Friday, November 17, 2006

What a week . . . .

Another fast post . . . this has been a hellish week. Both Sheri and Marc were gone this week, which left me to do the bulk of the phone answering. This morning, five minutes before I was slated to go into a meeting, Don (who was chairing the meeting) handed me a pile of materials to be copied off for the meeting. Then, while I'm at the copier frantically trying to pull it all together, Sharon informs me someone has just walked in for season tickets. Of course, she couldn't help him because she was busy with a repairman who had just shown up. So guess who had to take time away from the copier and get this person's information?

I hope we'll reach a point where we can hire additional office personnel to cover phones, etc. I'm not getting any grantwriting done because of all the distractions.

Last weekend's ballet generally went well -- we performed Copland's Rodeo and Oklahoma!, a ballet derived from the choreography of Agnes deMille for the original Broadway stage production and danced to a suite derived from the original Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. The audience loved it -- especially the rendition of Oklahoma! (our state song) at the conclusion of the ballet. In Oklahoma our state song always brings an audience to its feet!

Hopefully next week will be less hectic. Maybe I can even get that one grant completed -- I'm constantly getting pulled away to do other stuff. I hope there will be fewer distractions next week.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A morning rant . . .

I took one look at my Daily Show
today, where Iraq is described as "Shitstorm.” I am reminded of yesterday's mass kidnapping in Baghdad yesterday, where as many as 150 persons may still be detained -- no one knows for sure.

The car bombings continue. We've lost more than 2,800 American lives, and Iraqi deaths are in the hundreds of thousands (conservatively).

And the Republicans are still sticking to their "stay the course" mantra, if Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-CA) comments to Chris Matthews in last night's Hardball episode are any indication.

I'm reminded of the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.

Here Endeth the Morning Rant.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Template changing blues

I decided to change the look of my blog. I decided that I wanted a more subtle appearance, and a page that didn’t take up so much of the screen. I still wanted to keep my links, however.

It took my almost an hour to adapt a template that I liked to my blog, and keep my links. I found the template similar to that Drew McManus uses in his Adaptistration blog. I never realized changing my blog’s appearance would be so complicated. Ugh.

So, my comments on last weekend’s ballet, church stuff and the stupidity of the San Antonio Symphony Board will have to wait. Sorry, but it 7:07 p.m. Tulsa time, and I’ve got a hungry little black cat at home to feed.

I'll eventually post my picture. When I get a Round Tuit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

America Won on November 7

Today the office closed early due to tonight’s ballet performance. I wish I had known about the early office closing before today – I arrived decked out in my concert blacks and with violin in tow. I considered staying anyway (actually, I am staying to tend to some matters, including this blog post), but I’m tired and want to catch a catnap to be fresh for tonight. Also, grab some sushi on my way home. Phoebe, my funny little black cat, will doubtless be pleased she gets some lap time!

I’ve also just e-mailed vestry members a list of my concerns about the direction of worship at Trinity. To make a long story short, I am concerned about the move away from a high church liturgy, and apparent efforts to move away from our Anglican heritage to some generic Protestant muddle. Of course, the Episcopal Church is not Protestant – but that’s another blog post.

So … I’ll just comment briefly on the November 7 midterm elections. To grossly oversimplify my thoughts: The People of America won. I have renewed faith in our democracy now that the Republicans no longer have a stranglehold in Washington. I was very happy to see Gov. Rod Blagojevich was re-elected in my home state of Illinois. Melissa Bean managed to prove that she was better than the smears of her opponent, David McSweeney (why did he have to be from Barrington Hills, anyway?) and win re-election. I wasn’t always happy with her votes (particularly in support of CAFTA and that dreadful bankruptcy package for the mega banks), but as a whole she’s been good for District 8. I was also happy to see Todd Stroger elected as President of the Cook County Board. I hope he’ll be able to prove his worth to the skeptics and emerge in his own right.

