Thursdays Nights on the Edge: Classical Edge Finale

Earlier in the summer, I wrote about Thursday Nights on the Edge, an initiative of the Central McDougall and Queen Mary Park Revitalization Coordinator. In order to bring neighbours together, as well as to highlight the area, a different free activity was organized to take place every Thursday from mid-July to mid-August. These family-friendly events ranged from the geo-caching adventure that I attended, to historical tours, petting zoos and artistic explorations. Attendance varied (partially because all of the events were held rain or shine), but the organizers were anticipating their largest crowd ever for their finale on August 15, 2013.

I convinced my sisters to check out the event after having dinner at the nearby 124 Street Grand Market. When we arrived at McDougall Park, the event was already in full swing.

Thursdays on the Edge

McDougall Park, transformed

The idea behind Classical Edge was to create an elegant, almost gala-style event in a neighbourhood that is known for being anything but. I’d say the organizers succeeded – a stage was set up on the north end of the park, and for the duration of the evening, hosted a series of musicians, including a harpist and the Windrose Trio. Tables topped with linens and candlelit lanterns completed the upscale transformation.

Thursdays on the Edge

Our makeshift seats

Catering staff from Bridges wandered the grounds, passing around free bites of food, ranging from chicken canapés to mini hot dogs.

Thursdays on the Edge

Food!

I’ve never seen the park so full. Though I already knew Central McDougall is a diverse community, it was quite something to see on full display. Attendees definitely looked like they were enjoying themselves, from the young ones taking advantage of the playground and open spaces, to adults socializing outside on a beautiful night.

Though I haven’t yet heard if Thursday Nights on the Edge will return next year, I hope they do! They were a wonderful initiative that, with time, will help others see the possibilities in the communities that make up the North Edge.

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Late Night Paris

Two weeks ago, Mack and other social media folks were invited to attend an Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concert as a thank-you for having blogged about their shows in the past year. It was a nice gesture, and we happily accepted the tickets.

The tickets say “ESOBLOGGERS” in the top left corner!

The show was Late Night Paris, their second in a series that debuted this year with a later start time (9:30 p.m.), no intermission, and is billed as “interactive and spontaneous” with an opportunity to chat with Conductor Bill Eddins. The concerts also feature live jazz in the lobby afterwards, making for a very full night.

Before the show, we met up with Philip Paschke, the ESO’s New Media Specialist, and organizer of the blogger appreciation event, at Moriarty’s. I was tempted to order a dessert (made by Duchess!), but stuck with a drink. While I enjoyed the very pink Bellini, the stem of the glass was sticky. Ick.

Bellini

The group eventually made their way to the Winspear, and then parted ways, as we were all given the choice of where we wanted to sit. Mack, Jeff, Brit and I all took the plunge and opted for a seat in the Choir Loft, behind the stage.

Jeff and Brittney

The Choir Loft definitely provided me with a different perspective of the orchestra. Not only were we able to watch the audience from our seats, but spy on the musicians as well, and notice all the small details (page turning, mallet swapping) that go unseen when facing the stage.

The audience

The orchestra

That said, an unfortunate consequence of our placement was an inability to hear what was being said into the microphones, as the speakers in the Winspear Centre face the opposite direction. Brittney said that she didn’t have any trouble discerning the banter between Eddins and Conductor Luke Waldin, but for me, it felt a bit like watching the one-sided conversations with the teacher in Charlie Brown – after some muffled sounds, the audience would erupt in laughter.

Bill Eddins and Luke Waldin

As advertised, the tone of the evening was very light – at one point, Waldin even walked on stage, just before Eddins was about to begin another piece, with a glass of wine in his hand. The mood was noticeably more carefree than some concerts I have been to in the past – I can see how this series would appeal to a wider range of people who might appreciate music but may not have the knowledge that more serious patrons do.

As for the music, I loved the Bizet Symphony in C Major – spirited and uplifting, it was a joy to listen to. Eddins is always fun to watch too – he conducts with his whole body, complete with kicks and full arm sweeps.

The ESO has introduced their concert line-up for the 2010-11 year, and Late Night with Bill Eddins will be back. Your next opportunity will be on January 21, 2011, for Late Night Percussion.

You can read Jeff’s thoughts about the night here and Brit’s post here.

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Robbins Pops, a 75th Birthday Tribute to John Williams

Mack and I met up with Dickson and headed to the Winspear Centre for my second concert in three days – the first Robbins Pops of the season, a 75th birthday tribute to John Williams.

