Friday, May 29, 2009

What makes a perfect day at Spoleto

Thursday morning get up and drive to Charleston with plenty of time.
Listen to one of the best chamber music concerts I've ever heard, starting with a delightful piece by Giovannie Bottesini for double bass, violin and piano. Tony Manzo almost climbed up and down the bass in finding all the crazy notes the composer had written. His eyebrows moved almost as much as his arms.
Then the D Major Flute Quartet by Mozart which is hard to fault when played by people like this.
The real monument: Ravel's String Quartet, the only one he wrote, played by the St. Lawrence String Quartet. I just about cried it was so good. (Also happy birthday to St. Lawrence - it just turned 20.)
I actually got to sit down and have lunch, a very good one at Slightly North of Broad, sitting as I usually do, at the chef's table in back.
Hit a couple of galleries and talked to Stacy at Carolina Galleries. She never knew my work for The State, but really likes this site. I feel very lucky.
Full of energy for some reason, but drive over the big bridge to check into my cheap hotel. Short nap.
Back over bridge for 5 p.m. concert by shamisen player Yumiko Tanaka. The shamisen is a three stringed banjo-like instrument developed around 1600 in Japan. Tanaka, with a very funky bubble hairdo, a drip painted shirt, and poofy skirt over pants, proceeded to abuse the ancient instrument. Banged on it a bit, stuck strings under the strings and so on. Then she played a tradtiional work called "Hidaka River." Then on to more new work with "Snakes, Eggs" which required her to count aloud as well as play and it was hypnotizing. There was also a song about a monster who woke up with "5,000 little whales in his trousers" and a piece which included dialogue between Hamlet and Ophelia.
A Spoleto miracle: a second sit-down meal in one day. And not alone. I ran into Spoleto PR head Paul Edwards and Gibbes Museum PR head Marla Loftus - and they let me eat with them!
Found a phone booth and changed into a new suit.
Went to hear the festival orchestra play Gustav Mahler's "Das Lied Von Der Erde." Got a hug from Charles Wadsworth before it.
Terrific piece played (as are most big works the orchestra takes on) with great feeling. Soloists Sasha Cooke and Russell Thomas just about perfect. Conductor Emmanuel Villaume is also great to watch, swooping and diving and crouching and bouncing.
Right from that to an outdoor concert by the Punch Brothers (led by Chris Thile who was with Nickel Creek for many years.) I came in right as the grop was starting a song during which Thile broke into a pure falsetto.
The high point though was the four movement "The Blind Leaving the Blind."
"It's 43 minutes long," Thile said, and after a pause added, "You think I'm kidding."
He also noted that he hoped the Mahler concert had ended. "I'd be too embarrassed to be playing this at the same time."
He may not be Mahler, but he has no reason to be embarassed. I went in knowing next to nothing about Thile, Nickle Creek or the Punch Brothers. I'm a converted.
Mixed berry sorbet. Bed.


  1. wow - ravel's string quartet.

  2. i like the way you wrote this...feels like i am taking a peek into one of your journals..bonnie


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