riffing on the past

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riffing on the past

On September 8th, Sam and I walked to the Hollywood Bowl to see the Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks. This traditional concert there has been going on for years, but neither of us had ever seen it.  Since we live up the street now, Sam decided she wanted to see what all the fuss was about and bought tickets through goldstar a few weeks earlier.

I didn’t know much about it, I just knew there was classical music and fireworks.  As it turns out, the show is a two part experience; the latter is Tchaikovsky’s famous 1812 Overture complete with the USC “marching band.” This event took place on the same day that USC was playing Syracuse in New York – so I’m not sure how they were in two places at once.  The former part of the show changes from year to year and perhaps depending on the conductor.  On this night, they were playing one of Sam’s favorites – The Nutcracker, complete with a local children’s choir and two professional ballet dancers.  The conductor peppered the spaces in between music with plenty of topical and well rehearsed jokes.  After the nutcracker a few selections from Swan Lake were performed, with the ballet dancers coming right back to do their thing.   Sam admitted that on seeing a previous performance of this ballet that her “heart almost stopped.”  I cannot say I enjoy (or understand) ballet in the same manner.  There are some classical compositions that move me (Pachelbel’s Canon in D, for one), but these two with such more delicate feminine themes aren’t included.

The fireworks themselves were an assemblage of a regular sort.  It wasn’t the content that was impressive, but rather the placement.  Instead of going off far above your head after being shot up from a boat out on the water, these bombs were blasting in mid-air below the canopy of the surrounding hills (the only reason why the fireworks aren’t actually visible from the upper levels of our condominium complex).  The show also included pyrotechnics built into scaffolding shaped like the Russian buildings and army commanders that inspired the famous Overture.  With so many recent stage disasters it was a sight to behold and remember that this show has gone on three times a week for months and then repeated again year after year, with no major catastrophes.

The USC marching band was present, but for what, I’m not sure.  From where we were sitting the amplified classical musicians were no less potent in the air than the clanging of the USC cymbalists.   The cavalcade of soft good natured booing when USC was mentioned earlier only went on to reinforce my seldom repeated (in mixed company) assumption that intellectuals commonly favor UCLA when rooting for a local university.

Afterwards, while the rest of the throngs of 18,000 concertgoers waited in long queues of automobiles to slip out into the street in single file, we simply turned north for a fifteen minute walk and were at our front door before our peers had even seen their first street light.

I’d called the Bowl beforehand and was told I could not bring my camera.  Obviously upon arrival we spotted several concertgoers with DSLR cameras and even some tri-pods.   If you want to see some snippets from the show, see a video here taken by someone else at a previous performance.

If you like fireworks, ballet or Tchaikovsky in separate, I recommend seeing them combined at the bowl.

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