Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Return of the Barbizon Hotel

My dear friend Eleanor passed along this article earlier this week and it was so "familiar and comforting", to use the author's words, but such an interesting concept, and I felt compelled to share it.

Any group of female friends I've ever had has landed on the idea of living as a group—beyond the college dorm—naturally. Plans for a "commune" of close friends and their families have been a long-running dream. I guess these days, with increasingly broad technology, education and opportunity leading people to be spread far and wide away from their original homes, it's more of a Utopian idea than it was long ago, when people grew up and grew old in the same town alongside their lifelong friends and neighbors.

For some reason Anne Shirley of the Anne of Green Gables books comes to mind. As a female character at the turn of the century, she was among the first generation of women who began to leave their hometowns to go to school far away, and then marry and live even further from her original home and her closest friend. Our "modern day" ability to move freely about the world and make plans and achieve things independent of our families or others is freeing and empowering, but sometimes it's a little bit solitary in a lonesome sort of way too. It might be nice if we still lived in some modern iteration of a fancy girls boarding house.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to sound malcontent with independence, I quite like having my own space and my own things and my own cat. But it would be awfully nice to have all my friends on the other side of the wall.

Friday, November 4, 2011


This fall, I signed up to volunteer taking tickets and handing out programs for the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera. I've always liked going to the symphony, and I figured hey, serving the community AND going to concerts—perfect combo!

I've worked at a couple now, but last night was the first night I was able to stay for the concert following my program-distributing duties. The first piece they played was Bach ... and I have to say, I've concluded I'm just not a fan of the guy's music. It's always too frilly, it makes me think of French people who would have been friends with Marie Antoinette, wearing pastel colored silk suits and fluffy white wigs, frolicking around in the palace gardens. Last night that image was probably enhanced by the harpsichord, which was pretty cool to see despite let-them-eat-cake brain associations, but still, the Bach was not my favorite.

The main piece of the night was Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C-minor—you know, dut-dut-dut-DUHHH, a refrain which apparently Beethoven referred to as "the knocking of fate." That was pretty neat, as I've never seen this famous piece performed live, and the CSO (of course) did a terrific job.

I've left my favorite for last, even though it came second in the line-up. Mozart's Symphonia Concertante in E-flat Major, a piece whose attribution to Mozart is a bit dubious, according to the program, is perfect for fall. The second movement, the adagio, was the best part of the whole evening for me. If the Bach made me think of Versailles, this adagio made me think of a manor somewhere England. It sounded like being in a library at night, dark and warm, nestled into the corner of a big, green, velvet sofa, watching a fire crackle and drinking hot chocolate with some irish cream mixed in—i.e., exactly where I want to be.

The beginning of the third movement, which was more upbeat, for some reason made me think of "A Muppet's Christmas Carol" (always a plus), upping my already burgeoning excitement for this year's holiday season.

I really don't know much about classical music, but in high school I used to listen to Mozart while I studied because I read somewhere that it helped your brain focus better, and his music always seems to be my favorite of the classical variety. Mournful phrases appear throughout, but overall it's joyful and hopeful but substantial and warm. After the piece was over, I looked over the program notes, which said that the adagio gives a sense of "blessedness," and I think that's a perfect description.

If you're in town, they'll be playing it all weekend, and I recommend stopping by.