Fleetwood Mac

On Friday evening, Mr Pict and I saw Fleetwood Mac live in concert.  The tickets were my Christmas present so I had been excited for months to see them perform.  I have been a Fleetwood Mac fan for almost as long as I can remember so I have been listening to them for four decades.  Whenever I sit at my art table and listen to music while I create, I always play the ‘Rumours’ album, probably my favourite album of all time.  I never imagined I would ever have the opportunity to see them perform live so I was flabbergasted when I received the tickets.  Mr Pict is not a Fleetwood Mac fan but he does love seeing live music so he was more than happy to accompany me.

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Friday was also my first time in the Wells Fargo Center.  We were in the cheap seats so I experienced a wee bit of vertigo when I saw how steeply raked the seating was and there was also not much in the way of leg room.  I am 5’3.5″ but even my knees were feeling the ache when I stood up after two hours.  The compact seating meant we also had to get along well with the random strangers seated next to us since we all had no choice but to move and dance in unison given we were all compressed together.  But this minor discomfort was absolutely worth it for the amazing experience of seeing Fleetwood Mac.  They played most of their “greatest hits”, including all but three of the tracks from the original ‘Rumours’ track-listing.  As such, the crowd was able to cheer within a matter of a couple of notes, recognising what song was about to be performed.  It was really quite something to be one of thousands of people all singing along at the same time.  I admit to feeling a wee bit emotional during a couple of my favourite songs because I had never imagined I would ever see them performed live.  The whole concert was fantastic, extremely polished, incredibly engaging.  My voice was strained by the end of the two hours from singing along continuously.  It really was an amazing concert and I feel very lucky indeed to have been able to experience it.

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PS Excuse the poor quality of the photographs.  My phone doesn’t do well at all in poor lighting.

Blackbird

Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “music”.  I love music and as a family we listen to music a lot.  I listen to music when I am doing household chores as a distraction from the boredom and monotony and I also listen to music when I am sitting at my art table creating.  The struggle, therefore, was trying to condense such a wide ranging theme into an art journal page.  Some weeks I want for inspiration and other weeks I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head that I simply cannot focus and determine which would be worth distilling into a visual page.  I decided, therefore, that I would base my art journal page on the very next piece of music I heard.  That so happened to be my two youngest sons singing ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles.

‘Blackbird’ was the perfect selection because there was automatically an obvious and strong visual element for the page – the blackbird itself.  I created a neutral, muted background by scraping paint across the page using an old hotel key card.  Then I painted the black body of the bird.  Then my week got massively busy and I did not add to the page for almost an entire week.  Happily, on Sunday I had my monthly meet up with some other local art journallers.  That then gave me a block of time on which to work on this page (and another) but it also meant I was limited to using portable art materials.  The rest of the page, therefore, was created using Posca paint pens.  I wish I had used a ruler to organise the text on the page.  How many years now have I stated that I will work on my typography?  Some day.

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The Beatles – Art Journal Page

This week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Here comes the sun”.  I wish!  This Winter has been so grey and dull that I am longing for sunshine.  The intention of the prompt was to create an art journal page featuring the sun.  However, as a Beatles fan, I just had the song lyrics playing over and over in my head and I decided to go down that path and create an illustration of The Beatles in my art journal.  My 9 year old is a huge Beatles fan so I let him choose the “era” that I would depict.  He chose the Sergeant Pepper era and I am glad he did as it made for a brightly coloured page.  I drew the illustration with fountain pen and added colour with watercolour.  It was fun reducing Ringo, John, Paul, and George to simplified shapes and trying to capture something of their looks and personalities.  I must admit I am rather pleased with how this drawing turned out.

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Magical Music with the Philly Orchestra

On Saturday, we Picts headed into the city to see a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra.  It was our first time seeing the Philly Orchestra and our first time inside the Kimmel Center.  For our four boys, it was their first ever time seeing a full orchestra live.  That, indeed, was our motivation for going: we try our best to expose them to all sorts of interesting experiences so that we can see what makes an impression, determine what interests and enjoyments might stick.

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What made this particular performance a great one to sample was that it was the orchestra’s Halloween show.  Not only did this mean that it was pitched at children in terms of content and length but it meant we could be assured that the audience would comprise families, making it a bit more relaxing as a first venture to see a full orchestra.  The Kimmel Center itself is a glorious space and we had a great view of the stage within the auditorium despite being in the cheap seats.  It was fun seeing most of the children in the audience all bedecked in fancy dress.  Our kids went as two Scouts from ‘Attack on Titan’ and Wolverine – and a teenager in teenage mufti.  Furthermore, the musicians were also in fancy dress.  There was even a T-Rex on percussion.

