The Last Days in Michigan
Two months and 8,900 miles after we left, we are back in Salt Lake City. We seemed to leave winter behind, for the time being. The sun and temperatures in the 50s make for a welcome change. In northern Michigan we had been shoveling snow almost daily and the lake out our front porch window was beginning to freeze over.
During our last week at Interlochen we enjoyed spending time with new and old friends. “Little Bruce” Douglass got us tickets for the Met broadcast of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” at the beautiful State Theatre in Traverse City. Seeing that opera in a movie theater was one of the great revelations from our first three months of the sabbatical! Seeing and hearing the action from different camera angles, the amazing orchestra, the voices of Isabel Leonard and Lawrence Brownlee and the many backstage interviews made the experience even better than going to New York and hearing the opera in person. We’ll look forward to hearing the next broadcasts in December and January (Die Meistersinger and The Merry Widow).
We spent time with Jan Idema Ostrowski and Lynne Tobin, classmates from high school and two movers and shakers for classical music in northern Michigan, Lynne’s husband and jazz musician, Tim Spalding, the Riccobono’s of Interlochen and classmates of Lisa’s at Eastman, my cousin Toni and her husband Gary, Barb Sandys and many others. We got the call that a local woodwind quintet needed a flute and oboe for a gig at a winery near Long Lake. Jeanmarie Riccobono (clarinet), Lauren Murphy (bassoon) and Bob Pavelek (horn) joined us in playing through several movements of quintet music. The Brengman Brothers Winery was generous with the wine. It was fun to be playing with a group.
Our Thanksgiving was spent organizing, cleaning and boarding up the cabin. Shutters had to be installed on at least a dozen windows. Lisa had shoveled away snow from around the cabin, which made the task easier, though the cold breeze from the impending “polar vortex” reminded us of how long the winters last in Michigan. In trying to empty out the refrigerator, our choices were limited for our Thanksgiving dinner, but when you’re hungry even quesadillas taste good!
We left Interlochen the next morning, stopping in St. Joseph for lunch with Lisa’s former student and Chicago freelancer, Jim Brinkman, and Jim’s grandparents. It was a great visit. Jim is working on an inspiring collaboration with artists and music in the Chicago schools. We look forward to seeing and hearing the end result.
Our first stop getting back to Utah was in Springfield, Illinois. On the morning following our arrival we visited the home of Abe Lincoln. Compared to the seven other Presidential homes we had seen, the Lincoln home was very modest. A film we saw at the Visitor’s Center mentioned that Mary Todd always wanted to live in the White House, so she definitely got an upgrade.
We also spent part of the morning touring the Dana-Thomas House built by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was built during the time Mahler was composing his 5th Symphony, Puccini “Madame Butterfly” and Schoenberg “Verklärte Nacht”. It seemed a perfect example of his arts and craft style and big enough to get lost. One large room had a second level above the main level that had room for musicians to perform. Susan Lawrence Dana’s second husband was a young opera singer that died young (according to our tour guide) and she was a great supporter of the arts.
The next day we made it back to Kansas City in time to hear the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Bramwell Tovey. Their new hall is really gorgeous and the acoustics superb. The program consisted of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”, the Mozart piano concerto No. 23 with Orion Weiss and “The Planets” by Holst. The musicians seem inspired and the full house didn’t hurt. All the musicians that we spoke with are extremely excited about their future and it seemed like a real “event” for the patrons. The beautiful collective sound of the strings, individual musicians and Mr. Tovey’s artistry made for a terrific concert. Lisa and I were both struck by timpanist Timothy Jepson. He was worth the price of our tickets. Afterwards, we went backstage and met three-fourths of the oboe section. It included Kristina Fulton, Michelle Duskey and (visting from the Atlanta Symphony), Emily Brebach, playing bass oboe. They were a happy bunch. Principal Flutist Michael Gordon was introduced to us by violist and friend Matt Rombaum. After the concert we had fun going out for Mexican food.
Working our way back to Salt Lake City, the drive was long and there was a biting cold as we began December in places like Nebraska and Wyoming. The roads were clear and we enjoyed a great lunch in Laramie at “Anong’s”.
We packed a lot into our two months away. This time at home might seem like a break. We can only hope.
– Robert Stephenson and Lisa Byrnes