Tuesday, May 17, 2022

casual outings

Both these were whims that I wasn't sure would be worth the trouble of going to them, but they both turned out to be enjoyable and worth that effort.

1. Coastside Community Orchestra. I'd known there was a volunteer orchestra out on the (relatively) isolated coast side of San Mateo County, but I'd never found a concert listing until they advertised in the New Millennium program book last week. So I decided to try it out, maybe consider reviewing it at some future time.
Concertmaster (Elizabeth Ingber) soloed in Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4. A little short of professional level in intonation and dexterity but otherwise extremely impressive. Back in the first violin seat, she tried gallantly to lead her section in Schubert's Symphony No. 5, but the rest of this group is in the lower tier of ability of volunteer orchestras that do real concerts. Conductor Robert Smith is a little old man with a very odd beat: wobbles like mad during fast movements, but it's not an ailment because he doesn't do it in slow movements.
Somewhat better playing (no squawks) from a wind ensemble in the Petite Suite Gauloise by Theodore Gouvy, a 19C French composer unfamiliar to me. Players included my old friend James L. on clarinet (temporary, to fill a vacancy, he said). Good ensemble work from both composer and performers, lively writing resembling Gounod's wind symphony (which they played last time, they told me) with odd long pauses in the first movement, which other conductor Sara Lomax told me she milked for effect.

2. Silicon Valley Shakespeare. Began its season with a free Midsummer Night's Dream in the beer garden patio of the market on San Pedro in downtown San Jose. None of the bugs of their usual venue up in a mountain park. Exceedingly informal. Players in street clothes; Peter Quince, dressed as a college cheerleader, carried but didn't much use an acoustic loudhailer. Other than that: three folding chairs, a robe and donkey-ear knit cap for Bottom after his transformation, and the flower with the magic potion completed the list of costumes and props. No memorization; everyone carried scripts and sometimes alluded to this. ("Turn page!") Audience was encouraged to shout along and chug beer every time a character said the word "O" which they do a lot. The one dog in the audience participated in this enthusiastically.
Despite all this, and the terrible acoustics in a noisy environment which meant that half the dialogue was hard to make out, it was a good performance, lively and involving and quick (90 minutes, no intermission, moderate cuts). Lovers were not sappy, mechanicals not knockabout, fairies not imperious.

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