Saturday, September 24, 2016

Soul Unlimited

Last night, in order to salvage a really blah day, I spontaneously decided to get tickets to a Utah Symphony concert.  I have season tickets to the Masterworks Series but last night's concert was part of the Entertainment Series and I'm really glad that I decided to go!  The Utah Symphony is always a good idea!  Last night the orchestra was joined by Ellis Hall in an evening billed as Soul Unlimited!  Ellis is an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist who covers all of the great soul music from Marvin Gaye to Ray Charles to the Temptations.  The concert was as good as I imagined it would be and the assembled crowd in Abravanel Hall agreed with me.  Ellis performed the classics, such as "Get Ready," "Unchain My Heart," "Georgia," "What'd I Say," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "How Sweet It Is," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Signed Sealed Delivered," "Just My Imagination," "Soul Man," and "Higher and Higher."  These songs had me singing, clapping, tapping my toes, and, eventually, dancing in the aisle.  However, my very favorite numbers were a bit unconventional.  Ellis performed a fantastic version of "Let's Dance" by David Bowie which I really enjoyed.  Then he performed a sultry arrangement of "Something" by George Harrison that absolutely blew me away.  That is one of my favorite songs and what he did with it was incredible.  I was definitely not expecting that!  It was a wonderful evening after a really lazy day.  This concert is being performed again tonight (go here for tickets) and I highly recommend it!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Last Ship at PTC

I've always been a big fan of Sting.  I've seen him in concert many times, including a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver and then another one the very next night at the Maverik Center in SLC.  I was so excited when I learned that PTC would be opening the 2016-2017 season with The Last Ship, the Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Sting about the community he grew up in.  This year I decided to get a rush pass to PTC, which means that I can get a ticket to any show on any night 30 minutes before curtain if tickets are available.  I had planned to see The Last Ship last night because I thought it would be a nice way to celebrate making it though the week of parent teacher conferences.  Then I heard a rumor that Sting would be attending this performance.  I thought it would be amazing to see this show with Sting in the audience so I watched the availability of tickets all day.  There were fewer and fewer tickets available as the day went on and when it got down to the last few tickets I bit the bullet and just bought one!  I ended up sitting six rows behind him and he seemed visibly emotional when the audience would respond to something.  After the show, he got up on stage and, in an emotional speech, told the crowd how much he enjoyed the production and thanked us for being an amazing audience!  It was so fun!  I really loved the show!  In fact, I'm thinking of going to see it again since I have the rush pass.  Gideon Fletcher (Bryant Martin) wants to leave his hometown of Wallsend, England despite the fact that his father wants him to follow in his footsteps and work at the local shipyard.  When he leaves, he promises his girlfriend Meg (Ruthie Stephens) that he will come back for her.  After fifteen years, he returns when he learns of his father's death to discover that the shipyard has been closed and that he has a son.  It is a wonderful story about the power of community and the relationship between fathers and sons that is both funny and heartwarming.  I loved all of the music including "All This Time" and "When We Dance," which I was familiar with, and "If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor" and "We've Got Now't Else."  Both Martin and Stephens have amazing voices and give very powerful performances.  I loved the innovative choreography, especially when they are building the ship in "We've Got Now't Else."  The set design is extremely clever, transitioning from a dock, to a shipyard, to a pub, and then the ship itself very easily with the movement of large steel panels and grids.  Really, everything about this production is wonderful and I highly recommend this show, even without Sting in the audience, which runs through October 1.  Go here for tickets.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Eight Days a Week

Because of Homecoming and parent teacher conferences, I had to wait until last night to see Ron Howard's wonderful documentary about the Beatles, Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years.  Those of you who know how much I love the Beatles will understand how hard that was for me!  I love the Beatles and I really loved this film.  It spans the years between 1962-1966 and showcases some of their earliest performances at the Cavern Club in Liverpool up to their final concert at Candlestick Park.  As I've mentioned, I am obsessed with the Beatles which means I've seen just about everything ever released about the fab four (I own The Beatles Anthology) and there were a lot of photos and footage included that I had never seen before.  I really enjoyed seeing early concerts in the UK and  concerts during their first world tour (especially in Australia) juxtaposed with the iconic Ed Sullivan Show performance and the epic concert in Shea Stadium.  The documentary does a great job chronicling the excitement  and mayhem of Beatlemania in the early years and then the growing discontent with touring when audiences seemed more interested in the spectacle rather than the music.  It includes contemporary interviews with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr as well as archival interviews with John Lennon and George Harrison and it also includes interviews with people (famous and not so famous) who were their earliest fans.  Both of my favorite quotes come from Elvis Costello.  He points out how in tune they sound during their performances, which he considers to be remarkable considering the fact that they couldn't hear themselves with all of the screaming.  He also talks about his reaction to the album Rubber Soul (my favorite album in which the Beatles begin experimenting with sounds which couldn't be replicated on stage).  He didn't know if he liked it when he heard it for the first time and then he couldn't imagine his life without it a few weeks later!  As ever, the best part of any film about the Beatles is the music and I really appreciate the fact that Howard shows most songs in their entirety instead of just snippets.  It is almost like being at a Beatles concert and I highly recommend this film to all Beatles fans!

Note:  As I walked out of the theater a woman standing near the exit took my arm and whispered, "Wasn't that fun?"  Yes.  Yes it was!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Whale Watching

Several years ago, while on an Alaskan cruise, I was able to go whale watching and I remember it being one of the most exhilarating things I've ever done!  When I found out that there were whale watching tours available in Sydney, I had my tour guide sign me up!  I made my way to Darling Harbour early in the morning on my second day in Sydney and went on a three-hour cruise.  I was able to see several whales on their annual migration to Antarctica and it was absolutely thrilling!
Can you see the whale coming up for air?
Here is another whale coming up for air.
Two whales cavorting!
Luckily the man next to me had a much better camera (with a much bigger lens) and he sent me these pictures!
In addition to the whale watching, there were some other amazing views.  I absolutely loved this lighthouse!
Sydney skyline.
Another view of the Sydney Opera House.
Some views while going under the bridge.
I was a little bit windblown afterwards but it was such an incredible experience!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


I loved Sydney!  I wish I could have stayed there a bit longer (or forever) because there is so much to do and see.
Our first stop was in the Royal Botanic Gardens for a spectacular view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from a peninsula in the harbour.
Our next stop was Bondi Beach, which is a surfer's paradise.
The water was incredibly cold (although that didn't stop the surfers) but I think the ocean is so relaxing and I probably could have stayed there all day.
Next was a trip up the Sydney Tower for some amazing views of the city.
The afternoon ended with a private tour of the Sydney Opera House which is impressive, to say the least.  It was designed to look like a series of sails and there is a fascinating story about how it came to be built.
I spent the evening in an area of Sydney called "The Rocks" which is the site of the first European settlement in Australia.  Most of the original buildings were built by convict labor but many have since been torn down.  However, there are some historical pubs in the area (almost all claiming to be the oldest pub in Australia) and I went on a fun pub crawl with a guide and visited the Mercantile (pictured above), the Lord Nelson, and The Hero of Waterloo.

Note:  I am featured on the the Go Ahead travel blog!  Go here for my musings on this once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia and New Zealand!
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