Monday, March 30, 2009

May Concert - Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio.

On Saturday, 2 May 2009
Salt Lake Choral Artists present
"Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio"
at 7:30 pm
Libby Gardner Concert Hall
Tickets - $15 (give or take a few dollars... I can't remember)

Since before our last concert in February, we (The Salt Lake Choral Artists) have been rigorously preparing for our final concert of the 2008-2009 season. We will be performing a new oratorio by Mark Grey, with lyrics by Navajo poet Laura Tohe. It's an incredibly challenging piece of music, but is really beginning to take life with our group, and I'm liking it more and more. Mark Grey, the composer, is coming to work with us during four rehearsals the week of the concert. That's exciting! I have the feeling this is going to be an exceptional experience. If any of you would like to come and want tickets, let me know! You won't want to miss this one.

From our website:

A fight for freedom. The torment of survivor’s guilt. The power of words. To live, one must slay the enemy within, and walk the path of beauty. Based on texts written by native Navajo poet and professor Laura Tohe and the sound designs of composer Mark Grey, this oratorio presents a story of urgent importance, one whose palette begins within the Navajo epic of creation but quickly broadens to reach across cultures and centuries, encompassing all of humanity. Commissioned and performed by the Phoenix Symphony for the first time in February 2008, SLCA now brings to Salt Lake City its universal message which concludes with humanity’s hopeful plea: “Let Peace Prevail.”


The first-ever oratorio to be based on an indigenous creation story, “Enemy Slayer” casts the story of a battle-fatigued young Arizona native (Seeker) who returns to his people from a desert war, where a cousin died in his arms. “Your blood poured brightly through my hands like a lamb being slaughtered,” I could not stop it!” sings the baritone soloist. As Seeker crumbles from survivor’s guilt, the choir, representing his mother, his ancestors and the Holy Ones respond “You were born for a reason. You are a miracle brought to live, given breath… return to the Beauty Way”. His emotional torture and healing are underscored by the instruments of the orchestra and Seeker makes a choice “I take myself back. I emerge from the belly of my mother’s beauty.’

Commissioned by the Phoenix Symphony to celebrate their 60th anniversary, “Enemy Slayer” premiered on February 7, 2008 to a sold-out audience and a 10 minute standing ovation. The performance marked the culmination of nearly two years of work by composer Mark Grey, who recruited award-winning Navajo poet Laura Tohe to write the libretto. The oratorio was also performed to sold-out audiences at the Colorado Music Festival July 24-25, 2008.

The 70-minute piece features a large chorus, full symphony orchestra, baritone soloist and the Southwest landscape photography of Deborah O’Grady that conveys the majesty of Seeker’s homeland and projected on a screen as the story progresses.

This monumental work is now brought to Salt Lake City for the first time under the direction of Dr. Brady Allred. The performance features baritone soloist Gary Sorensen, the Salt Lake Choral Artists, Salt Lake Choral Artists Symphony all expressing the compelling universal message of the oratorio, which concludes with humanity’s hopeful plea: “Let Peace Prevail."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Berlin: Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

Monday was departure day. Leaving to go home after a great vacation is always bittersweet. Having had a great time with Brittney, Casey, and the girls and loving Berlin vs. sleeping in my own bed! Haha.

Ten days was a significant time. Time enough for me to truly relax and forget about my daily life, which was kind of nice. Spending time playing with Ellie, walking around a fantastic city, learning more about the Holocaust and realizing once again that my problems and concerns cannot even compare, and relaxing and napping almost every day, helped me to really feel on vacation. A truly relaxing vacation. Thank you Britt and Casey for your generosity, incredible hopsitality, and sincere friendship! We love you and miss you!

Getting our luggage checked all the way to the U.S. I love not having to carry much of anything. Thank you airport luggage handlers!

Ready to board the plane in Berlin.

Once aboard the plane, we goofed off and took a bunch of pictures. Okay, so I didn't intend to be goofy when I pulled out the camera, but apparently Katie only wanted goofy pictures. :)

M was there to pick us up at the airport. When we got home we heard this very high pitched sound. We searched high and low and could not figure out where this sound was coming from. Finally, after Katie had gone to bed and Michael had gone home, I couldn't stand not knowing where this sound was coming from. I searched and finally found that the sound was originating in one of the suitcases full of Britt and Casey's stuff we brought home. I opened it up to find Ellie's toy microwave had gotten stuck on one setting and the beeping noise would not turn off. I had to find a screwdriver to get the battery plate off and take out the batteries. It was a bit of effort, but SO worth not hearing that crazy sound! Remind me to remove batteries prior to takeoff next time! :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Berlin: A Restful Sunday with an Unexpected Delicious Dessert.

