Sunday, October 16, 2011

Meaure R, AVC, and 1,000 Magic Hours

In cinematography, to shoot just before and after sunset --- a time of day when the light turns the sky golden with ethereal beauty, and, with it, the faces of the actors --- is called shooting during the magic hour.  AVC yesterday held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Performing Arts Theatre that happened to have been scheduled for the magic hour, and that coincidence prompts these brief comments on the event and about what's yet to come.

The time?  Magic hour.  The place?  Measure-R's gift from the community back to the community: the new Theatre.  Thanks to the generosity and foresight of the District's voters, we are now seeing completion of one major project after another on campus.  The event?  First the ribbon-cutting, followed by a performance by the Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale.

While the term "ribbon-cutting" is a common one in civic events, I for one remain excited by the magical transformation of an under-construction project to one finally (at last!) "now open to the public."  Here we see the members of advisory committees and the Board of Trustees, not about to cut the ribbon, but actually doing it.  With a special nod to Scholar in Residence Matthew Jaffe, here is the exact moment in time that history happened.

For many on campus, the twenty-odd years that this project has been in process has made it seem as if the first foundation would never get poured, let alone the final ribbon be cut.  Babies have been born, have grown up, have started at AVC and graduated, all in the space of time it took to get this dream realized.  Even once started, it seemed to take forever.  Here is AVC Journalism student Vanessa Hines documenting process on the Theatre as it was being built.

One of the Klassen foremen, a lovely gentleman named James Williamson, was kind enough to pose a bit for my own shots.  I asked him if building something this hard and this complex was a particular challenge.  "Shucks, no," he said. "We don't even need to check the instruction manual.  Now trying to figure out why your office roof always leaks in the LS1 building --- now THAT'S a real challenge!"

Maybe the complexity and the magic of building it mislead me: it turns out, trying to get the building funded and built was only part of the equation.  Next?  Now we have to find ways to staff it, clean it, light it, and maintain it.  As somebody who had a small part in the inaugural event, I was inside the theatre during rehearsals.  Without an audience, the room looked grand yet forlorn, as if it sensed the fiscal crisis that is keeping it unstaffed and empty.

Yet the emptiness was illusory, or at least I might say temporary.  Ribbons cuts and drinks poured, cars parked and violins tuned, at 8:04 pm on 15 October 2011, the Grand Opening Season of the Antelope Valley Symphony began.  The program was an ambitious one.  Titled "Symphonic Cinema," it would survey and celebrate the scores from 16 different movies and television shows, plus feature another nine briefer pieces played as traveling music while guest speakers left their seats and mounted the podium.  The room was alive with excitement.

One of the things I have always admired about Dr. David Newby is the breadth of his musical knowledge.  It seems as if he knows everything, and, certainly, his tastes are wide and varied.  Here are just three things we were able to consider on that night's program: Tara, from Gone With the Wind; the entry music from The Dick van Dyke Show; and, of course, my favorite --- Star Wars.

Williams's music for Star Wars is ranked number 1 of all movie scores by the American Film Institute, and he also wrote scores for ET, Jaws, Schindler's List, Indian Jones, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and many others.  In introducing his piece, I made some fancy-pants remarks about neo-German Romanticism, trying to see a connection between Beethoven's Eroica symphony, Strauss's Thus Spoke Zarathustra (the "2001" music), and the struggle of individuals striving to master their fates. 

What everybody remembered though was not my ersatz musical theory, but my impression of the studio moguls mocking George Lucas for trading his director's fee for the merchandizing rights.  Oh that yokel, they said.  Some dumb kid from a community college.  Get him: he's such a rube, he wants the TOYS!  As I said then and still feel now, they laughed all the way to cocktail hour.  George Lucas laughed all the way to the bank.

An ambitious program, excellent musicianship, crisp directing, near flawlessly-arranged video clips, and insightful, passionate introductions to the movie scores made this event a real triumph for the AV Symphony, for the college, and for the AV as a whole: by gumption, we've arrived!  Not the "magic hour" singular, but magic hours, plural.

Here is the audience, leaping up for a standing ovation at the final piece's conclusion.  Sorry for the blur: my camera was leaping to its feet at the same time.

So what's next?  For the AV Symphony itself, 19 November will be a "Fate and Fortune" evening.  Before then we have the Concert Band with Berkeley Price, we have dance performances, and we may even have the campus rock band Test Flight --- though where the mosh pit will go in the new space, I am less sure.  I was thinking though of a larger question.  That came from watching the Dean of Math, Science, and Engineering, the wise and affable Dr. Les Uhazy, rehearse for his introduction to the Twilight Zone and other classic 1960s-era television programs.

After all, Measure R is not yet finished.  (Education: give the gift that keeps on giving.)  "I spy with my little eye"... well, I spy re-bar and insulation, coils of electrical conduit and palace-tall support beams.  We are now perhaps just a year away from another ribbon cutting, this time for the 107,000 square foot Health and Sciences Building.  That too has been rising slowly but inexorably.

Soon enough, another magic hour will be at hand.  Will it be windy?  Probably.  But no matter how bad the budget stays, I am sure that sooner or later we'll find a way to get this building finished and wired and carpeted and lit and staffed and filled with students.  In fact, for the opening, it has come to me in a dream, what the ribbon-cutting event should look like:

Maybe I can even convince Dr. Newby to play the theme from Thus Spoke Zarathustra at the opening.  After all, I still have about two hours of remarks left over about the expressive traditions of  German Romanticism....

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