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November 12, 2005


Renee and I attended a free performance of the Portland Baroque Orchestra at my workplace Thursday night. I had asked her if she wanted to go and she made a mildly interested sound, but Jean tells me that she spent most of the day picking out her clothes and making references to the concert. I don't think she knew what to expect, since the only orchestral music she's seen has been full symphony music. The PBO performed with one flute, two violins, one oboe, one bassoon, one bass cello and one violoncello piccolo (sort of a tenor cello with five strings).

We arrived early, found seats in the gym, and chatted and goofed around until the performance started. The program was A Musical Offering, by J. S. Bach. This is a series of canons around a theme provided to Bach by Frederick II, then king of Prussia. Each canon is a variation on the original theme, and usually also a musical puzzle. As my friend Burr observed, the puzzles in canons are often mathematical exercises, and as a result, of interest only to the professional musician. But Bach was a musical genius, and could make these exercises beautiful to listen to as well as mathematically gratifying.

Renee listened with real appreciation for the first twenty minutes or so. Then she began resting her head on my shoulder, then leaning on me and holding my arm. Affectionate, but in those crappy folding chairs, my back was beginning to ache. I finally asked her if she wanted something to do while listening to the music, and handed her my Palm Pilot. She played Bejewelled, and I listened to the remainder of the concert.

I have no formal musical training, and make no pretense toward classical knowledge. I just let the music wash over me, and this evening was totally hypnotic. I was trancing out much of the time, entering a musical, mathematical meditative state. It was great fun. Renee assures me that she enjoyed the music very much as well.

After the concert there was a buffet. Corporate finger food. I made sure to stack my plate with raw vegetables and fruit, but also had a couple of mini sandwiches. Renee was not so discerning. I went there mostly for her, since I know that she enjoys these little buffets almost as much as the events. While there I ran into Alaine Warfield, who used to work in the same company, and whom I went to grad school with. She's offered to help network with my friends who were laid off, so I'm feeling a little better about that.

More interesting is that she's done tons of volunteer work with animals, and she gave Renee lots of advice on things she could do to get experience with animal care. Renee, at age ten, has many years to choose a career, but one of the things she's expressed interest in is veterinary medicine. So we've begun offering to take her to volunteer opportunities so that she can get a feel for the experience. Last summer she helped at the local no-kill cat shelter, but they were reorganizing, and it sort of tapered off. So maybe we'll be able to use one of Alaine's leads next...

Posted by dpwakefield at November 12, 2005 07:49 AM