Sunday before we left for Church, Ellie looked like this. Mom's boots are far too alluring not to try on!

After Church, we came home and relaxed (and of course, played a little) before Adam (Casey's best friend on the team) came over for dinner.

Britt made delicious flautas. Quite filling and tasty. Just as we were starting to sit down to dinner, the Mathias family from their ward, came over to visit. They are British, but have been living in Germany for the last nine or ten years. They have four girls who are just delightful! They brought waffles batter and made us one after another. It was a scrumptious dessert and extremely generous of them. We had a really fun time talking with them for a few hours! Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures. :(

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Berlin: Saturday started at Starbucks.

Saturday morning we met Meera, an old college friend of Casey and Brittney's, at Starbucks just inside the Brandenburg Gate. Meera was in town for just a few days to make a presentation at a conference. She's just finishing up medical school and starting her residency in the fall. We're glad she planned an extra day into her trip to come and hang out with us!

After introducing Meera to Ellie and Peyton (it'd been a long time since Meera had seen Casey and Britt), we got drinks and breakfast and enjoyed talking and laughing at Ellie. Seriously she was a riot that morning!

We took some obligatory Brandenburg Gate pictures, before walking Britt, Ellie, and Peyton back to the car to head home for naps.

Meera, Katie, and I continued on with our sightseeing tour. We walked through a tip of the Tiergarten, over to the Reichstag, the German Parliament Building. It's a very popular tourist site, so we got in line and geared up for a long wait.

The 360 degree view of Berlin at the top of the Reichstag was certainly worth the nearly two hour wait. Okay, so maybe it was only an hour... I can't recall since we were engaged in fulfilling, intense conversation with Meera. (Meera, by the way, is fabulous! She's a great person, whom I'm now happy to count as a friend.)

After the Reichstag, we walked over to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Berlin Holocaust Memorial.

We'd been there with Casey, but the underground museum was closed. So this time, we took the opportunity to walk around. Seriously, once again, you'd think we would have had enough hearing of all the horror stories regarding the holocaust, but one room in the museum was particularly interesting to me. As my heartstrings were pulled, and tears surfaced easily, I read heart-wrenching letters between family members that were somehow recovered and preserved. Letters documenting the horror and bringing to life the pains and emotional suffering that they endured. It was nearly too much for me to bear. I strolled through the remaining rooms, only glancing at pictures, hardly reading anything more. Too painful.

We were hungry and decided to introduce Meera to the wonderful world of döner kebabs.

Needless to say, she's a fan! Who wouldn't be. Seriously. Come on now. They're delish!

We headed home, and once again found a very excited Ellie, ready to play! She decided to eat her dinner with tongs.

Katie and I walked the Ku'Damm one final time to Karstadt to do some grocery shopping for dinner the next day and pick up a few last "souvenirs" -- you know, the edible kind. I was extremely excited to find Texicana (a German salsa I learned to love while living in Lithuania) and Finn Crisps (a product of Finland, these crackers became a favorite while in Lithuania). -- More on these delicious finds in a future post.

We ended the night just talking away. Meera, Britt, Katie, and I. Girl talk. That's always fun!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Berlin: Final Friday - Checking Out Checkpoint Charlie.

On Friday morning we took Ellie to kindergarten (German preschool) and then dropped Casey off at the team bus for his roadtrip. Britt then dropped Katie and me off at the corner of Friedrichstrasse and Zimmerstrasse, where Checkpoint Charlie, the site of the only legal crossing point for members of the Allied forces between East Germany and West Germany, remains for all to remember The Cold War. From 22 September 1961, Checkpoint Charlie was where allied border guards registered members of the American, British, and French armed forces before they entered East Berlin.

Nowhere else is the division of east and west more visible than at Checkpoint Charlie. Here, a single wall cut through an entire city. And it was here that the people of The United States of America bore testimony, in impressive fashion, to their unconditional commitment to fundamental values such as human rights, democracy and freedom. Over the 28 years of its existence, Checkpoint Charlie was visited by many statesmen, giving the people hope that their wish for freedom and peace would be fulfilled. Can you even imagine what it would be like if your government put up a wall around a relatively small area of your city and told you that you couldn't leave? And if you attempted to leave, it was likely you'd be killed?

