I changed my Twitter cover image to this when the yellow brittlebush flowers I had previously chosen seemed too sunny. It looked wild and windswept, and it somehow fit my mood better.
Another day, I didn’t start out thinking about the tree. I was thinking about how I tend to feel my life needs to conform to a certain pattern, like I’m not valid if I’m not checking off a set of boxes, when – in reality – we are all writing our own stories as we go.
Life is not lined up and orderly. It is organic, unpredictable, wild.
The thoughts found their way into a short poem, and one of the images in my mind as I wrote it was that tree in Nevada.
The U.S. National Christmas Tree in Washington D.C. isn’t seasonal. The decorations are. But the tree itself is a living thing, planted in the President’s Park, permanent enough to be a dot on National Mall maps.
It’s located in the middle of the Ellipse (a big lawn south of the White House), surrounded by the “Pathway of Peace.” During the holiday season, it’s lit up like….well, you know…with model trains and miniature buildings at its base and 57 smaller trees decorated for each U.S. state and territory (plus the District of Columbia) with handmade ornaments from schoolchildren and artists.
– Visiting The National Christmas Tree –
The National Christmas Tree lights are on nightly from approximately 4:30-10pm during the month of December.
The Pathway of Peace is open 10am-10pm.
30-minute music and dance performances take place on a nearby stage for 2 weeks in December.
Transit: The closest stops are the same ones you’d use for the White House – either Federal Triangle (blue, orange, and silver lines) or Metro Center (red, blue, orange, and silver lines).
Parking: There’s a parking garage at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Rates vary but plan for about $10/hour weekdays, $15 for weekday evenings or all day on weekends and holidays. Access via 13½ Street (off Pennsylvania Avenue) or 14th Street. Open to the public but visitors and vehicles are screened upon entry.
Instead of mixing yourself a cocktail, you make your own artwork. The block semi-circle in the lobby of the Barrick Musuem is stocked with supplies and a prompt inspired by a current exhibit.
In conjunction with a powerful series of photos now on display – Edward Burtynsky: Oil – the ArtBar invited visitors to “reflect on process and change.”
There were charcoals, pastels, pencils, crayons, and cardstock in a neutral palette of tans and grays, black and white. I decided to take a few minutes to put pastels against a page and see what would come out. So I pulled up a stool, contemplated change and erosion, and made mountains.
Marjorie Barrick Museum at University of Nevada, Las Vegas is free (optional $5 donation), and the ArtBar is in the lobby and open to anyone. There is metered parking in the lot just outside the museum.
Anyone can like Star Wars, especially in this particular moment in pop culture.
But being a Star Trek fan? Thatʼs different. Thatʼs real science fiction. Thatʼs dangerous. Itʼs more likely to get you beat up on the playground.
I can’t remember NOT being a Star Wars fan. Star Trek films started to appeal to me later, in high school. Now I like both Star Wars and Star Trek; this includes the music.
So when the opportunity came up to hear the Phoenix Symphony play music from two of my favorite franchises during Phoenix Comicon (PHXCC) earlier this year, you’d better believe I jumped at the chance! They billed the event as “Star Wars vs. Star Trek,” to play up the (supposed) rivalry between the two camps.
However, I had made my way there from work and a rushed dinner, so I didn’t benefit from the close proximity – arriving grumpy and frazzled. Fortunately, my grumpy mood began to dissolve as I spoke to a couple of people and found that there were others around me that had a love for both franchises. I was among friends!
15 minutes before the concert started, the concert hall was already mostly full and abuzz with excitement. You could tell by the t-shirts that Star Wars fans were there in force. I also saw quiet a few Starfleet uniforms in various shades of pastels and primary colors.
As much as I love the Wars, that night I wanted to side with the Trek underdog. Also, having heard the music of Star Wars many, many, many times before, I was looking forward even more to hearing Trek music. I had never heard any of it in a live symphonic concert.
Before the music started, the emcee announced that members of the audience could vote for their favorite franchise between the two, which would determine the evening’s encore number. I felt like I couldnʼt lose either way!
On to the music!
Did you know that composer James Horner, who wrote the music for Titanic, Braveheart, and Avatar, also wrote the film score for two Star Trek movies (ST II: The Wrath of Khan, and ST III: The Search for Spock)?!
The evening’s selections included the stirring “Epilogue/End Title” from The Wrath of Khan. According to Phoenix Symphony conductor Tito Muñoz, it was Hornerʼs score for this 1982 film that brought him to the wider attention of Hollywood.
I was kind of bummed to see only about a third of the program devoted to Trek, and I would’ve liked to hear more music from the original movies – for example, “Iliaʼs Theme” by Jerry Goldsmith or Cliff Eidelmanʼs exhilarating music to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Music from the more recent movies, including the score by Michael Giacchino for 2009ʼs Star Trek, seemed weaker than earlier Star Trek pieces. It didnʼt have the thematic drive and majesty that Horner or Goldsmithʼs scores had or the funky ’60s originality of Alexander Courageʼs theme to the original series.
For me, the real Trek showstopper of the night was the Star Trek Medley, which included themes from the various eras of the franchise. I loved the Original Series theme, replete with the original jazzy/worldbeat percussion arrangement. The medley also included the main theme to the Star Trek Voyager TV show. I had forgotten how majestic this theme was, and it was enough to make me want to go out and buy that music.
I was excited by most of the selections for Wars. Of course, there were the concert mainstays such as the “Main Title” and the “Imperial March.” Even people who have never seen Star Wars have heard these themes.
What got me really excited was seeing “Princess Leiaʼs Theme” and some pieces from the newest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, on the program, including “Reyʼs Theme,” “The March of the Resistance,” and – my personal favorite from the new movie – “Jedi Steps.”
I already own “Princess Leiaʼs Theme,” and Iʼve heard it a million times. However, seeing it played live was transcendent. The music itself is gorgeous. Of all the pieces that night, it was probably the most fun to see, because of the various solos. Although the French horn played in a rhythm that either betrayed that he wasnʼt familiar with the original or was trying too hard at his own artistic interpretation, the other soloists – on flute, oboe, and violin – were able to shine. Between these solo performances, the full orchestra waxes and wanes dramatically before ending softly. The violinist finished with a note that soared as high as the summer temperatures outside but with the quiet confidence of the eponymous princess of the song. It was amazing and perfect. By the time the song ended, the otherwise rowdy audience was so captivated you could hear a pin drop. This is the power of live music; to have seventy-some highly trained musicians bend their collective skills toward a unified effort is the pinnacle of ephemeral and transcendent craft. What a phenomenal way to connect the Phoenix Symphony to a wider public!
Are you wondering who won at the end of the night? You could probably have guessed: Tito Muñoz took the stage for the final encore carrying a red lightsaber. The Wars had won, and he conducted a triumphant encore performance of the “Imperial March” – using the lightsaber in place of his conducting baton! The Force may have been with Star Wars that evening but may the music of both live long and prosper.
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