Always a good day for a waltz...

Our Memorial Day evening was spent with the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, whose very talented ensemble was chosen from nationwide auditions.  While I'm not proud to admit this, I do not know choreographic from tone poems or Richard from Johann (Strauss), but I will admit the pieces played tonight were moving and breathtaking.

 The night began with Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra...
About this sound sample
Its introduction fanfare, "Sunrise" has become known to the general public due to its use as a musical motif in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Der Freischutz
and Die Fiedermaus brought great cheers from the audience.  Ravel's La Valse has been described as a tribute to the waltz.  Most believe it is in fact a less sentimental reflection of post-World War I Europe  A fitting choice for the somberness of today.  While most of the waltzes, however, were whimsical.

The conductor, Emmanuel Villaume, chose Johann Strauss I's most famous piece, Radetzky March, as his encore.  While conducting the orchestra, he would turn and conduct us, the clapping audience, as well.  Loud clap...Quiet clap...No clap.  I have never been such a happy participant in such an impressive ensemble.  He was as fun to watch and the orchestra was to listen to.

A painter paints pictures on canvas. 
But musicians paint their pictures on silence. 
~Leopold Stokowski

Blog side note:  Steve had criticized my blog as being too verbose.  I apologize for that but am using this form to remember all that is swirling about us.  If the words are too excessive, feel free to skim!

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Marionettes, mommas and music...

Our Sunday began at an opera.  Not just your 'normal' opera however.   "...Haydn's Philemon and Baucis premiered in 1773 to welcome Empress Maria Theresa on her historic visit. Written for orchestra and voices in the pit and marionettes on stage, the opera recounts the story of how the gods Jupiter and Mercury reward Philemon and Baucis for their humble generosity. When you see this production, performed by the incomparable Colla Marionette Company, from Italy, with orchestra and soloists, you will understand why it was considered worthy of a royal visit."

Philemon hobbles across the stage toward his adoring wife Baucis with the slow deliberation of an aged man, and it's easy to forget he's a wooden marionette. The set, deftly hand-painted paper sheets that drop on either side of the stage to create layers of depth, amazes.  I could not believe the emotion these puppets evoked and I was crying over the sadness and then joy the characters expressed.  Extraordinary!

We then went to CONVERSATIONS WITH.  This interview with the Artistic Director Tory Durbin and company dancer, Robert Carter (a native Charlestonian and Olga Supphozova, who danced at the Opening Ceremony) of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo was like an extended encore from Saturday night's performance.  It helped that we were front row, center, sitting next to Robert's very proud momma!  The Piccolo Festival is what introduced ballet to him when he was 7 and now he is a very successful ballerino and a seemingly awesome man.  (The photo is of Steve and I with his mom).  What an enriching experience to hear all the details of this very entertaining group and their evolution.

The cute gal having a delicious dinner with us is Shana Allen.  Very long story about how we've come to know Shana but we do and she was a delight to dine with!  Fun to have such diverse company to be with!

Our day concluded in the very picturesque, outdoor College of Charleston's Cistern listening to Nailor "Proveta" Azevedo, the leader of the acclaimed Banda Mantiqueira big band and recognized as the finest saxophonist and clarinetist in Brazil.  With a quintet that includes the a pianist, a mandolin, a seven-string guitar and a pandeiro (Steve says it's a tambourine), Proveta lead us on a journey through Brazilian musical styles – from choro and samba.  Proveta said of choro, "This was born around 1870, from the Lundu, a dance of the first black slaves that had arrived in Brazil, and from polka brought by Bohemians to Rio De Janeiro."

A side note about his nickname, that totally had us chuckling.  "Proveta" is Portuguese for test tube.  Nailor was one of the first test tube babies in Brazil. 

So when asked, "How was Charleston?" I really don't think we could thoroughly do it justice with any amount of words.  It is indescribably fantastic.

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Tutus...too, too fun!

