Monday, August 11, 2014

Adventures in Audio #2: Yo-Yo Ma @ Wolf Trap

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:
 Wolf Trap is a National Park and a Performing Arts Center, so you know what means: Park Rangers in their cute little hats and stellar performances.  In fact, it the only National Park dedicated to the performing arts. Wolf Trap was found by the late Catherine Filene Dodd Shouse through a donation of 100 acres of her Virginia farmland to the U.S. Government, as well as funds for construction of a 6,800 seat indoor/outdoor theatre. The gift was accepted by an Act of Congress in 1966 and Wolf Trap’s larger venue, the Filene Center, opened in 1971. In 1981, Mrs. Shouse also donated the land and funds for an indoor Theatre constructed of two adjunct 18th-century barns, each moved from upstate New York and rebuilt on their present sites.  Mrs. Shouse purchased the land in 1930 and kept the  historical name of Wolf Trap Farm, nodding to the problems  wolves have caused settlers on that land since the 1600s. At one time in very distant past, small rewards were given for trapped or killed wolves, hence Wolf Trap. 
Along with covered seating, the theater also has a large lawn area were patrons are encouraged to spread out blankets and bring a picnic dinner. And this snacking under the stars while being serenaded by world class music has become a summer tradition for many area folk. The performance that I was able to catch this year couldn’t have better: The National Symphony Orchestra with special guest, world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. After a brief and light rain, that left us with damp shoes huddled under umbrellas and rain ponchos, the evening opened up into a cool and delightful twilight I haven’t been an audience member to many symphony orchestras, so I can’t compare this one to that one, but I every time I have seen the The National Symphony Orchestra, I have been left in awe and with goose pimples.  The conductor for the night was Virginia native, Thomas Wilkins, who was just named the principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and he very engaging and charming with the audience. And then there was Yo-Yo Ma. Whenever I see a much acclaimed performer, there is often that little thought that maybe they aren't as good as the hype. It would be keen of me to learn to ignore this thought, it is always wrong. Mr. Ma was amazing. He just didn't play the cello, he made it sing, clear and bright and with such emotion that I doubted it could ever be an just a piece of wood and strings.  And even from our faraway lawn seats, I could see and feel the happiness and joy that Yo-Yo got from playing the music.   After playing the program with the orchestra, he came back out and treated the audience to a solo performance, that shook the heavens and stars. Leaving early, is never worth it. I will soon forgot about being stuck in the parking lot trying to exit for an hour (c'mon people get it together!), but that night of music is now inventoried and catalogued in the dusty old card cataloged in my head,  under Musical Performances; Classical; Amazing. 
When introducing him, the conductor referred to Yo-Yo Ma as a friend to music. I love that. Indeed, he is a friend to music, making it, sharing it, finding joy in it. And that night, I decided that is a title that I want to strive for, a friend of music.  

I couldn't found a clip of Yo-Yo Ma at Wolf Trap, so here he is on Sesame Street, you know, where all folks of my generation got our first tastes and feasts of culture:

Program
  Yo-Yo Ma with The National Symphony Orchestra @ Wolf Trap, VA
(August 2, 2012):
Overture to Candide (Leonard Bernstein)
Suite from Candide  (Leonard Bernstein)
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Suite No. 1 from Peer Gynt, Op. 46  (Edvard Grieg)
          Morning Mood
          Ase's Death
          Anitra's Dance
          In the Hall of the Mountain King
 -----
Concerto in B minor for Cello  and Orchestra, Op. 104  (Antonin Dvirak)
         Allegro
        Adagio ma non troppo
        Finale: Allegro moderato
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Footnotes: 
History of Wolf Trap from their website.


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