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The general theme of the performance was Harry Potter which meant lots of excerpts from John Williams’ score for the movies.  Followers of my blog will be aware that the kids and I are Potterphiles and Mr Pict and I essentially have the scores of John Williams as the soundtracks to our lives since he composed the music to so very many of our favourite childhood movies.  It was magnificent to hear that music, with all its conjuring of magic, being played live.  There were other selections of music that were familiar to our kids too, such as Grieg’s ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ but they also got to hear some music with which they were either less or not remotely familiar – pieces such as Liadov’s ‘Baba Yaga’ and Khachaturian’s ‘Masquerade’.  As a performance, it truly was incredible.  I loved every last minute of it and I think the younger kids in particular gained a lot from experiencing the music live.  My oldest son is not really into music so he just let it wash over him.  We tried.

In addition to the music, however, the performance was also designed to engage children through other means.  The conductor, Aram Demirjian, was dressed as a Hogwarts professor and played the part with aplomb as he explained to the audience about each piece being performed and delivered the segues.  He was accompanied on stage by a brace of magicians who performed traditional tricks for the kids in the audience to watch while listening to the music.  We all gasped when handkerchiefs turned into doves and laughed when a levitating walking stick accidentally walloped one of the violinists.  There was also a clever running motif about using the Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat to decide which section of the orchestra four different musicians belonged to.  This was a smart and thematically apt way to introduce children to the percussion, wind, brass and string sections and I think much preferable to the Benjamin Britten approach I was taught at school.

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It was a wonderful day out and hopefully the first of many to see the Philadelphia Orchestra.

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Road Trip #4 – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

When we shared our summer plans with people and they knew we would be travelling through Cleveland, almost everyone mentioned that we had to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of our 9 year old.  Our 9 year old has been learning to play electric guitar for the last year but even more so he is really into listening to music.  His favourites include Elvis, AC/DC, the Beastie Boys, and his absolute and most favourite, Jimi Hendrix.  His taste in music is pretty mature for a 9 year old and very eclectic.  We, therefore, made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a priority largely for him.

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This was actually going to be one of the most expensive things we shelled out for on the trip but as luck would have it we got in for free (excepting the $9 parking charge).  Whereas the RNC had scuppered our plans for Cleveland the previous day, here the disruption was to our benefit as the Hall of Fame was not charging an entry fee while it was simultaneously being used as a secondary stage for the RNC events.  Bargain!  I wondered if the free entry might mean the place was thronging with people but it seemed the prospect of rubbing shoulders with prominent Republicans had kept most people away.  It was actually fairly quiet and actually the disruption was minimal, with just a few areas roped off for the events – and my 7 year old tried to gatecrash a luncheon because he liked the look of their sandwiches.

We all really enjoyed the bottom floor of the Hall which I would imagine is the bulk of their collection, a permanent display of costumes, instruments, videos, recordings, and ephemera associated with a wide variety of musical stars.  My little guitar player loved seeing so many guitars, including some that were battered and bashed from so much use.  He also enjoyed seeing the different designs of guitars, from a Cheap Trick five headed guitar, like a hydra, to Steve Miller’s fire dragon painted guitar, to multiple guitars that had belonged to John Lennon.

There was a section with lots of screens for listening to music and learning about influences, how each musician or group took those influences and combined them and synthesised them into their own distinct style.  It reminded me of a documentary Mr Pict used to watch called something along the lines of Rock Family Trees, demonstrating the connections between each group and musical genre.  My youngest loved being able to use the touch screens and listen to music and my 9 year old was completely absorbed.  He is pretty nerdy about his music so he loved learning about all the connections and the cross-pollination.

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Another big hit with the kids was the Elvis section.  Mr Pict and I have been to Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo and to his Graceland home but this was the first time our little Elvis fans had seen an exhibition of Elvis items.  They loved seeing his glitzy costumes, especially his gold suit, and they were surprised by how slim he had been.  We also saw his motorised tricycle – far cooler than I made it sound because it was Elvis’ after all – and his double-headed guitar.  A huge wall of screens was playing a video of Elvis performing ‘Suspicious Minds’, my favourite Elvis performance.

