A cornucopia of culture

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We spent Christmas Eve afternoon in Calgary, in the excellent company of our 7-year-old granddaughter and her 4-year-old brother, seated in the front row of Calgary’s Jubiliee Auditorium. We were there to take in The Nutcracker, performed by the Alberta Ballet Company.

Quinn has joined us previously, but this was a first for Wilson, he now having passed the magical fourth birthday, which is our age requirement for this new family tradition. The kids were great and truly enjoyed the spectacle and music.

We returned to Creston earlier than planned as some evil little bug swept through the family, and spent the days around New Year watching movies and coughing. Fortunately, more edifying culture was to be found this past weekend. On Saturday morning we hitched up what I like to call our Opera Wagon, picked up three friends, and headed over the hump to Trail, where the Royal Theatre presents live satellite telecasts from New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

The roads were just okay—lots of packed snow and ice on both sides of Kootenay Pass, but most with adequate amounts of gravel to provide some grip. Good thing, too, because we had all been patiently awaiting this particular day, on which we would be seeing Nabucco, an early and superb work by Giuseppe Verdi. We first saw Nabucco in Venice, hanging over the edge of our nosebleed-height box and sweating from the spotlights just a foot or two below us. Since then, we have watched videos of the production a number of times and it has become our favourite opera.

This particular presentation was marvelous, but it also felt a bit like we were watching history. In the baritone role was Placido Domingo who, at 75, has seen better decades as a singer, though he remains a wonder. Directing the fabulous Met orchestra was the legendary James Levine, who is now confined to a wheelchair. He has made an amazing recovery from a stroke, which for the last two years affected his ability to control arm movements, an important part of conducting musicians.

Levine, at 73, will be handing over the baton and leadership role to a Canadian, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, in 2019. Levine, one of history’s truly brilliant conductors, has seen his workload decrease due to heath issues in recent years, and one suspects seeing he and Domingo on the same stage, let alone in Nabucco, may not happen often, if ever, again. It was a magical and worth performance.

We got back to Creston in the late afternoon, and a stop at Black Bear Books revealed that they had sold out their allotted tickets for Sunday’s concert featuring cellist Jeff Faragher’s concert, one more stop on his CD release tour.

Fortunately, we got tickets at the door of the Presbyterian Church, which provided a great venue and scenic backdrop (looking southward through the huge windows) for a fantastic afternoon’s entertainment. Faragher, a Kootenay resident, is a very fine musician, and also doubles as conductor for Symphony of the Kootenays.

For this concert, he asked two Creston musicians to join him. Amanda Anderson on cello, and Zavallennahh (Huscroft) Young on violin were in marvelous form, and the sounds thrilled the packed hall.

It is always great to see Creston talent, and we are blessed with quality and abundance. We have been watching Amanda and Zav perform since they were youngsters. Amanda, of course, is here on a year’s sabbatical from her symphony in Hamburg. I joked with friends that, as we age, we begin to recall time according to events—“the great flood of ‘48”, “the big snowfall of Ought-four” and so on. We will mark 2016-17 as “the time when Amanda came home”. Or at least I will.

“How nice to see you frolicking in your own field,” I told her, a reference to her work as a classical musician.

Zavallennahh has continued to be a musical force since returning to the Creston Valley a few years ago. She teaches, performs and—as we were reminded with some of her pieces on Sunday—writes beautiful music. Faragher chose to close the concert with a fiddle-cello duet written by Zav, and I left wondering why she isn’t recording music in that style. People would line up to buy it!

So, our 2016 came to an end, arts-wise, at The Nutcracker with our two oldest grandchildren. And 2017 got off to a great start at Nabucco in the company of friends, and then at the Faragher concert, where we sat with a crowd of like-minded folks who think life doesn’t get better than we see our talented friends and neighbours from this incredible community do what they do so well—create.