Thursday, February 9, 2012

Let there be music

Music has always been a big part of our lives, though we kind of got there from distinctly different directions. She grew up in what always seemed to me to be more of a highbrow environment, with a piano-playing mother and a dad who knew his way around a variety of genres, including symphony, jazz and the more intellectual varieties of folk music. Some of her best childhood memories include trips to hear the Chicago Symphony and the Fine Arts Quartet, while the city's classical music station, WFMT, was blaring in the kitchen most of the time, day or night.
We loved music in my house, too, though our tastes and experiences ran more towards "Sing Along with Mitch," and whatever was on the radio at the time, plus the show tunes and folk music my sister and brother brought home from college.
I'm pretty sure we shared our love of music with our own kids, and we're doing our best to give our youngest grandsons as much exposure to different kinds, as well. Most of the time, that means the songs we sing together, which range from the old Beatles tunes and folk songs that make up a big part of my repertoire, and the kids' songs we listen to in the car, like "Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom" and "Really Rosie."
But as a extra-conscientious grandma, she's always looking for ways to broaden the horizons of the little guys, feeling that it's never too early to get a firm foundation in the classics and other grown-up musical styles.
Like the North Carolina Symphony's Holiday Pops concert we attended in early December, before we headed to Illinois for the holidays. I thought it was kind of a pricy performance for a five- and three-year-old, but she assured me that it would be well worth the double-digit ticket price.
"It's something they'll never forget," she proclaimed.
Thinking a little proximity would enhance the experience, I led us down to the third row, where we were lucky enough to find front-and-center seats with a great view of the orchestra and its flamboyant, European-trained conductor.
"This ought to get their attention," I said.
It did.
For a minute.
I guess I should have been glad young Cyrus and John didn't wiggle and giggle their way through the performance. Instead, they simultaneously fell into a deep and enduring sleep that lasted from the middle of the first song until the very end of the two-hour performance.
"I think they just found it relaxing," said grandma.
"Kind of an expensive nap," I grumbled.
We gave it another shot once we arrived in Illinois, when the Kewanee Klassics presented their annual Christmas concert at the First United Methodist Church in Kewanee. The little boys were well-rested and bright-eyed, and the price of the performance--a free-will offering--was more to my liking, so I figured we were all in for a holiday treat at the hands of the talented trio.
"They ought to like this," I said.
They did.
For a minute.
Again, they slipped into a profound slumber, dozing through the entire concert. Heck, they were even sound asleep when frontman Brock Tumbleson presented them with a prize for being the youngest fans in attendance.
All the kids and grandkids returned to their respective homes after the holidays, but we stuck around for all of January and into February, all the while enjoying the wide variety of live performances that make our area a pretty nifty little music venue, if a somewhat unknown one. We were knocked out by the Jansson Five, the featured act at the January Galva Arts Council Coffeehouse, who blasted their way through a hot rockabilly set that compared favorably with the acts we enjoyed in the Nashville club scene last fall. We were treated to an evening with the incomparable Mike Baum, a Galesburg-based musician buddy, who warmed the hearts of friends and fans alike. I was disappointed to be out of town for the Kewanee High School production of “Guys and Dolls," but heard they did a fine job. And we were both glad to hear we'd be able to make it to the News Room Bistro in Toulon for an annual performance by Knox-Galesburg Symphony maestro Bruce Polay and some of his musicians. The Bistro concert is one of her favorites, featuring small-group performances of some pieces that are familiar to her and her culturally-rich childhood. Though not as well-versed or refined, I find the classics as performed by Polay and company pretty darned engaging, as well, plus there are always cookies on hand to ensure my good behavior.
The music was excellent.
But something was missing.
"I wish John and Cyrus were here," she whispered. "They would really enjoy this."
I looked at her to see if she was kidding.
I wondered if she was talking about the cookies.
Then I realized she was right.
What with school and soccer and all the other things those little guys are involved in,
they can always use a good nap.

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