When we embraced the Spoleto Festival, we were asked to list the events that we specifically wanted to usher for and tonight's was one of the top on my list (not so much Steve's).

Described by Sunday Magazine Australia Meet Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, or as they're affectionately known, the Trocks. And should there be any lingering doubt, there's not a woman among them - despite the high quota of tutus, tiaras and tights onstage. In the words of their online blurb, the show is -a playful, entertaining view of traditional, classical ballet in parody form and en travesti. Or, to put It bluntly, ballet performed by blokes in drag.

Indescribable isn't a powerful enough word to sum up tonight.  What an evening of phenomenal talent and immeasurable entertainment.  Those blokes can dance!  I spoke with  a woman who was a ballerina and she repeated what we have read over and over, the Trocks have true ballet skills and technique that compares to any famous ballet troupe.  They just happen to be ballerinos!   With comedy and talent, they kept us mesmerized for over two hours!

If you would like to read more about what we're doing here, the local newspaper covered yesterday's events and summed up what the Festivals are all about. 

"The passion of the artists to excel mirrors life's duty to seek the best and to be the best,
to reject mediocrity." -Mayor Riley

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Opening day for both Festivals...

This morning we joined Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. and dignitaries as they officially opened the Spoleto season at Spoleto Festival USA's Opening Ceremonies in front of City Hall. We volunteers, our friend Sharon, festival goers, Charlestonians and guests gathered for the admission-free opening.  The musical prelude by Piccolo Spoleto's Brass Ensemble of Fanfare For the Common Man (Copland) almost made Steve cry.  It was that beautiful, as was the National Anthem sung by Robert McPherson (I did cry).  Robert Carter danced as Olga Supphozova from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.  I will explain this more tomorrow night after we usher for that performance.

Next stop was St. Matthew's Lutheran Church (1872) where we were moved by the powerful voices, uplifting messages and incredible talent.  Hands were clapping.  Toes were tapping.  The Charleston Symphony Orchestra Gospel Choir presented African American Sacred Songs III –The Good News Gospel: from Amadeus Mozart to Kirk Franklin, featuring traditional classical selections from Mozart and Handel, traditional spirituals, selections from Ellington's Sacred Songs, and contemporary gospel music from Timothy Wright, Kirk Franklin, and other noted gospel greats.

Our last event for Opening night was a spellbinding dance.  It is difficult to explain, but we laughed at times and were mostly in awe of the talent and creativity.  Wow. Under the direction of choreographer Andrea Miller, Gallim Dance has exploded onto the New York downtown dance scene. Fiercely physical and possessing a delicious strangeness and coiled sensuality...The company performed I Can See Myself in Your Pupil, a suite of dances set to an eclectic score incorporating sources as diverse as the Israeli band Balkan Beat Box and Puccini.

The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music. 
Bodies never lie.    ~Agnes de Mille


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Stasera abbiamo mangiato con amici...

We concluded our day with more friends, more food and more unforgettable memories.  Eduardo helped his mom, Alberta, serve a sumptuous dinner to Sharon, Steve and me.  We laughed about many things...American and Italian.  It was a night of new friendships. 

Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro.
Italian to English Translation: He who finds a friend, finds a treasure.

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Awesome company in more ways than one...

Today, we had the unique opportunity to tour a Charleston business, NanoScreen.  I learned of this very interesting company because Daniel and Michael came from California and they are sons of my dear, very proud of her boys, friend, Suzanne. 

Governor Mark Sanford said of NanoScreen's arrival to Charleston, "Raising the income levels for South Carolinians starts with attracting companies that create knowledge-based jobs. NanoScreen is exactly that type of leading-edge company we hope will continue to locate and grow in South Carolina."

After touring and meeting our Blog Fan, Deb, the four of us went to lunch at Vickery's on Shem Creek.  On the deck, overlooking this picturesque water way, we observed dolphins swimming and marveled in all this experience has allotted us. 
We have been pleased with every meal we've eaten and we continuously reflect on all the amazing company we've had for those meals. 

