Sunday, February 19, 2012

El Sistema & Dudamania

Yesterday, my roommate and I celebrated our birthdays by going to the Cinemark movie theater at Settler's Ridge in Pennsylvania to see Gustavo Dudamel conduct Mahler: Symphony No. 8 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, eight vocalists, and a choir of more than 1100 voices live from Caracas, Venezuela.

Here's a shot of Maestro Dudamel conducting.
Prior to the performance, theater audiences were treated to behind-the-scenes footage from the LA Phil's Mahler Project, a partnership with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra to present all of Mahler's symphonies in three weeks, culminating in last night's historic concert in Caracas. Particularly featured were clips of students in Venezuela's music education program known as El Sistema. This program brings the joy of making music to children, regardless of socioeconomic situation, physical disabilities or other challenges. Maestro Dudamel himself is a student of El Sistema and has been instrumental in bringing the philosophy behind that program to Los Angeles.

It was a marvelous way to celebrate and an inspirational program all-around.

For more on the LA Phil's broadcast concerts, including the Gershwin concert with Herbie Hancock on March 18, visit

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Having a Ball!

The first Saturday in February, the Viennese Winter Ball Committee of the Wheeling Symphony Auxiliary hosts the Viennese Winter Ball at the beautiful Glessner Auditorium at Oglebay Resort & Conference Center. At the ball, ten young men and ten young women - the Winter Ball Cotillion - are presented and perform a lovely Viennese Waltz choreographed by Cheryl Pompeo. There is dinner and dancing and a dessert room.

This year, for the first time, I attended the ball. My cousin Melanie did my hair - teased it and sprayed it within an inch of its life. I added more hairspray after she left, too. (To her credit, my 'do lasted all night and looked fabulous, if I do say so myself. She's quite a talented gal.) Gram and Ava came over to see me in all my finery - a gown made to fit by the spectacularly talented Annie Shepard of Stages and inspired by this classic gown designed by Cecil Beaton and worn by Leslie Caron at the end of Gigi, one of my very favorite films.

My mother, disappointed that she would not be able to see me off (despite my protests that it wasn't prom), enlisted a friend of hers to text her a photo of my date (Justin) and me. So here we are, just arrived at the cocktail hour:

Justin had to play violin for the cocktail hour and parts of the ball so I mingled with the other attendees, many of whom I know from working in the symphony office. The gown was quite a hit. Peter J. told me I looked like something out of Hollywood. The aforementioned Cheryl forbid me to wear the gown again for five years because everyone will remember it. Christina T. wanted the birds.

Dinner was an adventure in things I'll probably never eat again (and didn't each much of that night). The mango-coconut sorbet was delicious.

Of course, my favorite part of the evening was the dancing. While we didn't dance every song, we did enjoy a fair few, and fellow swing dancer Hugo stole me away for a tune. During one number, as Justin and I were dancing, a lady leaned over from her escort's arm and asked if I had played "Drusilla." I laughed and said indeed I had. (She was my viciously flirtatious character in my most recent stage adventure.) She recognized me from both Towngate's and the Strand's productions of Cinderella - a lovely, diverting moment.

All in all, it was a lovely night, and I look forward to many future Viennese Winter Balls, though I don't know if I can outdo this gown . . .