Thursday, June 07, 2007

Home from Birmingham

Alex and I are home from Birmingham. We had a wonderful trip. Watching Mathias dance in the choreography performances was amazing. Monday, however, was Mathias' only day off while we were there. It was the most incredible day. We went to Warwick and visited the cathedral, climbed the bell tower, and spent the rest of the time at the famous castle. Our entire family had visited there in December 2001.

Quite a few things have changed since our earlier trip. First, there are birds of prey that perform several times a day. The show was great. It included an enormous and beautiful bald eagle. The birds all were tethered in nice enclosures near an arboretum with the peacocks, so we could see them up close after the show...although they were nearly dive bombing us on their approach to their masters during the show!

Yet, the most incredible change is the addition of a trebuchet. Of course, I had no idea what this was but both boys have played enough Medieval Warfare that we were headed there as soon as we arrived. This is a giant machine like a catapult that had been used in medieval times to sling concrete boulders and fireballs against fortifications. There is a pulley with a rope that brings the big crane-like arm down to be loaded and then sprung. It is operated by two big hamster-like wheels operated by two men in each...walking. We sat on a grassy embankment near the river to watch the noon show. They called for volunteers for the 3:00 PM show when a fireball would be thrown over 230 meters down the island on which the trebuchet is built. Of course, Alex and Mathias wanted to volunteer. We had to lie about Alex's age but it worked.

I hope the photos are good. I plan on putting all my images onto the computer in the next day or so. Several will be posted here. More will appear on my other blog, For My Family at In any event, it was absolutely incredible to see this thing, the trebuchet work up close. The audience viewing area was a grassy field across the river from the island. Because the boys were in the hamster wheels, I got to be close to the machine. The fireball was totally under the grass two hundred plus meters away.

Our last day in England was Tuesday. Alex spent the time with his new found friends and buying his girlfriend a present. She turned eighteen while we were away. I was able to attend the afternoon rehearsal of Coppelia. Amazingly, it was in costume even though dress rehearsal wasn't until that evening. The first cast corps were performing but another cast were dancing the main parts. This was in order to give Joseph Caley and Carol Anne Miller more stage time in as Franz and Swanhilda. The others cast in these roles have all performed the parts.

The dancing was glorious. I love mazurkas and found these to be among the best I've ever seen. The costumes were perfectly beautiful. I could go on and on about the sets, but the most fabulous part of the rehearsal was watching the hard working crew change the scenery. This is generally done behind the curtains and the sound-proof fire screen. At this rehearsal, it was open for viewing and utterly fascinating to watch one huge set be unassembled while the next, even bigger set, was being constructed. It was a total education unfolding before me. My appreciation for theater, especially for ballet, was enhanced by this rare opportunity.

I was not the only person in the audience area. Of course, David Bintley was there with several people. Many had head phones but most just used raised voices to communicate with the stage director and the conductor who had just the rehearsal pianist in the orchestra pit. Sir Peter Wright was also there. Thus, this was a very special time to see a ballet come together before opening night. Also, dancers, like Mathias, who were not in a scene but were cast in the roles being rehearsed were also in the auditorium....practicing. I watched several young men, including Mathias, all "practicing" in the aisles. Mathias only appears in the last act with the first cast but he is in both the first and last act with the second act. That night, dress rehearsal, the second cast would be performing.

There was a break at 5 PM. Alex was there, on time. He and I said our good-byes to Mathias in the lobby and then went to collect our luggage. Soon thereafter, we were headed for the Renaissance Hotel outside Heathrow Airport via the superb rail system. The next morning our flight departed at 8 AM and by the afternoon across the time zones we were in Charlotte. Steve collected us at the airport in a brand new, silver Scion xB which he bought while we were gone. He traded the newly repaired Scion in for this one.

Today, I was back at work....headed to Leonard Long's brand new multi-million dollar home outside the exclusively private Cassique golf course on Kiawah to hang over-sized pictures. With any luck, I'll be back on the computer to contrast and color correct photos and back in my studio working on art. By the way, another piece from my "In Box" series sold while I was gone. So my count is now back down to having two pieces done for my solo exhibition at Francis Marion. I did, however, complete the hand stitching on four new pieces for my "Elements of Architecture" series while in England.

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