Today, a piece by the artist Frank Thiel commemorates the special history of this former border crossing. The artist's light box shows two larger-than-life portraits. A young American and a young "Soviet" soldier look out on the former territory of the other.

We walked through the streets through an outdoor museum of sorts. Since this year, in November, will mark 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, much is being prepared to commemorate this anniversary and remind people all over the world of the end of an era.

We continued on down the street, slightly past the Checkpoint Charlie museum and surroundings and found yet another outdoor gallery, erected temporarily for the 30th anniversary, called Topography of Terror. As if we hadn't read and experienced enough at Sachsenhausen, Katie and I spent another 45 minutes reading yet more about the concentration camps and the Nazis' involvement in the genocide of 6 million people. We learned a little more about how the Gestapo, SS, and Third Reich were all connected. The museum stands on the ground where the combined security office of all three branches of authority stood on Wilhelm-and-Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse.

Friday was a chilly morning and Katie finally gave in and bought a scarf from her new Turkish friend. We decided he looked like George Clooney. Thanks to Turkish George, she was much warmer. Oh and, much more fashionable!

Thanks to my Alias-skills (and a little help from a flirtatious German guard at Checkpoint Charlie), we found a large section of the Berlin Wall, which has remained virtually intact.

The Berlin Wall literally divided families and neighbors. Its construction violently disrupted people's everyday lives, particularly on Bernauer Strasse. The wall was erected almost down the middle of this street, separating longtime friends and neighbors, forcing them to yell across a wall to their neighbor on the other side.

On our Monday bus tour, we learned that Berlin is a relatively young city in European terms, only around 750 years old. Since then, it has been associated with the symbol of the bear.
Apparently, though there are a few theories, no one really knows where the symbol came from. But, the Bear stands proud as the city's symbol and mascot, and appears on its flag. All over the city one can find painted bears like this one. They are literally everywhere!

Walking up Friedrichstrasse, a popular shopping thoroughfare, we stopped at the Berlin Mini dealership. Katie has decided a Mini will be her next vehicle of choice.

After all that walking, we caught a taxi home, arriving home at about 5:30pm to a very excited Ellie. She'd missed us all day! About an hour later, we walked down the Ku-damm with Harley to Vapiano's (a really great Italian place) to pick up dinner. We ended our evening relaxing at home with Britt, eating a delicious meal, and watching The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants from iTunes. Fun flick. I'd never seen it.

Yet another great day in Berlin!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Berlin: Birthday, Breakfast, and Basketball.

Thursday was Casey's birthday. We started the day going out to breakfast at a cute little café called Schwartz's. Ellie was a riot! She was absolutely insistent that she have a tea party!

One of the highlights of the morning was when we were singing a little kiddie song where we had to say each person's name and how old they were. We went around the table and sang the song for each person until we got to Katie. Ellie calls Katie "Aunt Kat." So when we started to sing the song we said, "Katie" and then Britt explained to Ellie that Aunt Kat's name was Katie. I wish I had had my camera ready to snap a picture of Ellie's face. She was so incredibly confused! We all had a good laugh.

I had eggs with tomatoes, feta cheese, onions. The meal was just about the best scrambled egg mixture on toast that I have ever had in my life! Katie had to take a picture because she said it just looked like "something Emery would eat." I think it was the feta. SO delish!

Later that day we went to KaDeWe, which is widely accepted as the largest department store in all of continental Europe. It is really quite amazing. A bit of sensory overload. It's seven floors with boutique stores on the ground floor like Gucci, Cartier, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, and the like. We rode the elevator to the sixth floor, where there is a full grocery store, and the equivalent of a food court, although it looks like nothing like a food court you'd find in a regular American mall. It's very high end, more gourmet foods. We all got crepes. I ordered mine with strawberries and vanilla cream. Yum!

That night we went to Casey's game at the O2 World Arena. At the very beginning the announcer wished Casey "Happy Birsday!" It was great. Although they won, the game itself was pretty intense.

After the game, we celebrated Casey's birthday with Adam and Tori and the rest of the team and their families. Brittney had made a delicious vanilla cake with fresh strawberries. We had balloons, which we'd purchased at KaDeWe earlier in the day. And then of course the buffet (provided by the arena in the VIP lounge).

As we left, there were a few fans waiting to wish Casey a Happy Birsday with flowers, cards, and a song!

Once again, another fun day!