So Thursday was the last day of my blogging about a month of “nudging” myself to make more organized decisions that improve my life. A good portion of them were about workouts or my website, or making my life a bit easier for something simple (like paying someone to assemble the BowFlex). I will still do a summary of them at some point.
But I liked the premise of focusing on one thing for a month. Something that might nudge me in other areas. Except instead of three things in a day, I only want to do one. Something significant or insignificant, doesn’t matter, it just had to improve my life. And I’m embarrassed to say, my source of inspiration is cheesy.
I watch the TV show New Amsterdam about the caring medical director whose motto with his staff is, “How can I help?”. It is not great art, it is not amazing writing, sometimes it’s not even great acting. But it’s message is usually positive if simplistic, and I watch it. The first EP of the new year is about Max, the main character, trying to find ways to improve his life and his temporary new motto is “more joy”. He wants more joy in his life. And because it is TV, that translates to finding a new love, blah blah blah.
But I’ve been struggling to find a term for something I wanted to write about. It’s not gratitude for something in my life. It’s not counting my blessings. It’s not about a decision that improves my life. It is, in fact, just wanting a bit more joy in my life. Some of them are going to seem really really silly as something that gives me joy. Maybe a simple app, for instance. But I didn’t know what to call the series until I watched the EP. More joy. I like the idea.
I, too, want to find more joy in my life. To take pleasure in simple things without judging myself for enjoying them.
Tonight, Andrea and I watched a pre-recorded “livestream” from September of the NAC Orchestra performing. We used to go in person for the Pops series, and that’s pretty much still shot, but they had sent out a promo newsletter and they showed an upcoming show. As it turned out, Andrea was out of town for the nigth of the show or we would have watched it live, but the ticket allowed us unlimited rewind watching too. Which allowed us to timeshift it to tonight while Jacob was doing an epic quest in Minecraft with his friends. There were five pieces played by the Orchestra, and it seemed like a double bonus event.
But before I talk about the pieces, let me say that everything that should have conspired against enjoyment was present. First, it’s a recording, basically, not the live show. Secondly, we are watching it at home, not a big sound stage. Third, we’re watching it on an internet feed. And fourth, we were doing it through a simple laptop. Should have been poor sound, right? Wrong. It was crystal clear. Like if a pin had dropped on the stage, we could have told you which side it came from. The recording was incredible, the sound amazing.
So, first on the playbill for the night was Beethoven’s Fifth (in C minor, Op. 67, for those who know about these things). Probably the most accessible classical symphony, and one of the most well-known for its beginning movement. The second and third movements are not as well-known, but there are segments that are sublime. I saw it way back in the 90s for the first time, and a number of years ago live in concert with the NAC, and tonight was the third time. Each time, I am reminded of the reviews at the time it first debuted by Beethoven. Some contemporaries were so affected by the piece they thought it was almost dangerous and such music so moving that it should never be performed. Each time I hear it, I hear a different part and get lost. It truly is one of the things that I think everyone should experience once in their life, even if just the first movement.
After that, the night moved to a violin focus which is the “double bonus” since Andrea and I also like violins. The NAC’s artist-in-residence, James Ehnes, was performing and started with the second piece of the night, Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Introduction and Rondo capriccioso in A Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 28”. There was an interview with Ehnes beforehand, and he kept referring to the “virtuosity” of the piece. While normally I would think of that as “great skill”, he was referring more to the range of the piece. If there is a note on the violin, the piece required it. It was astounding. I don’t think I’ve heard such range ever before.
After that, James moved on to Lili Boulanger’s “Nocturne for Violin and Orchestra, arranged by Sarah Slean”. An interview beforehand also described how it was a challenge to arrange since the original was meant for violin and piano, not the instruments of an orchestra. It was interesting to hear her approach to arrangement, but while the piece was interesting and technically impressive, I didn’t feel as much for that one. At one point, it DID feel like I was strolling along an Italian river listening to someone play.
The fourth piece of the night was Jessie Montgomery’s “Strum”, which combines a range of elements of the violin and strings, with some parts of the orchestra strumming while others are using their bow, for an interesting sound. But I expected a bit more from it. Good, certainly, but it didn’t blow me away.
Finally, they ended with Pablo de Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) for Violin and Orchestra, Op 20”. While it didn’t have the “virtuosity” of the first piece, it definitely brought the air of the nomadic life of the Roma, or at least as the music is often portrayed in movies or TV.
Like I said, “More joy”. It was highly enjoyable, and as Andrea said, we didn’t even have to worry about parking. And you know what? It was only $15 too. Normally our tickets and parking set me back close to $150-$200 for a night.
If I can spend $15 for that much joy, sign me up anytime.
(While not the NAC show, I’m including some links below if you want to hear/see versions of the above.)
Note this is definitely not the version we saw, as this is for piano, and we saw a new arrangement for full orchestra.