Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Dash of Culture

After seemingly endless weeks of keeping their little charges’ noses to the grindstone, and busy pink hands clenched around those battle-worn yellow No.2s, the wise [or at least adventuresome] parent/teacher may find it helpful to change things up with a field trip…

Such was my strategy this past Friday when the Hollidayettes and I embarked on a journey to the center of Downtown Rockford. I must confess at the outset that I entered this episode no longer a ‘greenhorn.’ Nope, I’m a veteran field trip mom, and know all too well that Certain Resident 12-Year-Olds have absolutely no use for field trips of any kind unless weapons, warfare, and ordnance play the starring role. I will refrain from recounting just how I learned this…be glad.
However, this field trip definitely did not ‘pass muster’ [sorry for the pun…too little self control on my part] in this regard, so I Anticipated and Prepared.
Dinner Conversation the night before…

Mom: Oh, just as a reminder, John, Cecily and I are going to the Rockford Symphony tomorrow for the Youth Concert, and I KNOW—

John: *eyes already beginning to orbit*

Mom: --that this is not exactly EVERYone’s cup of tea…

Miss Cee: What KIND of tea?

Alina: Cecily: It’s just an expression…

Mom: HowEVER, *meaningful look shot to the Patriarch* it is important to be open to new experiences, especially one as special as this! Don’t you agree, John?

John: *suddenly losing altitude in his kitchen chair* Yeah, whatever…

Mom: NO, NOT ‘whatever’! This is taking time and money, and doesn’t happen that often…and we are Going and will have a respectful attitude. You don’t have to enJOY it…you DO have to behave!!!

Dad: Are we clear on this, John?

John: *unconvincing shoulder shrug* Why is everyone looking at me?!?!

Ben: Gee, I can’t imagine….

Mom: Because you have been known to morph into a bona fide EEYORE on field trips that don’t have to do with shooting people, and that will NOT be acceptable. Do you read me? Ben, you making silly faces at your brother is not helping matters…

Miss Cee: BEN-NEEE!

Finally satisfied that the message had been relayed and receive [not to say, “accepted”], we eventually tucked in for the night and woke to the new day…

After making it downtown with no wrong turns (!!!), and actually finding a slot in the parking deck, we trotted out into the damp and chilly breeze to wend our way up four blocks to the illustrious Coronado Theatre.

Miss Cee: Wow! This is just like New York!!!

John: YOU’VE never been to New York, Cecily, so don’t talk so big!

Miss Cee: Well, but I know what it’s like!

Mom: Well, I’ve been in downtown Manhattan, and actually, this is pretty small potatoes in comparison. You can’t even see the top of the skyscrapers there…and it is much busier and noisier

Miss Cee: Um, I think THIS is pretty noisy…

And sure enough, as if on cue, we heard a retching sound and cast our innocent eyes across the street in time to see a homeless person throwing up into the municipal trash can. Nice.

Seriously, the Coronado Theatre is quite a place. Not for no reason is it now on the List of Historic Landmarks. It is an old downtown theatre that has been restored to its former vintage glory and more…and very much worth a look-see.

Upon reaching our destination, it seemed apparent that every school child in the Midwest had also decided to come to the Coronado for the Youth Concert. There were swarms and swarms of stir-crazy kids and beleaguered looking adults wearing lanyards and ID badges. This was the first show letting out…we were there for the second of the two performances. It reminded me of the old circus act where an impossible number of clowns keep pouring forth out of a miniature car.

Once inside, we mounted the ornate staircases to the dizzying heights of the lower balcony and settled in. Or at least as settled as hundreds of grade schoolers ever get. “After what seemed like an eternity,” to use the clichĂ©, the house lights went down, the concertmistress came out, and it occurred to everyone to applaud. It started feeling like a Real Concert was imminent!

And, indeed, it was. In short order, Stephen Larsen, the RSO conductor, stepped out and addressed the noisy throngs. What we were about to hear was the famed series of Mussorgsky movements, “Pictures at an Exhibition.” After explaining the occasion and inspiration leading to this composition, Maestro Larsen explained that the vast slide show projected behind the orchestra was comprised of photos and chromatic visual studies taken by professional photographers in and around Rockford to illustrate or in some way correlate with the various musical passages we heard.

With that, he thanked us all for coming and wished us a Good Morning of musical enjoyment, to which many hundreds of little voices called back, “Good MOOOOOOORRRRRning!!!”

Except for my seat mate; without batting an eye, Miss Cee lifted her self-assured little chin and [of COURSE I’m not making this up!] called out, “GOOD MOOOORRRRNING, DUDE!!!”

Clearly there is a bit of work left to do in the music appreciation conduct part of her education. Who dropped the ball on this one???

The concert and slide show were extremely well turns, thought-provoking, whimsical, ponderous…an especially memorable segment was a speeded up series of tiny children, dressed as chicks in eggshells who seemed to scurry back and forth across the screen as woodwinds mimicked chirping sounds.

There was one brief moment of alarm when M. Larsen explained that an upcoming musical passage had been inspired by a Russian fable about a ‘baba’ [evidently Polish for ‘old lady’]or witch who ate children! Two round, blue, and significantly alarmed eyes turned on me: “Are they REALLY going to show a witch eating children?!?!”

Well, no, but it might not be a bad thing if the fear of it silenced a few of the noisier attendees behind us…just sayin.’ [Note to self: always remember that no matter how many times the audience is coaxed or warned, there will ALWAYS be at least one inane mother who will insist on bringing her colicky baby to the performance…and said child will miraculously synchronize the volume of his shrieks with the output of the timpani…it’s a law of physics.]

But, in general, all went well, and it was a very worthwhile excursion. And of course, our school created its own special memory there when one of the first grade boys “accidentally” found his chewing gum plummeting down from the balcony to bless an unsuspecting concertgoer below.

We can only hope that the guilty are kept anonymous so that we may, someday, return.

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