I’m sorry that Tammy Duckworth wasn’t able to prevail in District 6. She’s a remarkable woman and would have been an asset to the House of Representatives. She came very close to capturing the seat held by Henry Hyde – but, as they say, no cigar. I can only hope she pulls a Melissa Bean in the 6th. Melissa first ran in 2002, and came the closest anyone ever had to unseating Philip Crane. Well, she spent the next two years building her war chest and walking the district, getting to know citizens. All while Phil Crane was on one lobbyist-funded junket after another. Here’s hoping Tammy will do the same.

Here in Oklahoma, it was more bittersweet. We didn’t take back the State House, and came to a tie in the State Senate. Good news is we elected Jeri Askins as Lieutenant Governor, so she’ll be the tie-breaker. No suspense whatsoever in the Governor’s race – Brad Henry was re-elected in a rout of Ernest MisTook. I haven’t always agreed with Gov. Henry, but he’s been a very competent governor (to say the least). Drew Edmondson won re-election as Attorney General handily, much to the dismay of the corporate poultry processors who think Oklahoma is a toilet for their chickens. I was thrilled to see Lloyd Fields unseat the anti-worker Brenda Reneau. In addition, Kim Holland was elected Insurance Commissioner in her own right. Despite the smearing of her opponent in ads and robo-calls, Kim maintained the high road through out – and won handily.

I hope to see our Congress take the following steps in their first 100 days:

  1. Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.
  2. Repeal legislation that inhibits the ability of workers to unionize and collectively bargain.
  3. Start inquiries into the Bush administration’s lies to start the Iraq war, and their abuses of power. If criminal activity is noted, start impeachment proceedings. After all, if President Clinton was impeached for a blow job, President Bush should be impeached for lies and abuses of constitutions powers.
  4. Repeal the Patriot Act, National Security Act, and the other onerous Bush provisions rubber-stamped by the previous congress.
  5. Review the “No Child Left Behind” act. Consider whether certain provisions are realistic. Reconsider the onerous testing requirements. Fully fund the mandates, so no state is unable to comply with requirements.
  6. Start real, meaningful health care reform so every American has access to quality, affordable health care.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Coming together

Tulsa Symphony creates near-perfect fit on opening night

JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer 11/6/2006 View in Print (PDF) Format

A bit of history happened Friday night at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center: The Tulsa Symphony performed its very first concert.

"The keystone of the arts in our city is being re-established in Tulsa tonight," said KOTV personality Glenda Silvey as the evening began.

More than four years have passed since the city's first fully professional orchestra, the Tulsa Philharmonic, dissolved into a stagnant puddle of bad debts and disastrous management after 54 years of operations.

It was 11 months ago, almost to the day, when Dr. Frank Letcher first proposed the idea of an entirely new and different orchestra to be called the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra -- a fully professional ensemble that would employ its musicians throughout the organization, not just as performers on the stage.

It is a tribute to the musicians' commitment to Tulsa that this concept was put into action so quickly, because so many former Philharmonic musicians continued to live and work in Tulsa after that orchestra's collapse in 2002.

In fact, Friday's concert was hardly the orchestra's debut. That came in February, when it accompanied Tulsa Ballet's production of "The Sleeping Beauty." The Tulsa Symphony has also performed with the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, and many of its musicians were part of the orchestras used by Tulsa Opera and Light Opera Oklahoma this year.

Even so, Friday's concert, titled "Get to Know TSO," was the real benchmark for the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra -- the first performance it could truly call its own, its attempt to make good on the idea, as Silvey put it in her opening remarks, "that an orchestra is not a luxury but a necessity."

So -- how did they do?

Three words: pretty darn good.

It wasn't a perfect evening, to be sure. Jose-Luis Novo, the guest conductor for this concert, set a tempo for Mascagni's "Intermezzo" from "Cavalleria Rusticana" that struck us as too slow. Some soft high notes from the trumpets during the "Some where" segment of Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" -- tough sounds to produce, we grant it -- were a little wobbly. And one over-eager fiddler hit one note too many at the end of the first movement of the Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven.

