Wednesday, July 7, 2010

AGO Convention, Day 4--Heat Exaustion

We just finished the penultimate day of the AGO Convention. The heat characterised this day more than anything. And there was a bit of bus!FAIL once again.

We began with breakfast, a jazz duo (Joe Utterback, piano; Irvin Peterson, saxophone), and the AGO Annual Meeting. It was an early morning, but a nice plated breakfast (two sausages, two strips of bacon, scrambled egg, hash-browned potatoes, orange juice, coffee/tea) awaited us.

I will admit--I didn't stay for the whole thing. They were running late, and I was keen to join the queue to catch the bus for the Wednesday morning prayer services. The ones I attended today: African-American worship at Shiloh Baptist Church and Roman Catholic Morning Prayer at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Admittedly, we were even wondering if we'd be able to get there. Traffic was blocked because of an oil spill. No, it was nothing like the infamous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the local news, around the 5.00 am hour, a truck was leaking used restaurant oil on the street, and cars and other vehicles were spreading this oil to side streets and alleys. Many roads were shut down to all vehicles (including bicycles) and pedestrians whilst street sweepers lay down their sand and swept the mess away. Apparently, the streets will still be treated with a water soluble degreaser, which should get rid of residual goo.

Anyway, we managed to make it on time to Shiloh. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I can see why this type of music has an appeal--it works in this context. The music was gospel in style, but done very, very well. The choir was consistently under the pitch, though, and the soloists had warbles, not vibratos. Besides that... the organists were brilliant, the musicians were brilliant, and it was a great experience.

Morning prayer was a treat. The church's acoustics are excellent and very much conducive to chant. It was a real treat to hear the voices lifted up in chanted prayer. The organist was improvising on each antiphon. For me, it was a very uplifting experience.

I ran into Joe Sco, and we sat together for Morning Prayer. After that, we had lunch in Chinatown. The restaurant offered a great deal on dumplings (10 for $5.95), but I went for the home made noodle seafood soup. It was a very filling meal. We both trudged through the triple-digit heat and onto the Metro and rode back to the hotel for the afternoon breakaway sessions.

In the afternoon, there were a series of concerts to choose from. I chose Carol Williams and jazz ensemble at the National City Christian Church. It was interesting... people criticised Williams' decidedly skimpy dress... but honestly, David Arcus has a point: it truly doesn't matter what the performer is wearing. It's the music that counts. And I totally agree with that. So what if you can see Williams' bare back? One could also criticise Faythe Freese's choice of dress. You could also see her bare back as she was playing.

Enough of that. Both of those ladies performed works that were commissioned for this AGO convention. Williams' program was definitely jazzy. She also performed some music on a Hammond that was there. I was lukewarm to that. I'm not really a fan of that sound. It all sounds the same after a while, IMHO. Her encore was interesting, but the purists were not keen on it. At first, I thought she was playing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in d minor (yes, the overplayed one) at breakneck speed, but as it turned out, it's a composition called "Swingin' Bach" arranged by Porter Heaps and Lloyd Norlin.

I was more keen on Faythe Freese's program. Naji Hakim's "To Call My True Love to My Dance" was a very charming piece and contains ten variations on a Danish song, 'Vil du danse med mig?'.... the commissioned piece, composed by Craig Phillips, was performed by a quartet (clarinet, oboe, French horn, bassoon) and organ. I'll have to admit--I thought the horn overpowered all, but despite that, it was a lovely piece.

Sigh. I almost wished I decided to see Isabelle Demers instead. I heard she played a most excellent program, comparable in skill and such to that of David Higgs, who played the night before. Oh well. I'm sure there will be a next time.

Here was bus!FAIL: despite the announcement that the organisers didn't want us walking out in the heat so they would provide buses to take us to our next destination, that didn't happen... there were buses to take people back to the hotel, but no buses to our next destination. A group of us decided to walk to the next church, but it was bit of a hike. By the time we got to the next church, I was drenched in sweat, hot, tired, and bothered. All the water in the world couldn't quench the thirst or chase away the heat exhaustion. But definitely, Freese's concert was worth trudging through the heat for. :)

Lastly: gala banquet with entertainment provided by the Capital Steps. I will admit, I haven't really been paying much attention to the news lately, so most of the jokes went over my head. They were political in nature. Admittedly, I was kind of relieved it was over.

Another friend had missed the gala altogether because he was heat-exhausted (as the rest of us were) so he slept. He noticed that most of the organists on his f-list were on Facebook during the performance, leading him to ask Joe Sco and me, "Was it really that boring?"

The Capital Steps did set the audience to laughter, so I guess is wasn't that bad. I guess I just didn't get the jokes...

Afterward, I went around to the exhibits. When I told the people manning the AGO headquarters booth I was an officer for my local chapter, they were very happy to talk to me. Apparently, there is some sort of a drive to increase membership as well as to try to attract lapsed members back to the Guild. I'm sure I'll learn more later... I also tried to look for items from a friend's wish list, but alas and alack, all the titles were gone. I did get a few things for myself: Michael Bedford's lovely Variations on Le P'ing and the Oxford Book of Flexible Carols.

People I saw: I finally met Ryan Lynch in person. We've been communicating with each other for years (and that's also how I knew Joe Sco and Nick Basehore), so finally, the four of us were in one room together. It was wonderful to see them all! I also got a chance to see Ben Hutchens and Jason Gottschalk, who just returned from a tour of the UK. I haven't seen them since they left Durham (they now live in the Metro DC area) so it was a treat to chat with them both. I was a blatant fangurl and got Michael Bedford to sign my copy of Variations on Le P'ing ("My autograph costs $10.00, but because it's you, Lyn, that will be $8.00," he said with a smile and a wink). I spent a bit of time with Mila Karamushka during the gala. At the exhibits, I ran into Laura Ellis, Janette Fishell, the Quinns and the Arcuses in passing. Of course, during breakfast and the gala dinner, I met other organists, including a group of four young men who play for various Roman Catholic churches up and down the East Coast. One of those young organists is also in seminary, studying to become a priest, so he was wearing his cassock. They knew Joe Sco, and interestingly enough, also know the Dean of the Central NC chapter, Tom Fielding. Small world, indeed.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, and it is another choc-a-bloc-filled day. I've been running a sleep deficit, so the sleep will be very welcomed tonight. More later...

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