Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cascade Winds Symphonic

You know that feeling you get when you are in a remote wilderness that is so beautiful you wish you could experience it with your good friends? Or when you are in a touristy city and find a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with the best food you have ever had? You feel like you have stumbled into a gold mine and just can't wait to talk about it. That's how I feel each time I see the Cascade Winds Symphonic perform.

I don't remember my first experience seeing them, but it was about 4 years ago. They perform 3 times a year, during the "school year" and I have missed only a couple performances since then. What I still can't believe is that there are any open seats. Unlike the Central Oregon Symphony, which performs three performances at the Bend High auditorium to a consistently packed house (based on the Sunday afternoon performances I attend), the Cascade Winds Symphonic performs at the smaller, yet more comfortable, Summit High theater for one performance only. And the crowd is about 70% capacity, regardless of the weather.

The kicker is that these performances are absolutely free. Donations are, of course, welcomed and definitely needed, but you can walk in the door, have a seat and enjoy the music free of charge if you like. (The donations are used to help the performers defray the cost *to them* to participate. Can you believe they would have to pay to entertain us?) The quality of the concerts is comparable to anything you would see in a symphony hall in a big city. These musicians are energetic, personable, and out there socializing with the audience during the intermission snack breaks (which are also free, but donation-based). The people of Bend don't know what a treasure we have in these symphony opportunities.

I am not a musician, but I enjoy learning about music. When I was a child, I had a record album called "Children's Introduction to Good Music" which walked through the entire symphony and told the difference between all the instruments and what they sounded like. When my daughter got to the age where she could sit through a performance, I was determined to expose her to the symphony. The Bend symphonies made that possible. Granted, she still falls asleep during them once in a while, but I can tell it is opening her eyes to music, composers, instruments; teaching her not to clap between movements of a piece; and causing her to ask why there are percussion instruments in a wind symphony. I encourage anyone with children to attend these performances. For the most part, the audience is tolerant of children who might be restless, kids love the snack time, and you can always get up and leave knowing you aren't out a pocket-full of dollars for the limited experience.

As a starter, I recommend the Cascade Winds Symphonic over the Central Oregon Symphony for the following reasons: the Summit theater chairs are more comfortable, the venue is smaller and easier to navigate with kids (more leg room), the music is generally more upbeat (keeps kids attention), and there are no tickets required. (The Central Oregon Symphony requires tickets, but they are free at many locations.)

Check out the websites for more information and upcoming concerts. You'll be glad you did, and amazed that this caliber of performance has been here all along, just waiting to be experienced.

Monday, February 22, 2010

An Olympic Caliber Birthday

We normally downplay V's even-numbered birthdays, but because this year was an Olympic year, I just couldn't resist. I figured that by the time she is turning 12 she won't be as excited about a themed party so I'd better celebrate it now.
We invited three girls from her school for a slumber party and two of them accepted. The plan was to award "medals" for a "make your own pizza" competition, so I made each girl an Olympic medal out of Fimo, with the Olympic rings on one side and something that resembled a pizza on the other.
The cake was chocolate with peanut butter cream cheese filling, decorated with fondant. The first cake attempt didn't come out of the pan, but I saved it anyway and used it as the base layer. Even though the corners were crumbling, the fondant does a pretty good job of covering it up. I didn't have enough white fondant to cover the entire cake, so on the long edges I rolled red, white and blue strips together to make stripes.
I made a bunch of international flags on labels and wrapped them around toothpicks.
I used extra ribbon from the medals to make bows to cover up the seams on the top edges. It matched the long edges so I think it looked like I planned it that way.
We actually ate this cake with the neighbors the day before her birthday at our monthly "game night". The cake the girls ate was a Ben & Jerry's ice cream cake decorated similarly.
The girls made their own pizzas for dinner, I quizzed them on their knowledge of Winter Olympic sports, then we watched "Cool Runnings", the story of the Jamaican Bobsled Team. They seemed to really enjoy themselves and it was a nice mellow party.