Thursday, May 21, 2009

On the Town With the 5000s

Molly Gloss/Ursula LeGuin

Last week was the Friends of the Library annual meeting, and boy oh boy did we have awesome speakers this year. We had Molly Gloss, who mostly writes books set in the frontier West but whom I know from her science fiction novel The Dazzle of Day (which I discussed here). I was nominally her “personal assistant” for the evening, which mostly involved pestering her for a book signing once during the reception. She was very gracious about my admission that I think of her book not as "The Dazzle of Day," but as “Quakers in Space!” “I get that a lot,” she said.

Appearing with her on the program was her friend Ursula K. LeGuin, probably the City of Roses’ most famous author and, for my money, one of the greatest voices in American fiction. I got to meet her and shake her hand and everything! And ask a question that she dismissed as na├»ve! It was awesome.

Mike Doughty

We had to blow out early, though, because we had tickets to a Mike Doughty show over at the new Mississippi Studios. While we were making our exit, another Friends director who is considerably younger than me could not contain his amazement. “You’re going to a concert that starts at TEN?” he asked, pronouncing the word “ten” as if it signified truly rare daring-do. “That’s just the way they roll,” someone else answered for us, and the magnificent feeling of being young-for-our-age lasted until we arrived at the venue and the doorman joked about how he didn’t need to card the two of US, obviously.

Mr. Doughty is a terrific songwriter and a highly entertaining showman, and he is touring in a two-man setup with his buddy Scrap playing bass lines and accompaniment on a cello. Stripped-down arrangements generally work really well when songs are well-crafted, and that was certainly true in this case. We whooped it up until – hang onto your hats, now – well after midnight. Afterwards, we got to meet the man and make a few sentences of inane fan conversation while buying a live CD, Busking, that he recorded in the New York subway tunnels. It is awesome for good performances, for the ambient noise of trains and passers by, and for the conspicuous lack of response that street musicians have to endure at the end of every song. I highly recommend you go out and get a copy…. but you can’t. It’s only for sale at the shows. Sorry, man.

Portland Columbia Symphony

The week before last, we caught the season closer for the Portland Columbia Symphony. The program featured Smetana’s warhorse “The Moldau,” which was appallingly beautiful in live performance, as well as Mahler’s “Songs of the Wayfarer,” which had some minor balance problems but otherwise came off very nicely indeed. The third piece was my least favorite Dvorak symphony, the 8th, which was given a rich, warm performance that reaffirmed that the worst Dvorak is better than the best of most other composers out there.

We continue to not only really dig the great sound and performances of the PCS, but also how close you can get to them, and frankly for how little money. We already have tickets to three shows for next season, for which we will be able to sit as close as we want, for about as much as it would cost to go to a single Oregon Symphony concert and sit so high up you need supplemental oxygen. The second weekend in October, they’ve got Sibelius’ Second on the docket, as well as the Fourth Beethoven Piano Concerto. Awesome!
photos cheerfully nicked from other bloggers who apparently thought to bring cameras


fingerstothebone said...

Are you sure the guy wasn't saying that ten was too early to go to a concert? That sure was what I thought he meant.

And Molly Gloss bought one of my Mare and Foal prints!

margaret said...

You rock old man.

Michael5000 said...

@fingers: Don't pretend that you could be there without me knowing. I would have sensed the disturbance you create in The Force.

Also, Molly Gloss buying one of the horsie prints just makes both of you that much cooler. If that's even possible.

@mags: Yes. Yes I do.

mrs.5000 said...

I'd just like to point out that our library-concert doubleheader was not a Friday night, or even a Thursday night, but WEDNESDAY.

Part of me was hoping Ursula and Molly might come out to join Mike and Scrap for the encores...

Jennifer said...

My 10th-grade English teacher (otherwise evil for reasons which I won't go into here) told us that he had been to a reading with Ursula Le Guin where, as he described it, when she entered the room, people's attention was drawn to her by some unarticulatable sense even before they knew who she was.

I didn't fully believe him--it sounded like magic, which maybe was appropriate--but ever since then, I've always really wanted to listen to her speak.