Notes from a trip
By David Amos
SAN DIEGO –From the title of this article, you may surmise that I will be sharing with you some conducting and/or recording adventure in a far-away land. But this time, it is not the case, but rather, a two-week vacation just completed, which my wife and I survived with our two grandchildren, 6 and 9.
There were many elements of interest, some of which seriously related to classical music and its preservation to future generations.
We toured the four Southwestern states, and without a doubt, visited every possible bathroom facility that exists in California, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. In between these necessary stops, attitudes, skirmishes, together with hats, sunscreen, sun glasses, delightfully ditsy waitresses, 100-plus degree temperatures, and the obligatory food treats, we were able to sneak in a remarkable number of interesting places.
We visited Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Bryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest and Painted Desert Parks, Sedona, Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon, Montezuma’s Castle, Phoenix, and in the Tucson Area, The Desert Museum, Colossal Caves, Biosphere 2, and an attempt at the Jewish Museum. More on the latter, later.
In Las Vegas, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, we saw the musical The Lion King. Although the children seemed to enjoy it and the costumes and sets were colorful and spectacular, I found the music to be dreadfully repetitious and lackluster. There was a sameness of style from song to song, and the fine vocal renditions could not save it for me.
The true lifesaver for this trip was the recent acquisition of the XM-Sirius radio. This satellite service offers about 200 channels, which can be heard static-free at the remotest locations. Our favorites were the two classical music channels, the vocal-operatic one, and the one featuring Broadway favorites. For news, the BBC and CNN options were good, but there are many more choices of music, talk, and comedy for practically every taste.
A real disappointment is when we drove past Tuba City. From the highway, we could not hear a sound from this noble instrument, and there was no mention of even sousaphones or trombones in the tour guide. Nothing, nada, shum davar. Maybe its local chamber of commerce can correct this omission sometime in the future. Here is a good challenge for Professor Harold Hill.
From the highways, we saw synagogue signs in Henderson and Sedona. Always a pleasure.
Also, in our many stops, we delighted in hearing so many foreign languages from other tourists. There were too many to mention, but my wife and I exchange smiles when we hear Hebrew from animated Israeli tourists.
In the train ride from Williams, to visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, we were entertained by Country and Western singers. It was certainly the right place and time for this music, and the performances sounded authentic to us. But, I wonder what all this guitar strumming and songs of the West communicated to the many Asian and European tourists, who would not know from Frankie Lane to Franco Corelli.
We were also aware of the obvious absence of Mexican tourists. Could this be because of Mexico’s latest challenges, and/or the boycott of Arizona locations and attractions?
We did not succeed in visiting the Jewish Museum in Tucson, which is advertised as being one of the most interesting ones of its kind in the U.S. The hours listed in the brochure information failed to mention that during the summer, the museum is open for only the morning hours until 1:00 p.m.
But, one of our greatest pleasures was the opportunity to introduce our grandchildren to great classical music during the long drives between destinations. After all, they were a captive audience, and gratefully, ready to lean, absorb, and enjoy the music we presented to them. We heard and discussed Prokoffiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite, Copland’s Billy The Kid, and the complete Broadway musicals, Oklahoma, and Annie Get Your Gun.
As I have said many times, only through a positive exposure to the classics, we will develop the next generations of serious music lovers. Otherwise, we will soon be relegated to being the caretakers of a dead art form, more suited to a museum and dusty archives. It is our duty to reverse the present trends.
A humorous finale to our trip, and as an exclamation point to my previous paragraph, was when we reached our home to conclude this grand journey. Our six year old discovered our Yamaha grand piano, opened the lid, looked at it for a few moments, and asked her brother, “How do you turn this on?”
Amos is conductor of Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and has guest conducted professional orchestras around the world.