Thursday, May 25, 2017

driving to the edge of the world

If Joshua Bell had not been performing in Salem last night, I would have been in Barra de Navidad learning to use my new telephone and Fit Gear.

But Joshua Bell did perform last night. And it was worth the wait.

He is a consummate performer. That is why his name is one of the most recognized violinists in the world. For me to say much more than that would be presumptuous.

The fact he was in Salem was what amazed me. It would be very easy to toss off a Groucho Marx line about Salem. After all, the guide in my hotel room contains a half page of things to see in Salem (and a third of those are  not in town) and three pages of emergency and evacuation instructions. But cheap shots are not my style.

When it comes to entertainment, Salem is not a backwater. While I lived here, the Elsinore presented lectures by Gregory Peck and James Earl Jones, the music of Herbie Hancock and Bernadette Peters, as well as the ever-funny Elayne Boosler, who met Professor Jiggs.  I used to wonder if they belonged to a club of performers who had lost a bet.

The real reason is that Salem was blessed with several organizations who took the time and effort into attracting the type of entertainment that people in Salem normally would see only if they drove to Portland or Seattle.

In the case of Joshua Bell, it was the newly-minted Salem Symphony that attracted him to my former little town in the long valley -- and what I assume was a cartful of money. The Salem Symphony is another example of how impresarios are ambitious in these parts.

Oregon has a world-class symphony that travels throughout  the state. But that is not the same as having your own city or regional orchestra. And I heard two of them during this visit -- the Salem Symphony and the Central Oregon Symphony.

I am glad both exist. They offer live serious music in regions where people may no longer have access to thart form of entertainment.

And, of course, the music that is offered usually lacks challenges for audiences. But they are challenging pieces for the players. The result is a tad bit provincial, but that is exactly what the orchestras are -- reflective of their province.

Then there are groups who offer both challenging pieces for both the audience and the players. The Crown City String Quartet, who I saw perform in Bend, is a perfect example.

I am glad I spent the two extra weeks in Oregon and Washington. Not only did I enjoy the music, I spent time with old friends enjoying their company -- something I sorely miss in Mexico.

But, my trip is not yet over. I am off to the Oregon coast for a day to see Lady Washington -- a replica of an American Revolution-era ship. She played a cameo role in Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Trek. (And this is how far American culture has sunk -- when a ship can become a celebrity.)

So, avast me hearties. Here be dragons. 

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