Monday, May 16, 2011

Eight hours driving, forty minutes of violin music, and a brief tour of Memphis Tennessee

Readers of this blog will be well familiar with Mrs. S’s passion for the playing and boyish good looks of the world class violinist, Joshua Bell. And in the past, I had told her that any time he came within a reasonable driving distance, I would be willing to escort her to any concert of his. (He’s good enough that even I, a jazz musician, enjoy and appreciate his superb playing. He’s remarkable.) Several months ago, she unilaterally decided that four hours one way was within “reasonable driving distance” (okay, she did ask me) and so it was that last Thursday we traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to hear the Memphis symphony and Mr. Bell play.

The drive was actually quite easy except for the part in and around Memphis. As we followed the printed directions from the internet, we came off the highway right in front of the Marriott where we were staying. I said, “There it is,” but Mrs. S said, “No, that’s not it.” So we drove around looking for the hotel we just passed but eventually found our way back there, no problem.

Since we were really in town just for the JB concert, we didn’t really do much sightseeing. We did take a walk down Main Street and Beale Street:

A mediocre shot of me in the "French Quarter" of Memphis
And we saw Francis Scott Key’s square grand piano on the mezzanine of the Peabody hotel:

Sorry, FSK, but my square grand will soon be playable, and yours won't!
It has some very nice mother-of-pearl inlay inside on the top and very elaborate carving on the front, back and sides, but the wood finish needs redoing and the inside was in complete disrepair. (Not surprisingly, as seems to be the case with these older square grands, the damper pads and arms were all in pieces. That piano would definitely take some serious work to restore to functionality again.)

We ate a light dinner at the hotel, together with a number of other people who, it turned out, would also be at the concert later that evening. The MSO was a smallish but very efficient orchestra, doing a nice Schubert piece and a Beethoven symphony under the confident and enthusiastic baton of conductor, Mei-Ann Chen. After intermission, Josh came out and lit up the place with Tchaikovsky, and for an encore, Yankee Doodle. He signed autographs (3 CD’s) and took a couple pics with Mrs. S. 

Getting to be very familiar with this shot...
When I noted that Memphis is a lot farther from Huntsville than Birmingham was, he thanked us for our long drive. He then kind of remembered us, but not really. (He gets around, you know.) We also negotiated with a symphony rep for the JB banner hanging in the foyer.

We visited the Memphis Zoo and the Brooks Museum the next day so that it really wasn’t eight hours of driving for forty minutes of music. It was a nice trip to Memphis and another great Joshua Bell concert. Sure beats working.

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