Through the wonderful Pulse8 Club, we purchased tickets for just $20 each (including service charges), and ended up with seats in the second row, orchestra centre. After this experience however, I know that the symphony is just about the only exception to the rule of stage proximity. For a view of the entire orchestra, first balcony seating, or at least further back on orchestra level, is essential. From our vantage point that night, we couldn’t see much beyond the conductor and the string musicians. Live and learn.

In between songs, conductor Bruce Hangen introduced video clips of an interview he conducted with John Williams himself. It was a treat to be able to hear Williams talk about the process he went through to compose some of his best known works, including the theme from Jaws, “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter, and music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Of all the songs, I was most looking forward to hearing the title theme from Star Wars, and of course, the choir-infused, pulse-racing marvel “Duel of the Fates” from Episode I. I was not disappointed, and couldn’t help but be brought back to the time when I watched Star Wars for the first time. The costumed characters (Darth Vader, Leia, and an array of Storm Troopers) that appeared during these pieces was admittedly over the top, but as I ended up taking a picture with one of them, I can’t say much else.

Darth Vader and Unknown Baddie (even better – Dickson’s Mum and Vader)


It’s Leia! (hair buns and all)


Dickson and I pose with a Storm Trooper

Also, who knew the Symphony was the place to be? After running into a friend and a coworker at the show on Wednesday, I saw a few other workmates on Saturday. I had no idea the ESO was so well-frequented.

There are a few upcoming shows I want to check out, and armed with a fabulous discount, I really have no excuse!

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Midweek Classics

While I’ve known for a while about the existence of discounted programs created by local arts companies in an attempt to build loyalty in the 18-29 age group (whom they hope will become lifelong patrons), I hadn’t looked closely into it until this year. The Citadel has Club Friday (which is outrageously expensive, especially in the face of pay what you can Sundays), Edmonton Opera runs an Explorers’ Club (which I joined this year), and last but not least, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra operates the Pulse8 Club.

Of the three, Pulse8 offers the best deal hands down – free to join, members can purchase up to two tickets to most of ESO’s concerts for $15 each. Best of all, when tickets are released to Pulse8 members, it is the best available seats that are up for grabs. Keeping in mind that gallery seats are regularly $42 each, this provides a great opportunity to inexpensively enjoy a night of music. One tip – if possible, buy the tickets in person, otherwise one ends up paying $4 more in service charges when ordering over the phone.

Another unexpected benefit of Pulse8 membership ended up being free tickets to the opening Midweek Classics concert that took place last night. Dickson and I were given terrace seats, not bad considering the tickets were complimentary to begin with.

As this was my first classical concert, I relied heavily on Dickson to explain to me why a conductor is necessary at all (sacrilege for those intimate with the orchestral workings), and had a juvenile laugh at the fact that the conductor’s right hand man is called the Concertmaster (anyone else think he should wear a sash of some kind?). I will say that it was a lovely sight to be able to see the synchronized bow movements of the stringed instruments, and the gradual addition of each section to the song as a whole. The music itself was nice, though to be entirely honest I haven’t been exposed to enough classical repetoire to really appreciate it. I am used to such music in a supporting role, and never as the end itself, so I think learning to appreciate such music for music’s sake will take time.

The real surprise of the night was ESO’s Music Director. Anyone who has seen William Eddins on stage will know that he is entertaining in his own right – I’ve never before encountered such an animated conductor. He actually physically left the ground a few times, and I was afraid some of his jerky arm movements would push him into a coronary. His comments between pieces and introductions of the featured musicians showed his charisma and humor, as well as his respect and passion for the music.

I am fortunate that I will be getting another opportunity to enjoy the symphony very soon – a few friends and I will be heading to the Robbins Pops celebration of John Williams’ 75th birthday this weekend.

Queen Elizabeth High School’s Night of Music

Dickson and I headed to Annie’s school of Queen Elizabeth High for their annual Night of Music event. It seems I’ve been so far removed from the school environment that I had to be reminded of the positive, infectious energy young people exude when they are focused on achieving a goal. In this case, it was musical performance.

The students did better than I expected, and I enjoyed in particular the rendition of the always charming Barenaked Ladies’ song “If I Had A Million Dollars,” and the vocally-challenging Elvis Presley number “A Little Less Conversation.” Before the acapella group HOJA closed out the concert, the audience was treated to a version of the “Evolution of Dance” (check out the original on YouTube; the guy is now paid to perform his act all over the U.S. at various conferences and events).

Thanks for the invite, Annie!