Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 Report Card

One more summer concert finished and in the books! The theme was "Harlem Renaissance", and featured the music of Duke Ellington, J.P. Johnson and George Gershwin. Also thrown in was some Fats Waller and others. Primarily a jazz concert for orchestra!

Which, if anyone knows anything about jazz and string players, is like mixing oil and water. It ain't gonna work well. Though I do have to admit...they did a fairly respectable job. It's not their fault. They're trained to be classical musicians, whereas jazz musicians spend years developing a "feel" for jazz. It's not something that can be notated and performed. It just "happens". I expressed my concern early on about whether or not we could pull it off. As it ended up, it worked out pretty well!

In addition to the orchestra, we had a vocal soloist perform with a jazz quartet of musicians in the orchestra. To some degree, they stole the show. The vocalist was not great (see below), but the quartet was fantastic!

In some prior years, I rated the concert on a scale from 1-10 (ten being the best), so I figured I should do it again. There's some pics at the bottom too, if you're interested!
  • WEATHER - 9 - I should give it a 10, as the temps got no higher than the mid-80s, there was relatively little wind, and no rain. But there were clouds and rain during the week, and there was an ongoing threat of thunderstorms Friday and Saturday. As it turned out, there was no rain, and all storm clouds seemed to split and miss us to either side. It caused a bit of nervousness not knowing what was/wasn't going to happen...
  • STAGE CREW- 10 - Once again, a solid 10 this year. Many of the crew (mostly older HS or college students) have worked this setup in prior years, so they've got a good sense of what needs to be done. And they work their tails off!
  • PERFORMANCE - 9.5 - I don't believe there's such a thing as a "perfect" performance, therefore, no such thing as a perfect 10. But we came close! Even taking the jazz aspect into consideration, this was a pretty good performance. And much of the music was quite difficult!
  • FIREWORKS - 10 - We used a different fireworks company than in the past, so there was a little question as to whether or not they'd meet the standard that had been set in the past. They came through with flying colors (so to speak)! It's a new local company, and I think they realized this would be a huge test/opportunity for them, and they didn't disappoint. And the timing with the music was perfect--something that's not always been the case.
  • CROWD - 8 - For the first time in thirteen years of doing this concert, I could tell that the crowd was smaller than in years past. Some people attributed it to the questions about rainy weather. Others thought it was as big, but spread out to the sides more. I think it's because of late advertising. On the other hand, the word on the street is that they liked the program, so that's a good thing!
  • SOUND - 9 - This was a tough concert to mike, as the jazz quartet needed their own setup, and then the rest of the orchestra. Our sound guy is pretty good though, and quite experienced with our needs. One point off though, for the feedback on an announcer's mic early in the concert, catching him off-guard and leaving us with 30 seconds of that embarrassing "now what?" moment...
  • SOLOIST - 5 - I hate to give her that score, but I have to. Unfortunately, it's not entirely her fault. The problem with her is that she's classically trained. And one shouldn't look for a classically trained vocalist to sing jazz. She seemed uncomfortable (I'm sure she was), and I'm not entirely sure she knew the songs she was singing. She even had the lyrics on a music stand in extra-large font. Jazz singers know their lyrics--they don't need help. She's done "Messiah" with us a soloist. She was wonderful. Not here though. I would put most of the blame on the music director, but she's the one who agreed to do it, insinuating that she thought she could. What's truly sad is that I can think of 2 or 3 women in Helena that would have been spectacular in this position.
  • ADMINISTRATION - 5 - This number could go higher or lower, depending on the time of the weekend I was asked. The woman in charge as the project manager really dropped the ball on a number of things. The biggest problem was a complete lack of communication. Or maybe it was a lack of understanding the timelines needed to put it all together. Sponsor money was lost (as in, not received) because of a lack of communication. Volunteers were found at the last minute. Many things were not taken care of because she didn't know about them (a production meeting or two would have solved that). While there's many facets of this production that sort of run on automatic, many of them have to be told that we needed them this year. And that word came really late in some cases. The woman will not be doing it next year (it won't be offered, and she wouldn't accept it anyway). I have a sneaky suspicion that I'll be that person for next year's concert...
  • PERSONAL INJURY - 9.5 - Anyone who's followed this concert over the years knows that I generally have something happen. Sometimes it's severe (nearly snapping my leg in half in 2007); sometimes it's just simple gashes in the arm or leg. This year I'm happy to report that I scraped my thumb knuckle (right in the crease--gonna take forever to heal), and I got a good deal of sun. The burn is turning into a decent tan, however, so I can't complain!

  • OVERALL EXPERIENCE - 8 - The fine performances by the orchestra and the quartet notwithstanding, the stress of the balls that were dropped by the project manager and the soloist's performance knock the total score to an 8.
So there it is. I think Dad would have liked this concert. He always complained that he didn't know any of the music in prior years. This one he would have known most of the songs. And the weather would have been just right for his bones. Mom went with friends this year, and I know Dad was on her mind. It dawns on me now that their 55th anniversary is tomorrow (Tuesday). Hell. Now I'm depressed...

Here's a few pics I was able to take during the day and before the performance. Including Mom, and N2, S2 and S3.

Click 'em to big 'em!


Cheeky Minx said...

I can't help but wonder if your Dad was there with your Mum, smiling down, enjoying the jazz tunes.

I adore the pics (the Mom shot arrow had me giggling) - and your thumb doesn't look too bad at all.

It sounds like you had a great day (aside from the dodgy soloist). Congratulations on another musical triumph... x

Lee Ann said...

The pictures are fabulous. Looks like a great time!

Summer said...

Your dad was definitely there in spirit. It sounds like it turned out to be a really good show! :)