Thursday, July 05, 2007

wrapping up a trip home

I did take a walk on Monday afternoon. I walked over to my old middle school, then to Johnstown's world-famous Inclined Plane. Along the way, I took photos of some of my old hangouts and got some good shots of the downtown area.

Monday night's orchestra rehearsal was my first time playing with the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra in about 15 years. As a ringer, I would have been happy to sit anywhere they wanted to put me, and they put me on the 3rd stand on the outside. I've never sat that close to the conductor before (at least in that orchestra), and for the first 20 minutes I fully expected someone to come up, tap me on the shoulder, and tell me my services were not needed. But that didn't happen, and I survived what amounted to a 2 1/2 hour exercise in sight-reading. I think I'd seen two or three out of the 15 or so pieces in the folder before. One of the pieces was a medley of Irving Berlin songs featuring an a capella group with my former middle school music teacher singing soprano. I hadn't seen her in ages either. In fact, there were many people in the orchestra I hadn't seen for years, so it was a bit of a reunion for me.

On Tuesday we ran some errands and that evening, my mother, brother, and I tag-teamed to make dinner: poached flounder, peas, and corn on the cob. OK, my brother did most of the work. I think my contribution amounted to chopping parsley and setting the table. But it was delicious.

Wednesday saw us working on home improvement. Over the past few years my mother has been ripping out the ancient wall-to-wall carpeting in the house and exposing the hardwood floors. Before we arrived she had started pulling up the carpet in her bedroom. The three of us spent about two hours moving furniture, ripping up and cutting carpet, pulling out tacks and nails, and cleaning up the disintegrated fabric underneath. I'm not a big fan of home repair like that, but there was something satisfying in tearing up the carpet and seeing what was beneath it.

That night, the concert went better than I'd thought. We'd gotten a call in the afternoon that the concert had been moved from the outdoor location in the downtown baseball stadium to the indoor site, the War Memorial arena a few blocks away. The local National Guard unit had gone to the trouble of moving the cannons, so we had actual howitzers for Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. And from my seat, I had a clear view of the cannons when they fired during the climax of the piece. I didn't drop my viola (the conductor had warned us about that) but the yellow flash and the sound of the blast did make me jump a little. The smoke drifting back into the arena had an adverse effect on the breathing for the wind and brass players, and made my eyes water. Things like that don't get taken into account when planning concerts. We got our stuff packed up and made it outside in time to see most of the local fireworks display.

So it was a fun trip home. Next year, though, I think I'll stay in New York and invite my family to come here. Nothing beats the fireworks in New York.

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