The heat wave in Philly broke in time for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s return to the Mann Center and their annual Tchaikovsky with Fireworks program. There was a distinct sense of musical occasion since these are conductor Rossen Milanov‘s final weeks as director of the orchestra’s summer series. Milanov was having fun on the podium, rapturously engaged with his musicians and the music.
This concert displayed Milanov’s comprehensive understanding of Tchaikovsky’s music. The opening Polonaise, from Eugene Onegin, pulsed with detailing and musical subtexts that can often be lost in the composer‘s theatricality. Tight counterpoints made the Marche Slave, referencing the Serb folk and Russian musicality, is much clearer under Milanov, than just a military musicale.
Orchestral unity highlighted The Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello and orchestra. Efe Baltacigil, assistant principal cello, opened up this demanding work with impressive clarity, even with a technical gaffe or two. Mostly, Baltacigil delivered quiet virtuosity, yet not backing away from Tchaikovsky’s soulful interiors.
Milanov is a seasoned ballet conductor and he brings that precise sense of symphonic narrative to the selections from Swan Lake with the audience weighing in with lusty applause during the pauses. It was easy to visualize Odile’s entrance, cygnets dance and especially the Spanish divertissements led by the horniest of trumpeters, David Bilger. Standout performances by flutist David Cramer and Elizabeth Hainen’s glittering harp field that interlocks with Juliette Kang’s haunted gypsy violin.
The sumptuous cello section made the opening passages of the 1812 Overture just as thrilling as those famous cannon crescendos and fire filling the night. A great evening of Tchaikovsky with the fireworks hanging in the city skyline and a full looking moon on the rise.
Lt. Dan Choi, 29 yr. old Arab linguist who served 2 tours in Iraq and until today serving as Infantry platoon leader in the New York Army National Guard, has finally received his dismissal for being an openly gay US soldier.
Here are excerpts of his interview with Rachel Maddow. He started his public protest of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policies by coming out on her show 16 months ago.
“First time I’m a civilian since I was 18. As much as you build up your armor and get ready for those words…saying that your fired. You can’t deal with that pain and the emotion.
“Being in the closet is a poison…”
“There are so many that have a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in their own hearts and in their own homes. They deal with that same kind of enforced shame and that kind of enforced hatred of themselves. It tears away at the fabric of who they are.”
“The meaning of service, the meaning of our country is not wrapped up in a sentiment or an emotion or an argument about what the uniform signifies. That uniform that I put on, that I’ve worn since my very first days at West point that stands for fighting for freedom and justice. and if there is no fighting for freedom and justice, then nobody deserves to wear that uniform.”
“There is no need for a survey, there is no need for a poll, there is no need for people to put up shower curtains because somebody is afraid of what might happen. I’ve been serving for 17 months quite openly and I’ve seen nothing but positive impact when you tell people around you, people you work with, the truth about who you are. There’s nothing but an increase in unit cohesion, in teamwork and trust.”
Filmmaker Bob Christie globetrotted for a year filming his powerful documentary Beyond Gay: The politics of pride. For all those who think that gay pride marches are just occasions for sex, drugs and costumes as important as all of that is, this film is a reminder that symbolically pride parades mean much more.
An antigay mob roughed up the filmmakers while they were shooting the first successful gay parade in Moscow. It was staged in front of Tchaikovsky Hall and at the Canadian embassy with a small band of gay Russians faced hostile protesters. Christie follows the circuit of parades on four continents from the 3 million strong in São Paulo, Brazil to the handful that have to stage a stealth demonstration in the rabidly homophobic Sri Lanka. It is an inspiring call to arms for global involvement, awareness and activism for GLBTQ human rights.
Bahaman filmmaker Kareem Mortimer told the audience at the screening of his stirring drama Children of God that he chose the tragic end of a love affair between a white art student and a black musician because it reflected the reality of what was happening there. This love story is set against a religious and political campaign in the Bahamas against gays.
“During the time we were shooting the film, there were five murders that happened in the block around me. I decided on that ending so, like it or not, people will have some feeling to want to do something.” This film is a vital political drama that has the power to move hearts and minds.
In the theater lobby, Mortimer talked about why he made the film. “I wanted to try to change things in the society I live in…how these hateful attitudes can turn into something really violent and ugly.”
Mortimer said there is no social networking either “There was a group called Rainbow Alliance but they disbanded, so right now there is no GLBT group in the Bahamas. There is nowhere for people to go when something happens. It’s a big hush little secret. It’s the worse thing you could be and the worse thing you could support, so no one is going to do anything.” he said.
“The Bahamas is only 50 miles off of the coast of Florida, but GLBT life is completely hidden and is openly condemned by the straight world there. Fortunately in the arts community “there were people there of influence who wanted to see a film like this made…to speak to the whole issue of homophobia and hate crimes. It actually was quite easy to raise funds for the film and get people on board, easier than I anticipated.” Mortimer said.
In the film, a minister condemns homosexuals as an elaborate cover for being on the dl himself. “The closeted minister is very common.” He based the character on an incident that happened to him. “ I actually saw a preacher in a gay bar and asked him if he was so and so “I’m not, in here.” he said.
Part of the reason Mortimer wanted to make this film is because even Brokeback Mountain was banned in the Bahamas. The director said he was enjoying his stop in Philly for Qfest and is looking forward to Children of God’s theatrical release in the US. He is strategizing the release in the Bahamas. “I’d show it for free there.”
Dashed to the last screening of the film festival half an hour early to avoid another downpour. Since last week I’ve been hammered four times on the bike and twice sat through dodgy films in soggy socks. I don’t even want to know what the remains of my mangey hair looked like. Anyway, missed the storm tonight with enough time for a stroll around Capenter Sq. a block from Independence Hall for some outdoor real special effects. The storm started to lay in on the trees and the steel gray clouds out of a Remington etching seemed to time lapse over the the clock tower. I stayed 30 seconds too long and it was old soggy socks again. All worth it though because the so-so film had a scene that was so close to a moment Jack and I had together when we got our first apartment. On the way home, I tried to remember exactly what we said in that moment, but I could only remember looking at him as I caught a glimpse of the half- moon hung low in a cobalt sky against the city skyline.