Monday, August 06, 2007

Symphony Splash 2007

40,000 spectators spill over the land fronting the parliament building in front of the inner harbour, into the water in canoes, dragonboats, and barges that now jostle for the best position from which to view the stage. Those who have water permits have been there all afternoon, as have the people who have staked claims on the best chair locations all afternoon.

Rich people in black suit coats and white gowns lounge on a rooftop patio on the Empress, which stands grandly facing the inner harbour across the road which is just starting to rumble with the drums of the Canadian Scottish First Regiment Piper Band as it starts to march towards the parliament building. A radio personality suggests that the patio people in black suit coats and white gowns rattle their jewelry so that the pipers may perhaps hear them, but they pay no mind.

The stage is a barge anchored in the inner harbour, and on it various bands and radio personalities have whiled away the afternoon in anticipation of the main attraction of the evening, which has finally (almost) arrived. The pipers pass along and are gone. Now the stage is dominated by the Symphony Orchestra.

Fast forward: the greater part of the two-hour concert is over, the sun has finally sunk out of sight and the water has stopped glaring at me, and then it begins. Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture starts with the old Czarist Russian National Anthem, "God Preserve Thy People." Then the French and Russian National Anthems are heard in conflict with each other. Suddenly, the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets set off their cannons, and five shots ring out, smoke rising over the water to the left of the stage barge. All eyes are on the spot where the smoke is now disappearing, when suddenly bells begin pealing out along with the symphony from behind the audience where the carillon tower stands near the parliament building, which is now aglow in its nightly lighting. All heads turn, and murmers of "the carillon" run through the crowd. The music builds, builds, then explodes in a shower of fireworks at the climax. It is exactly V for Vendetta, without the destruction of the parliament building.

It isn't quite over; the Canadian Scottish First Regiment Piper Band has stealthily been boarding the barge for some time, and now they take the stage and play two encores along with the orchestra.

It is the most spectacular symphonic event I have ever witnessed. And they do this every single year, they have done this for 18 years without fail. It is certainly this city's greatest tradition.


Not much is new in my life since I last wrote anything of substance, but in many ways there is not much that is unchanged. It's another time of upheaval, and I don't quite know how to deal with it.

One thing that is most definitely different from my last post (actually, it changed the following day) is that I did receive my violin after all. As foreseen, I do indeed bring out the worst in it.

I spent a week back in Saskatchewan and had a great time at the traditional St. Swithin's Day Picnic (the first annual traditional St. Swithin's Day Picnic, I should say). Many a photo on Facebook. I got a new camera. I slacked off in music theory a lot and ended up frantically writing fugue expositions the day before my final lesson, then got there and he only had time to go through one of them but he said it was such a good effort that I'm to spend August reworking it into a full fugue. I return to Saskatchewan for my brother's wedding, at my favourite time of year. I hope my new camera can accurately capture my favourite colours of autumn: pea stubble, aspen groves. I suppose I missed that magical moment of a field of brown caraway swaths lying on the green stubble beneath.

And then it's back in time to move houses, then starting up classes, then arranging composition lessons, and possibly instrument lessons. Then saying goodbye, for now.

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