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I enjoyed seeing all of the costumes on display.  Highlights included Johnny Cash’s boots, Diana Ross’ willowy frock, Stevie Nicks’ floaty goth dress, Sid Vicious; and buckle strapped boots.  Mr Pict liked seeing Slash’s converse and top hat.  The kids had a chortle at James Brown’s sex machine jumpsuit and my 9 year old loved seeing Angus Young’s school uniform outfit. There was in fact a whole section devoted just to showcasing costumes, mostly flamboyant ones: shiny Beyonce outfits, a Steve Tyler outfit that looked like fancy pink pyjamas, Run DMC’s Adidas sneakers and glasses, glistening sequined dresses of The Supremes, a peacock embroidered Beach Boys suit, lots of bonkers Mick Jagger outfits, elaborate Bowie costumes, and iconic costumes worn by Michael Jackson.  Our 9 year old was especially chuffed to see one of Jackson’s sparkly gloves.  All the boys were excited to see the goggles and rubber gloves worn by the Beastie Boys for their ‘Intergalactic’ video as that is one of their favourites.

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The collection of Beatles memorabilia was impressive.  There were musical instruments galore, including a set of Ringo’s drums, lots of outfits, but also things like John Lennon’s green card and a pair of his round framed spectacles.  The section my 9 year old loved the most, however, was that devoted to Jimi Hendrix.  He is obsessed with Hendrix so when he walked into that area and spotted Hendrix’s sofa it was as if he had just encountered some sort of mystical relic.  His eyes were wide and his mouth agape at each display case.  There were costumes and guitars galore.  He also loved seeing the handwritten lyrics for ‘Purple Haze’ and a collection of Hendrix’s childhood drawings.

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Other highlights of the Hall included Kurt Cobain’s guitar, Elvis’ army uniform, Bob Dylan’s harmonica, Lady Gaga’s taxidermied meat dress, Village People costumes, Pink Floyd Wall props, a piano and recording booth from Sun Studio, and a prototype Les Paul electric guitar that looked like it was made from parts of railway track.

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The basement level of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was definitely the best part and the area that most engaged and enthralled the kids.  They were flagging in terms of energy and interest by the time we were moving on to other areas of the Hall so we had to just flit through those.  Those areas were also the ones subject to the most disruption, with news crews setting up their recording equipment in front of some exhibits.  We could not be disgruntled or disappointed, however, since the basement level had been so incredible plus free entry meant it could not fail to be fantastic value for money.

 

 

Beatles Music and Drawing

Yesterday evening the Pict family attended another free music concert, organised by our township.  The performers this time were a Beatles review group so this concert held more innate appeal for all members of the family than the Bluegrass concert had.  The group put together an eclectic set of Beatles songs, progressing in roughly chronological order.  I am not such a big fan of the early Beatles stuff as my favourite Beatles albums are Revolver, Abbey Road and Rubber Soul in that order; however, banging out a few of the early tunes certainly helped generate a fun, relaxing mood and had everyone singing along from the get-go – or maybe just Mr Pict and I were singing along.  The instrumentation and vocal harmonies were spot on and I would venture to say that Fake Paul’s voice has held up over the decades better than that of authentic Macca.  They didn’t just opt for obvious choices of songs either, even performing the run-on-song section of Abbey Road, which Mr Pict and I loved.  The boys, who have been exposed to the Fab Four since the womb, thoroughly enjoyed the music and were tapping and bopping along.  I think their only disappointment was that there was no performance of ‘Yellow Submarine’.  It’s great that our township organises events like these.  It’s not just a wonderful way to wile away a summer evening but it also provides us with the opportunity to expose our children to live music.

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We had gone prepared with seats and blankets but in the end we managed to snag a picnic table towards the back of the field which was perfect as it acted as a corral for the kids.  Mr Pict had gone on a dash to Wawa to pick up some subs and drinks for us to have a picnic dinner so we munched our food while enjoying the music, atmosphere and warm summer sun.  Grub consumed, the boys then started drawing.  They often like to draw while listening to music so I had come prepared with paper and pens (lesson learned from my too slapdash approach at the Bluegrass concert).  Inspired by the music, our 7 year old drew The Beatles and then Elvis; the youngest drew the Empire State Building and some funky slugs; the oldest drew a comic strip; and the 8 year old drew scenes from Star Wars movies.  Well at least the music inspired their creativity!  I think my boys might be taking after me in their love of drawing.

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