 minutes or so away so it's not like it's on the other side of the world but still, once everything was settled I was kind of excited about having a few hours out to myself.
The best part of going without Mark? No one telling me what to listen to and how loud to listen to it. I have my favorite songs and then I have my favorite driving songs. Driving calls for a very specific music, I feel. I find that I listen to a lot of country music while driving and that's what started me off today.
Artpark is in the same area as Niagara University where we went just a few weeks ago for Sabres prospect camp but I wasn't really paying attention to where we were going so I was a little bit nervous about missing the entrance to the I-190 but I managed okay. (I drove to NU but unlike some people, I think I pay even less attention when I'm driving. I figure, I'm driving. Someone else can tell me how to get there. Just ask Patty and Meg. We never would've made it to Ottawa if I'd had to direct us. I went to pick the two of them up, we loaded everyone's luggage, got in the car and buckled our seatbelts and then I said, "So... who knows where we're going?")
Here I am on the road. And yes, I did take this photo while driving. I'm a danger to myself and everyone around me.
I noticed this sign on the way to NU and it's probably my very favorite road sign ever. I'm assuming it means there's some kind of information center off the exit but I like to think of it as Mystery Exit. Wanna know what's off this exit? It's a surprise! You have to get off to find out!
Fortunately everything was very well marked. Lewiston has its crap together. You couldn't not find Artpark if you wanted to. At every intersection there's a sign pointing the way. I know an NHL franchise that could take some lessons, Ottawa.
I arrived an hour or so early. The first thing I did was pick up my tickets. Any time I have to pick something up at will call I'm paranoid there's going to be some confusion and if I was going to have to call Kate - who was kind enough to hook me up with the tickets - I wanted to do it you know, before she was on stage. No problems though. Everything was as it should be.
Since I had a little bit of time to kill yet, I walked around. I didn't have a watch on (101st thing about me: I never wear a watch because I hate the way they feel) so I didn't want to wander too far, but I did walk across the picnic area. If you peeked through the bushes, you could just get a glimpse of the water below.
There was a trail nearby that didn't look like too much work - some of the walkways were pretty steep and I don't quite trust my ankle to stop me yet particularly after a week of chasing small children around the building - so I decided to give it a whirl. I was extra delighted to find stairs!
Once I got down to the shore there wasn't a whole lot of room to wander but it was very pretty. I particularly liked the little church tucked in the hill on the other side of the water. One fella down there told me it was Canada, but I have no idea if that's true or not since I stink at geography. We'll go with it.
Since I wasn't sure what time it was, I decided to grab a bottle of water (a fairly reasonable $2) and head toward the stage. I couldn't make heads or tails of the seating chart or the directions on the tickets but the very helpful elderly volunteers pointed me on my way. After crawling over the guy who refused to move his legs, I settled in, ready for the show to begin. Unfortunately, I was early enough to listen to the three people behind me prattle on about John Williams and how COMMON DENOMINATOR he is and how it figures that such a good crowd would come out to listen to MOVIE THEMES and how the BPO didn't have NEARLY enough BRASS for his songs but had way TOO MANY DOUBLE BASSES and good lord, give me a break, you freakin' douchebags. Why exactly are you here? Did someone force you here at gunpoint? No? Then quit acting like you're better than everyone else there. I have no idea what the quality of John Williams' music is as far as the writing and performing of it goes but I think you have to give the guy a little credit for writing so many pieces of music that are instantly recognizable to 98% of the population and take people back to certain times and places in their lives and don't think I didn't hear you humming along and begging for the theme song to Jurassic Park, DOUCHEBAG!
The first portion of the show consisted of the overture from The Cowboys, Adventures on Earth (the E.T. theme), Harry's Wondrous World from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, theme from Schindler's List, and a Star Wars medley. I wasn't familiar with The Cowboys - I hate John Wayne outside of Rio Bravo - but it was a good piece as was all this other stuff. Theoretically the piece from Schindler's List probably should have been the most moving - the solo violinist was absolutely beautiful to watch and listen to - but it was the E.T. theme that really got me feeling all fuzzy and teary which really surprised me since I wouldn't say it's one of my very favorite movies. But I just got that image of Elliott and E.T. taking flight past the moon and it hit me right there. Until the bug flew up my left nostril. The dangers of outdoor concerts, people. It kind of killed the moment.