Yet, these moments were aberrations (or, in the case of the Mascagni, differences of taste). What made the evening special, on a musical rather than a his torical level, was that the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra lived up to its name on the most basic level.

The word "symphony" comes from a pair of Greek words that mean, respectively, "sound" and "together." That is what the Tulsa Symphony did -- for all the many people and instruments that make up the ensemble, the sound they made was one of complete togetherness, remarkable clarity and unwavering purpose.

That was evident from the first few moments of Shostakovich's "Festive Overture." Interestingly, the city's other orchestra, the Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College, performed this same work the evening before.

Maybe the best way to describe the difference is this. Imagine a puzzle arranged so that all the pieces are in the proper place, just not fitted together. That would be the Signa ture Symphony's Thursday night performance. Imagine that same puzzle with all the pieces connected, and you have the Tulsa Symphony.

That might also be why Novo chose a slower-than-usual tempo for the Mascagni -- to show off that unity and cohesiveness, to stretch things out so that the orchestra could not simply coast along on the music's beautifully sad melodies.

The Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" gave a number of the musicians a chance to show off a little -- in particular, principal violist Jeffery Cowen, principal flute John Rush, timpanist Gerald Scholl, percussionist Steven Craft and principal French horn J. Bruce Schultz.

And the Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven got an unusually joyous reading from the Tulsa Symphony. The sound of "fate knocking at the door," as Beethoven described the famous di-di-di-dah motif that runs throughout the piece was played here less as something to fear as a challenge to be met -- and overcome.

That, in a real sense, is what this "Get to Know the TSO" concert was all about. It has met the challenge of creating a new musical entity for the city of Tulsa, of taking its first steps on what it hopes to be a long and fruitful artistic journey.

The challenge now is to make certain that those present at the start of this journey -- the 1,000-plus season subscribers, the organizations that have contributed to getting the TSO to this point, the orchestra's musicians and staff -- will keep moving forward once the feel-good glow of this "opening night" has passed, to make certain that the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra "sounds together" for a long time to come.

James D. Watts Jr. (918) 581-8478

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Let the music begin!

The big night’s tomorrow – the official debut of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra!

This has been a productive week on a number of fronts. Our conductor for the week, José-Luis Novo, is clearly a gifted conductor. He conducts with a great deal of musicality, and makes efficient use of rehearsal time. It also helps matters immensely that he has been a professional orchestra musician, too. So many conductors don’t know how they come across to the musicians seated in front of them!

We’ve also seen success on the fundraising front. The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation has announced a $100,000 challenge grant for the orchestra. This grant is predicated on not only our raising the money, but also broadening our base of support. One of the problems of the Tulsa Philharmonic was the over-dependence on a small group of wealthy contributors. When the contributors starting dying off, the orchestra was left in the lurch. The Schusterman family is providing a terrific incentive to expand our contributing sources. Bravo to the Schustermans!

We also received a significant contribution from another local family foundation that had been one of the Tulsa Philharmonic’s most loyal supporters. I cannot divulge the name of the foundation or the amount at this time, but they will be made public soon.

Both of these contributions will further legitimize the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra in the minds of skittish contributors, who are afraid of being burned they way they were with the abrupt shutdown of the Tulsa Philharmonic in 2002.

Therefore, it’s small wonder that our founder, Dr. Frank Letcher, was pleased to the point of giddiness at last night’s rehearsal. I spoke with him at intermission, and he raved about the sound of the orchestra. He’s incredibly excited about tomorrow night’s performance. He’s not the only one – I’ve spoken with a number of patrons who tell me they can’t wait to hear a real professional orchestra on the stage of Chapman Music Hall at the Performing Arts Center! (Incidentally, the PAC staff is excited, too.)

Dr. Letcher is certainly entitled to his giddiness. To be honest, I’m glad he’s so thrilled – it is indicative of his commitment to the orchestra. He’s seeing the fruits of his labors and determination. We have a full-time professional orchestra in Tulsa – an orchestra of artistic integrity, being received with enthusiasm by Tulsa’s arts lovers.

This is the result we've been seeking since 2002.