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Supper... Southern Style

Not to offend anyone whose house we have ever dined in, prior to last night, but we had a wonderful dinner with delightful hosts in the most amazing home we have ever had the pleasure to enter.

We met Steve at the Spoleto-Charleston Initiative meeting, when we first arrived.  He invited us to dine, at his home, and we were honored to do so.  Julie and Steve moved into their Antebellum home in 1989 and loving furnished the Cleland Kinloch Huger House to what it would be like upon its construction in 1857. 

The first photo does nothing to reveal the glorious Italian Renaissance Revival architecture hidden behind the entrance.  We felt we were invited into a museum- one that not only preserved the history of the era but the Southern hospitality and kindness, as well.

We dined on the piazza enjoying a perfect May evening with two very interesting and engaging people.  Charleston has exceeded our expectations in so many ways.  I told Julie that I needed to pinch myself.  It was just an extraordinary invitation that we are so pleased was extended to us.  It truly is a happy house and we were truly happy guests.

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Charmed with Charleston

Volunteering at the Visitors' Center continues to give us something to chuckle about.  The nicest people are purchasing tickets to the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.  Two cute ladies, Betty and Helen, are attending an event Steve and I are ushering and they made us promise to greet them when we see them.  Tickets sales are on the rise as opening day nears.  Some of our customers are the performers themselves.  Almost got one to sing... almost.

Our awesome friend Sharon joined us for lunch at Fish- a restaurant serving, "seasonally-inspired French-Asian fresco on the piazza...A warm, eclectic and inviting space, Fish resides in a beautifully renovated, 1837 Charleston single-style home in the heart of Charleston's Upper King Design District."

We were thoroughly pleased with our selections (pictured is my fried tofu).  The owner Russell, a friend of Sharon's (who isn't?), came by.  When she explained our connection to Charleston and Spoleto, Russell asked Steve and me, "Can I marry you?"  It was so unexpected and humorous.   Nice, neat guy. Delicious, delightful lunch.  Inspiring, inviting town.

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Today is a planned day of nothingness, if such a thing exists. 

The cows are our morning view from our rear window.  I have no idea where they wander at night, but each day begins with their sweet bovine faces looking at us.

The Piccolo Spoleto Opera poster is one that we see all over town and it just really makes us smile when we see it.  The faces of the singers, depicted on the poster, are whimsical.  The colors and feel of this artwork have touch me.  Some things just do that!

Often, while wandering in Charleston, we find ourselves only gazing upward at the incredible architecture that defines and decorates the roofs.  One day, we adjusted our view and were impressed by the quite beautiful water meter covers.  It was not a surprise from this town with intense "aesthetic" awareness.

A blog side note:  We are connecting with a friend's son, who owns a business here in Charleston, and this anonymous comment came from one of his employees.  How exciting that we have 'followers' on our blog!  We can't wait to meet them.

     Hi Denise and Steve,
I work for Daniel Dechert and have been following your blog, we have lived here only three years and it is fun to see Charleston through other's eyes. Looking forward to meeting you both next week when you come for a visit here! Enjoy, enjoy and enjoy. 

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Charleston Day 12...

Today was a more volunteering, tremendous walking, history absorbing and just delighting day.  Our volunteer time in the Visitors' Center allowed us to meet a lot of interesting people... the other workers included.  George, a tour guide, told us a great deal of local history which was a huge perk for working there.

We experienced a joggling board- something found normally found on a piazza (porch).  This board is "good for courting couples (the bouncing action moves you closer together) and for rheumatism (it provides gentile exercise).

Lunch was at Jestine's Kitchen which came recommended by several people.  How can you resist the review, "There isn't a better table anywhere to taste time-honored southern delights."  While waiting in line, we struck up a conversation with the lady in front of us and ended up dining with her and her husband.  Nancy and Ray are staying in our campground and their son lives in Temecula.  Small world.