For the Star Wars medley, a little outer space background dropped down behind the BPO. I get what they were going for but it seemed a little random since they didn't do that for anything else. Still... Star Wars! Anyone who pays attention here knows I love me some Star Wars. It was quite a kick watching the percussionists bounce all around from place to place and they, along with the brass section, got a well-deserved hand when the medley ended. (One of my favorite things was how when the string musicians applaud someone else they wave their bows up and down in the air in front of them. It's like the orchestra equivalent of tapping your stick on the ice.) But dude, what kind of Star Wars medley doesn't feature the Imperial March. That is just wrong.
Since we're talking about the brass section, for those of you who feel the only place to find good-looking, talented men is on the ice or playing field, well you could not be more wrong! Allow me to introduce you to my OrchestraSquee, Jonathan "Mr. July" Lombardo. Jonathan is the principal trombonist so he must be good and ladies, he's pretty cute.
Just one more reason to support the BPO!
During the intermission I made a quick trip to the bathroom and I have a bone to pick with the public restrooms of the world. Can we please stop with the sinks that spurt water for a couple of seconds and then shut themselves off? Are you saving money on water? I don't know, maybe. BUT I CAN'T WASH MY HANDS CORRECTLY! THAT REQUIRES RUNNING WATER AND THE ABILITY TO PUT BOTH HANDS UNDER THE STREAM OF WATER AT THE SAME TIME INSTEAD OF HAVING TO KEEP ONE HAND ON THE FAUCET SO THE WATER DOESN'T STOP! I hate those friggin' sinks.
I took a quick walk up to the lawn seats and I actually considered watching the second half of the concert up there. It looked very comfortable and it was a beautiful day. I kind of loved the idea of lying back on the grass, closing my eyes, and listening to the music. I wasn't sure how the sound carried back there though so I decided not to. Maybe another time.
The second half of the performance consisted of the following pieces: Call of the Champions (the Olympic Fanfare for the 2002 Winter Games), Escapades From the Film Catch Me If You Can, March From Superman, Hymn to the Fallen from the film Saving Private Ryan, Dry Your Tears Afrika from the film Amistad, and Duel of the Fates from the film Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
I wasn't a huge fan of the Catch Me If You Can stuff. The trio of instrumentalists featured on it were all very good, particularly the saxophonist but I'm just not into that jazzy stuff. And I was really disappointed in the Olympic Fanfare just because it was totally not the Fanfare I was expecting. I have to admit, I didn't recognize this imitation piece at all. But Superman is probably my favorite main theme John Williams has done. That was the one where I really had to be careful that I wasn't humming too loudly because when this pops up on my iPod I go nuts with all the bum-bumbumbumbum-BUM-bum-bum bum-bumbumbumbum-BUMbumbum! I kept it reined in though, I promise.
And I'm so glad they did Duel of the Fates separately from the Star Wars medley because it's one of my very favorites. Make no mistake, The Phantom Menace pretty much blows chunks. I can't even really watch it for Ewan McGregor because his hair looks so stupid in it. Mark and I have seriously debated what order to show our kids the series - Episodes 4-6 and then Episodes 1-3 like we saw them or Episodes 1-6 - and I firmly believe it should be the former just because The Phantom Menace shouldn't be anyone's introduction to the Star Wars universe. But Duel of the Fates with the quick, bouncy, building beats and the kick-ass choral part (which was performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus) is pretty awesome. If Mark had been there, this is the part where he would've swatted me (lovingly) upside the head because no song makes me air conduct like this one. I did try to keep the flailing to a minimum but I don't know if I was entirely successful.
I admit, when I first looked at the program I said to myself (102nd thing about me: I talk to myself, often and aloud), "No Indiana Jones? What's up with that, BPO?" so I was delighted when we got a piece from Raiders of the Lost Ark as an encore. When it moved from the main theme to the love theme the douchebag behind me insisted - repeatedly and loudly - that it was from Star Wars and the BPO was mixing movies, but he was wrong. It does admittedly start a little bit like Han Solo and the Princess (from The Empire Strikes Back) but it's called Marion's Theme and it's from Raiders, smart guy.
And with a little more applause - there is a lot of applauding at a BPO show, you guys, because people are endlessly standing up and taking bows - the show was really over. I quickly found my car in the now packed parking lot - I'm telling you, it pays to leave the Sabres flag on your car after everyone else has taken theirs down - and headed home, another Buffalo experience complete.