Monday, August 17, 2009

Sweet 16, Part I: Beautiful Music

Last Friday Susan and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary! Unfortunately, the world did not know that it was our anniversary, so it scheduled several events for this past weekend that required our presence and prevented us from planning anything for just the two of us. However, we had a lot of fun as a family, highlights of which I'll share with you, Faithful Reader!

I had offered to take the girls shopping to buy an anniversary gift for Mommy (telling them that daddies don't need anniversary gifts), and they decided on a "Sweet 16" theme, buying Susan a variety of candies all covered in dark chocolate (which she loves but I don't): Hershey's Kisses, M&M's, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Ghirardelli Squares, and Brookside Chocolate Bowl chocolate-dipped pomegranate pieces. They also selected a couple CDs of love songs. Such sweet girls on our "Sweet 16th"! That gift opening began our day.

Then it was off to a concert featuring Abigail and Suzanna! In the local schools, band starts for interested students in fifth grade, and the junior high music teacher offers daily band lessons the first two weeks of August for students going into fifth grade so that they can learn how to put together their instruments, hold them properly, read music for them, and play them in order to be ready for band class at the start of school. Suzanna attended last summer to learn the trombone, and Abigail signed up this summer to learn the saxophone.

This was the first summer that the junior high teacher offered lessons, too, for young band students with just a year or two of experience, so Suzanna signed up for those. After a couple weeks of Abigail's going to band lessons in the morning and Suzanna's going in the afternoon, the summer session ended Friday with a concert at 11:00 A.M. in the high school auditorium. Abigail's group was first, and there were 48 of them! They sounded pretty darned good for novices who had had only a few minutes of instruction for just two weeks before putting on a concert! They were followed by Suzanna's group . . . of 12 kids (compare: there were 11 kids in Abigail's alto sax section alone)! But they sounded terrific, and Suzanna was very easy to pick out, sounding strong and accurate. Susan and I were quite proud.

We did something very fun in the middle of the day, but you'll have to check back for details on that in a separate post.

We ended the day Friday with another concert: a performance at our church by Strikepoint,a renowned handbell choir from Duluth, MN. Suzanna played in the handbell choir at church this past year, so we've had this concert on our calendar for quite some time. Wow, were they terrific! There were 11 ringers who played songs arranged for many more ringers so that they had worked out intricate share-and-trade routines with their bells so that everybody could cover all the parts written in each song. They played a variety of types of bell and chime instruments, including some that they had made themselves out of wide gray plastic tubing, partly to show that they could do it and partly to avoid paying $13,000 to buy the three huge bells for which the homemade tubes were a substitute!

Strikepoint impressed us with their precision, speed, musicality, and humor. They could switch easily from the heart-breaking beauty of songs whose titles even sound serious (e.g., "Gethsemane" and "Te Deum") to the amazing tempos and lighthearted spirit of "Blue Rondo à la Turk" by Dave Brubeck and Alan Menken's "Under the Sea" from Disney's The Little Mermaid. The director (who played during each song instead of standing in front of them with a baton) provided commentary between numbers and was pretty funny and energetic himself. One ringer donned Biblical garb while they played "Go Down, Moses," and they all put on tropical shirts, sunglasses, and fish-themed hats and necklaces to play "Under the Sea."

On that same song, they got the audience involved by passing out little bottles for us to blow bubbles throughout the song, and they tossed out two inflated beach balls for us to keep tossing back and forth as they played. The sound of whoops and snapping fingers and the sight of people rising from the pews to bat beach toys across the church made me think for a moment that we were back at our previous church, where this sort of thing was as likely to occur during a weekly sermon as during a concert, instead of at our current church, which seems more staid and traditional. But everyone in attendance got "into" it and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.

In typical Moberg style, we sat as close to the front of the church as possible, so we had the perfect seats from which to see all the action. It was fun to watch the musicians' facial expressions and the mechanics of their playing: how they laid out the instruments before a song, how they traded bells back and forth in the middle of a number, how they turned the pages of one another's music when one person was playing but the next had a measure or two or rest, etc. And they invited everybody to come up afterwards to try out the instruments for ourselves and to visit and ask questions. We walked to and from the church for the concert, and we had plenty of "Wow!" types of comments to share as we walked home. What a treat for our entire family!

(Be sure to check back to find out how we spent the middle of the day on Friday . . . and how our anniversary celebration continued into Saturday!)

Strikepoint's performance of "Fantasy #3 in G Minor"


  1. This is so neat! I had gone to the web site of Strikepoint and listened to their two sample pieces before realizing that you had a YouTube sample for our listening pleasure! Awesome! Very wonderful! I've often thought it would be fun to learn the hand bells. My church here has them as well. May have to look into that.....hmm...

    Nice that Susan received all the gifts for herself! Too bad for you that you don't enjoy dark chocolate. I don't either. Congratulations once again on another year together!

  2. 1. Thank you for the yummy gifts! If you want to sample anything, I'm happy to share :-)

    2. Both of the concerts -- while vastly different -- were lots of fun. It was really neat to watch our daughters watch Strikepoint.