It was absolutely captivating. While there are no costumes or props, the simplicity of the setup allows you to focus on the music. Even at this recital, the soloists didn’t hold back, launching full throttle into the performance, pouring the emotion of each song out through their posture, expressions, and voices.
Things to know about Arizona Opera’s Brown Bag Recitals:
The soloists are extremely talented.
The place was packed and parking was gone. Cars were even parked along curbs, and we double-parked next to one of them. You may be able to sneak a spot at the Phoenix Art Museum. (No guarantees on availability or legality, though.)
There’s a light rail stop nearby at McDowell.
Being late is awkward. If people are rushing over during their lunch hour, there are bound to be late arrivals, and the parking lot entrance opens right in the front of the room. (Hi, everyone.) I believe there is another entrance on the street side of the building.
You’re encouraged to bring your lunch, but no one was eating.
Definitely worth going, if you have a flexible enough schedule to get there early or work in the Arts District/Downtown. (Phillip works in east Phoenix, and even that was cutting it too close.)
Phillip and I tested out the being late theory for you. (Yes, it is awkward.) (You’re welcome.) We crept to the back, scanning the room in vain for open seats. We were standing there listening to a song introduction, when a man appeared from a back room to offer to get us chairs, reemerged to set two up, then silently disappeared again, as if riding off into the sunset.
After a duet from Hansel and Gretel, the recital ended with “I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady. There was enthusiastic applause, and then the pianist and soloists remained in the atrium, as the audience spilled out into the parking lot.
The next Arizona Opera performance will be a world premiere adaptation of a Zane Grey novel! (A couple photos from the program are above.)
A $10 advance ticket got you in the gate, and then you could wander around sampling pizza for $2-4 a slice, listening to bands, and/or playing a few rounds of cornhole. There were at least a dozen pizza makers, plus beer, wine, lemonade, and gelato.
The pizza ranged from high quality, foodie-grade slices to what a friend of ours would affectionately call “emergency pizza.”
In the spirit of the event, some people even dressed up. We chatted with DJ and (self-proclaimed) Pizza Expert Mastamonk, who was wearing a pepperoni-patterned pajama onesie, pizza socks, and a cap that said “send pizza.”
Later in the afternoon, toppings started to run out and certain items were off the menu – so plan on arriving on the early side for a better selection. On the other hand, vendors got increasingly generous about offering discounted pies or sneaking you extra slices just before they had to pack it up for the day.
It was a fun way to discover new Phoenix-area pizzas. So mark your calendar for the 2017 Pizza Festival, tentatively scheduled to be held in the same location (Hance Park) on November 21st.
And, if you happen to have a pizza onesie laying around the house, this would be the place to wear it.
The Pasadena Farmers’ Market lists lemons, navel oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and tangelos as being in season right now. (When I was there this summer, it was piles of peaches and pecks of peppers.)
The opening of the Kehinde Wiley exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum happened during First Friday October, and I don’t think I’d ever seen the museum so packed. There was a long line to purchase tickets to the opening, which included poetry readings, performance art, a living wall floral installation, live portraiture in the galleries, and music by Djentrification, Arizona Opera, and Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. It all was designed to complement Wiley’s vibrant portraiture.
The artist paints and sculpts people of color in poses inspired by traditional portraits of European aristocracy. He often chooses strangers on the street as potential subjects.
I was excited to learn his A New Republic exhibition was coming to Phoenix and made plans to go with Phillip and our friend Anne.
The opening had a festive atmosphere. At one point, I was making my way through a gallery, and I heard jazz coming from another room. I was struck by the beauty of the moment – the moving artwork, the enthusiastic crowd filling the space, the saxophone music floating over it all.
I wanted to capture a bit of the scene and tried to take a video, panning around in a circle. I got it the other side and…did it take? As I fiddled with my phone, there was a subtle shift in the energy of the room, a bit of a murmur, some movement around me. Photography was allowed, so I wasn’t sure what the problem was.
I finally turned around to realize a procession was steps away from overtaking me. Three women with hair braided together in the style of the sculpture Bound were walking ahead slowly without wavering. What would they have done if I hadn’t stumbled out of their path at the last second?
I don’t know. I backed up to where the rest of the crowd stood, feeling awkward and penitent, like I had gotten caught talking in church. The procession passed, with the saxophonist bringing up the rear.
Anne and Phillip had gone separate ways, and, after that, I tracked them down, so they could help make sure I didn’t have any more run-ins with performance art.
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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