Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winter 2011

Some years stand out more than others. This one was striving for the record books, what with an earthquake, fatal flood, plastic surgery and involvement in a 4-car pile up on the Dulles Greenway. Yet I lived to tell about it. Read on, if you dare.

I ushered in the New Year in Florida with a stay in Delray Beach, FL, holed up with my travel pal Rob at the remarkable 1920s era Colony Hotel and Cabana Club, a member of Historic Hotels of America. We confirmed that it is indeed possible to read a Kindle in bright sunshine as we followed the path of a downloaded walking tour of the Art Deco district of Miami's South Beach. The first time I visited Miami (January 1969 for Superbowl III), what are today's trendy Art Deco hostelries were then derelict senior citizen apartment hotels. I must say, those structures clean up nicely.

Little did I suspect that three weeks later I'd be back in Florida, this time for the opening night of the New World Center, a Frank Gehry designed concert hall in Miami Beach that is home to the New World Symphony academy, founded by Michael Tilson Thomas. I was reading the WSJ in an Arlington, VA, Starbucks and saw an article about the new hall, which was to open five days hence. Alert reader that I am, I hauled out the trusty laptop and snagged one of the three remaining unsold seats and booked a flight. It is seldom that I am blown away, but this structure and its adjacent concert park have set a trend that will affect live musical performances for many years to come. The angled acoustic baffles double as projection screens, and select performances are simulcast on the exterior on an 80-ft. tall section designed for that purpose. Awesome.

In a brilliant stroke of timing, the day I left DC for Florida 8 inches of snow fell in Washington. On the downside, I had only 48 hours to spend in Florida.

Valentine's Day got off to a fiery start, literally, when a neighbor, a young Indian man, got up early to prepare "breakfast in bed" for his sweetheart. His lack of culinary experience became evident to all of us when firetrucks poured into the neighborhood at 7:10 a.m. to douse a kitchen fire. I'm sure his "valentine" will never forget it, either.

I spent my birthday with best pals Karen and Rob in Staunton, Va., at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, another member of Historic Hotels of America. In a tribute to locally-born silent film star William Haines, we watched Brown of Harvard, the movie that made him a Hollywood idol in the 1920s.

Also in February I received a surprise invitation to play the newly restored Steinway concert grand piano at the Woodrow Wilson House on S Street in Washington, DC. The nearly 100-year-old instrument is used these days for concerts in the Wilson House parlor, but it had graced the private quarters of the White House while Wilson was in office. What a thrill to play the same piano on which the wild Australian-born pianist Percy Grainger (composer of Country Gardens) had played popular songs for Wilson and his wife.

During the winter months I hosted and participated in concerts by the Washington Symphonic Brass and Capital Wind Symphony, two fine Washington-area arts groups that make very loud music. The former presented a piece played on tuned conch shells. I swear I'm not making this up.

No comments:

Post a Comment