It was a 33 hour drive, in a minivan full of oil paintings of symphonies, from Salem, Oregon, to downtown Chicago for the League of American Orchestras annual conference. I loved the drive, fatiguing as it was. I had an overnight visit with family in North Salt Lake and was touched by the way they rallied around me to offer encouragement before sending me further down the road. Traveling east from the Wasatch Front in Utah, was Wyoming, stunning in desolate beauty. Then all the way across Nebraska’s prairies, serenely mimnimal. And then my first time through Iowa, comforting and gentle with verdant knolls. I really loved Iowa. I left Illinois for the last day of driving and entered Chicago with time to spare.
I parked at the loading dock of the Palmer House Hotel and gracelessly moved large paintings on ill-fitted luggage carts up freight elevators. Behind the other paintings I had on display, my painting of Chicago Symphony rested under a new canvas drape awaiting its unveiling during the conference. When I unveiled it, I described that in the history of music there have only been dozens of symphony paintings. I hoped to be the one to paint thousands of classical musicians before I am done. This piece, a little unlike others, is more about seeing the music, and my inability, when watching the symphony at work, to focus on the whole symphony at once. Rather, my focus drifts between musicians and the conductor, continually moving, like the air full of vibration.
Last night I watched Chicago Symphony from the sixth floor balcony, its floor so sloped forward it seemed that at any moment a patron could topple forward over the precipice and into the chasm of the balcony below. Maestro Riccardo Muti has left an impression of great character and grace on my imagination. He is subtle and vibrant. He seemed extremely communicative to the musicians as well as the audience. This is a gorgeous symphony. Yo-Yo Ma danced all over his cello for a Shostakovich symphony that my ears are not yet refined enough to properly appreciate. Though sacrilegious to say, I would have given my right foot for him to do Ennio Morricone instead. The pre-concert lecture was almost my favorite part: entertaining and incredibly informative. Chicago has left an enriching and colorful impression on me.