a peek inside the fishbowl

10 Jun, 2011

A wee ode to an international capital

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Fishbowl patrons|Ottawa

Transparency alert: the National Arts Centre (NAC) is a blog patron and paid my ticket for the event I’m writing about today. SavvyCompany, which is also mentioned in this post, invited me to attend their event as a guest as well. As always, opinions remain my own!

I’ve been at the NAC twice in as many weeks for a couple of different events. I’m not complaining. Going to the NAC means I’m steps away from this:

Chateau Laurier

… and this:

Congress Centre

… and then you wander a little farther and …

Steps away from cool stuff

Stairs are pretty

Chateau Laurier

Lock view

Side view of the Chateau Laurier

The Lock, and the Ottawa River

View of the lock and Chateau Laurier

… and reminds me again and again, what a great city we live in.

Sorry, that was a lot of photos, wasn’t it? :)

The first event I attended the other day was hosted by SavvyCompany. It was a Taste & Buy event which was populated entirely by wineries from Niagara on the Lake. It was an opportunity to taste wines (some of which aren’t even available at the LCBO) and buy them right from the source. There was also cheese. It was very fun. I don’t know if there are other similar events planned for the future, but if you like these kinds of things you may want to see what else they have going on in the coming weeks.

The second event I attended (along with a great bunch of other bloggers) was at the NAC last night; a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth conducted by Pinchas Zuckerman. Interestingly, the evening also included his daughter, soprano Ariana Zuckerman whom we got to meet afterwards. Note to self: she is exactly the kind of person I’d want to go out for a drink with, AND she even has her own app! :)

The highlight of this symphony for me was the final movement, a work that has transcended time and remains with us today.

Ode to Joy” …. is an ode written in 1785 by the German poet, playwright and historian Friedrich Schiller, celebrating the brotherhood and unity of all mankind. It is best known for its musical setting by Ludwig van Beethoven in the final movement of his Ninth Symphony (completed in 1824), a choral symphony for orchestra, four solo voices and choir.” (from Wikipedia)

Not sure which tune I’m talking about? It’s this one, which, for many, is the first they learn on a piano. :)

It was a thrill to experience it in person. It’s a long piece, 71-minutes, so I had a lot of time to reflect upon what I was hearing.

Even if you’re not a classical music buff, Symphony No. 9 is a biggie in terms of the history of our collective arts and culture. It was Beethoven’s last, the one he wrote when he was totally deaf. There’s an interesting story about its premiere on Wikipedia. Since Beethoven couldn’t hear the orchestra he wasn’t able to conduct properly.

“When the audience applauded …. Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience’s cheers and applause. According to one witness, “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them.” The whole audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovation gestures.

At that time, it was customary that the Imperial couple be greeted with three ovations when they entered the hall. The fact that five ovations were received by a private person who was not even employed by the state, and moreover, was a musician (a class of people who had been perceived as lackeys at court), was in itself considered almost indecent. Police agents present at the concert had to break off this spontaneous explosion of ovations. Beethoven left the concert deeply moved.”

The final movement of Beethoven’s ninth is an immensely powerful piece, especially with the choir and the soloists behind it. Also: I love seeing the musicians at work. Watching concertmaster Yosuke Kawasaki on the violin was a particular treat.

Anyway, I got ahead of myself there. The first part of the evening was the performance of The Ballad of Canada, a commissioned work by composer Malcolm Forsyth (the father of principal cellist Amanda Forsyth, who was also performing that night). It was a very rich piece, but I have to be honest, I was not the right audience for it. This 23-minute piece for chorus and orchestra was built upon verses by four Canadian poets. I really liked all the components of The Ballad, but somehow they didn’t come together in a way that I had expected. But I can only blame myself for that because I’m a bit of a noob when it comes to this kind of thing. This kind of music is very much like a painting, either you get it and love it, or you don’t. I admired the orchestra, the chorus, and the poems; but for me they were pieces that did not fit together.

The choice of poems was moving. I read along as I listened to the music. (I would post my favourite lines here but I don’t want to infringe upon anyone’s copyright by republishing without permission, but you can find them in the program notes for the performance.) I especially like On the Waverly Road Bridge by Carl Hare, which was written just for this piece. It’s very touching.

As I mentioned, afterwards we got to chat with Ariana Zuckerman and then got a tour of backstage and the stage itself. The view from here was awesome. We all got a little quiet while we stood there, taking it all in:

Stage view at the NAC

That’s one to strike off the Ottawa Bucket List for sure. :)

Thank you NAC, for making my world a little bigger today! Tonight is the last performance of this particular show and there are only a few tickets left. You can read more about it and/or buy your tickets here.

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1 Response to "A wee ode to an international capital"

1 | Ottawa giveaway alert: two tix to the NAC >> a peek inside the fishbowl

June 10th, 2011 at 10:54 am


[…] Speaking of the NAC,  have you heard about the Cirque de la Symphonie ? […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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