We meandered taking various photos around town that depict Charleston's history and architecture:  The Hunley Submarine; unique earthquake bolts installed after the big quake of 1886; the Rhett-Aiken Double House, and the
"nationally significant" in relation to the history of the development of the railroad in America- Camden Depot.

Someone once said, of Historic Downtown Charleston, that he had spent his entire life here and each day he would notice something completely new to him, a surprise he had never seen before.  We know that even though we will be here for over a month, there will still be wonderment left for another visit.

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Piccolo Spoleto volunteering...

Today began our volunteer activities for the Piccolo Spoleto Festival...

The combination of historic Charleston's old European charm and the world-class Spoleto Festival USA together produce a unique and impacting synergy for all who come to the city by the sea to experience this magnificent international multi arts festival. But what really adds the ingredient of magic to the mix is Piccolo Spoleto, which provides access to the festival for Every Person, especially children. Focusing primarily on artists of the Southeast region, Piccolo Spoleto is the perfect complement to the international scope of its parent festival and its 700 events in 17 days, transforms Charleston into an exhilarating celebration of performing, literary and visual arts. Piccolo Spoleto's traditional program offerings include visual arts exhibits, classical music, jazz, dance, theatre, poetry readings, children's activities, choral music, ethnic cultural presentations, crafts, and film.

Our first four work 'shifts' are as meeters & greeters for visitors to the box office/ Visitors' Center.  In addition to helping with tickets sales, Steve was helpful with direction giving and restaurant recommending.  So fun to be able to be a part of Charleston!

Lunch was sharing a table, while dining on crepes, with some Charlestonians at the Farmers' Market.  We briefly scanned the fresh locally grown produce and food products as well as distinctive hand wrought arts & crafts while promising to return with more time to explore.  Farmers' Markets reveal a great deal about a place.

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Last day with the brothers...

Today was the last day, with my brothers, and we chose to explore the various islands and areas surrounding Charleston.  We picnicked at the beach on the Isle of Palms. We toured Ft. Moultrie, on Sullivan Island, with its long military history of protecting the harbor from invaders and we admired the homes on Daniel Island.

We laughed at Handerpants- Underwear for your hands- that not only prevents chafing but also "distracts your enemies."

Lunch was at our favorite Mexican restaurant- Rio Grande and we concluded the night, in their hotel watching a movie and eating popcorn... very family feeling.  It has been an warm, loving reunion and I can't wait until we get to do it again.
The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people
you might never even introduce yourself to,
had life not done it for you. 
~Kendall Hailey

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Blind tigers, RiverDogs and Sand Gnats... oh my!

We met up with Chuck after he played another round of golf, at The Links at Stono Ferry in Hollywood, SC.  Set amidst South Carolina Lowcountry breezes from the Intracoastal Waterway and centuries-old live oaks, Stono Ferry is a refuge from society's hustle.  We dined on sandwedges at the Stono Ferry Grill.

An afternoon drink on the historic patio of The Blind Tiger Pub was a necessity.  I did say it was "historic"! 
A bar has operated at this location since 1803. The name "Blind Tiger" comes from the days before Prohibition and speakeasies when Charlestonians opened up illegal "parlors of consumption."

Keeping with an animal theme, hot dogs were consumed at 'The Joe', Charleston's home for their Class A minor league baseball team (NY Yankees)...The RiverDogs.  The stadium is amazing!
From nearly every spot in the facility, fans can get to a rest room or a concession stand within a 45-second walk.  High on our list of necessities!  While the 'Dogs' lost to the Savannah Sand Gnats, the evening was tremendously entertaining and we all thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the night.  Chuck said that the barbecue pork nachos were the best thing he has ever eaten at a ball park! 

One of the most overwhelmingly wonderful components of our visit to Charleston has been Southern hospitality (a phrase used in American English to describe the generalization that residents of the Southern United States are particularly warm and welcoming to visitors to their homes, or to the South in general).  Everyone we have met has been incredibly kind and we are finding that to be our most favorite part of the trip, thus far.

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