/A tale of two concerts/
Back to writing on the Slovak laptop (as opposed to Ruth´s, which was purchased in America), so that will explain if anything´s a little off.
So, in the last two days I have been to two concerts. What a lucky, musically-enriched exchange student I am. Let´s see...
Yesterday, after my wonderful free afternoon, I walked over to Erika´s house at 5:30, dressed in my best. I was a little early, and guess who I saw right next to Erika´s door? Ramiro! (He´s one of the two other exchange students in Nitra.) That was a surprise. I wonder why he was there. Ahoj, Ramiro! And cau.
Erika and I had a little time, so she got out "some" of her Christmas cookie cutters. These are cookie cutters exclusively Christmas-themed. "I have many others," she told me, as if apologizing for the narrow selection. Um, wow? There were many, many dozen. My favorite I saw was one shaped like the Eastern-Orthodox churches. When it comes time to make Christmas cookies with Erika, I´m definitely going to use that one. Oh wait, that sometime in the future happens to be... Sunday at 1 o´clock! As we walked to the synagogue, which is just two blocks from her house, Erika asked me how soon I could come over and do this. Saturday´s booked up, and so was today (Friday), so Sunday it is. Wonderful!
I was excited to get to go inside the synagogue, because I´ve always wanted to, but assumed just poking my head in would be inappropriate, seeing as I´m not even Jewish and am in fact just a curious tourist... The synagogue from the outside is awesome. It was designed in the early twentieth century in sort of Moorish, Oriental style. It´s tall with steep black domes and intricate molding. The windows are made of a rose-colored, reflective glass. But I read in a Nitra tourist pamphlet a long time ago that the interior was all white. Very intriguing! Apparently the government assumed ownership at some point down the line (I´m not sure if it´s still in use, then), and it houses a special Holocaust museum-- though I didn´t see any hints of the latter when I was there.
The inside of the synagogue was surprising. The building looks immense from the outside, but I guess it must just be very disproportionate as far as height to length. Also (sadly, I thought), there are no hints of the giant domes once you´re inside. The ceiling looks flat and isn´t very high. What a shame to waste such an opportunity for a grand, impressive sanctuary. I liked the interior´s design, though: sure enough, all the detailed molding, which was in Oriental and flowered designs, was painted white. Seen from afar, it was hard to see the shapes in the plaster since everything blurred together in the absence of color. What wasn´t white was brown: beautifully-carved mahogany railings on an upper viewing floor over the main sanctuary.
There were rows of beautiful, modern wood chairs, and I wondered if they were always there... I tend to think yes, because they were of such high quality; if you´re setting up chairs just for one night´s concert, you go for the plastic, folding variety.
I´ve forgotten to mention: why exactly was I there? Well, Erika had an extra ticket, and in the course of my frosting decorating we´d discussed Beethoven and Vivaldi and so on, so Erika had thought of me for this concert. How nice of her. The concert was Dvorak (Czech, you know) and Chopin pieces performed by a trio of a piano, violin, and cello.
It was wonderful! Quality music and quality musicians equals a fulfilling night. The cellist was my favorite-- partly because he had such a sweet sound, partly because the way I was positioned, I had the best view of him; and partly because he had the most wonderful, expressionate eyes and face.
Afterwards, Erika and I walked as far as Tesco together. She was going to Tesco to buy cat food: she has three or four strays which she feeds nightly. That sounds like her! I asked if she ever petted them (yes, I was doing some subtle sleuthing, ready to invite myself over for feeding time), but sadly she said no, they were "dive" (wild, ferile). I guess I´ll have to keep searching for where to get my cat fix.
This morning, I got ready for school alone since Ruth gets to sleep in on Fridays (I always have left before Tibor gets up). I found a note on the kitchen counter from Ruth: "Rhiannon, do you want to go to a concert with dad tonight at 7 of one of the most famous Slovak singers? Circle your answer: ANO/NIE!" Um, samozrejme! Another concert? So awesome!
I didn´t know what kind of concert to expect, so after dinner I got dressed up again in my nicest outfit. I realized I was overdressed when I saw Tibor was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but oh well-- always better to err on the classy side of things!
We drove to Mestska Hala-- this is a large building I pass every day when taking the bus to school. The name literally translates to "town/city hall," so that´s what I assumed it was (though I thought it was strange a sports bar was attached), but apparently it´s a different kind of hall. Actually, I was instantly reminded of St. Martin´s Pavilion (the gym where I had my graduation). It was a huge place, and it was packed. I think Tibor and I actually had ideal seats: we were on the side, a few rows up. This was better than being in the middle section, because the rows there weren´t staggered, and the stage wasn´t much higher.
So who is this famous Slovak singer? Why, Miro Zbirka, of course! He is a Slovak idol. I had seen posters for this concert all around Nitra for weeks, but I had never imagined I would be going to it! I mark this as a personal milestone for me, in that it´s my first concert of a well-known, popular-with-the-masses person. I mean, this was my first non-Benaroya-type concert (Anoushka Shankar is the next-closest thing).
Miro started off with three guitarists (not including himself, with his acoustic guitar slung around his neck), a drummer, and a keyboardist for maybe five songs. Then the whole symphony orchestra came in! (Not exactly a surprise, as all the chairs were set out and the concert was billed as "Miro Zbirka with a symphony orchestra!") Plus a conductor. So there were forty musicians on stage, total.
And I really liked his music. I´m not sure how to classify it, genre-wise, since I´ve never been sure of my genres (the Rolling Stones= rock´n´roll. Okay, got that one). Though, to be honest, I think I would have liked anything live, where there´s so much excitement, and awesome lighting and visual effects and all that. Speaking of the visual effects, there were screens behind the musicians like giant televisions with accompanying videos. One of my favorite songs had the visual of a Fall day; one of Tibor´s favorites had an albatross flying over the ocean. Most of the time it was cool abstract colors and patterns.
The strange exception came with Hey Jude. Talk about the ultimate finale, right? All of his songs before had been his own, and in Slovak. But, as Ruth and Tibor had told me, Miro´s mother is British. Which may explain why when he sang Hey Jude, not only was his pronunciation absolutely perfect, he actually sounded exactly like John Lennon (Miro´s got a great voice!). Tibor whispered to me something about today being the seven-year anniversary of something, and John Lennon, but it was hard to hear, so I don´t know. Anyway, so this was Hey Jude to its full length and then some, and it was epic. It´s always been a dream of mine to hear Hey Jude in concert because I´ve always imagined that would be incredible. And it was! The visuals were just kind of weird-- if I´m not mistaken, they were taken from Final Fantasy (a video game). But yeah, everyone in the audience sang along and Miro did all the screechy high parts and it was just great. Definitely my favorite, and a perfect end to the night. Dobru noc!
But wait! Nope, there was an encore... Or a few, anyway. I think the encore was five songs? At least half an hour! I´m not complaining. Miro´s daughter sang with him on one song. I think she must only be a teenager at the oldest; she seemed pretty terrified, clutching the microphone, but she did well.
As we left, the people who had been sitting next to us were remarking to each other about what a positive, wonderful person Miro is. And it´s true! He was so charismatic and obviously a really good guy. Not to mention a talented one. I had such a wonderful night. I couldn´t stop smiling afterwards!
I´m exhausted and I wanted to go to bed an hour ago. I have to get up early for tomorrow!