Friday, October 3, 2008

Bellows Falls Opera House and the Vermont Symphy Orchestra

As I've mentioned twice now, we went to see/hear the Vermont Symphony Orchestra in Bellows Falls, Vermont at the newly refurbished Bellows Falls Opera House.

I get a little nostalgic going in that building. Bellows Falls is the town next to the little hamlet where I grew up. We walked to Bellows Falls (just under a mile) for fun and action. It wasn't/isn't exactly a major metropolis but it had a few stores, a movie theater, a handful of dining establishments, a couple of ice cream places and an arcade. My mom would hand me $1 on Saturday afternoon. That would buy me a ticket for the matinee ($0.75) and a popcorn ($0.25). If I had a little change laying around, I could spend $0.10 more and get an orange drink in a paper cone nestled in a plastic holder. We weren't allowed to bring the orange drink in the theater though. It had to be consumed in the lobby during intermission; not a problem since those cones held about 3 ounces of liquid. Much different than the keg of soda they hand you at the theaters now.

This grand theater holds 553 seats, 372 on the main floor and 181 in the balcony. The balcony was never open during my matinee years. The place was in sad shape for a while: peeling plaster, wall sconces holding bare standard light bulbs a la Sybil, frayed and dusty curtains, ripped seats. But ooo-la-la, after a $3.7 million renovation, the place is posh now with two extravagant chandeliers, beautifully upholstered cushiony seats and new velvet curtains, including curtains along with walls which they drew back after dark to reveal floor to ceiling windows. I never even knew there were windows there. They hold movies and live performances. I've got to go to a movie there again sometime. Imagine seeing a movie on a large screen in a grand room instead of the cramped, over sized closets of today's megaplex.

Before I had finished taking in the opulence that surrounded me, the orchestra took their seats and the lights dimmed. I was instantly awash with emotion from the the sight of 30 or more bows rising and falling in synchronicity and the vibration I could feel in my chest from the sound of violins, violas, cellos and basses playing in harmony. I like to listen to classical music at home from time to time, but it doesn't matter what format it's on, what speakers you have or what volume it's played at, it's no match for hearing it played live.

At the end of the first half, they played a commissioned piece by Vermont composer, Pierre Jalbert, called Autumn Rhapsody. While Sweetie thought it demonstrated the cold autumn wind perfectly, I kept picturing a car chase from a Bourne movie. Nevertheless, it was fantastic and moving; Mr. Jalbert is a real talent.

Pipsqueak was asleep before the first half was over. She blamed it on the "smoothing music". That's just one of her many malapropisms which I refuse to correct because I find them so endearing. She was revived during intermission with some ginger ale and cake, so she almost made it through the rest of the concert before dozing off again.

The entire second half was my favorite classical piece, Vivaldi's The Four Season. The music director, Jaime Laredo, took my breath away as his fingers just flew on the strings of his violin. I am stingy with standing ovations, but I couldn't wait to get to my feet at the end. I wouldn't hesitate to see them again.

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