In Shock that I Went to a MALL

by Lynn-Jane of Washington, D.C., an actor on tour with the National Symphony Orchestra wearing Ivey Abitz.
Writing 3 of 3

Arrived in Charleston at 2 PM. Charleston is the capital of W.Va., and the city is quite beautiful…again, on a river. We are in the “downtown area” across the street from a MALL! SO funny, I never go to malls, but there I was, along with at least half of the NSO.

The orchestra arrived on the buses at 2:30PM. Rooms were not ready. For us civilians it’s not usually a problem, but for tired musicians who have a concert tonight at 8PM, it is a catastrophe! Lewis and I arrived at the hotel before the rest of the crew because we had the car.

Tonight’s concert was another “run-out,” meaning the NSO boards yet another bus to go out to Huntington. So, the buses left at 6PM in order to get to the hall for “half hour call.” Thus, everyone was at the mall, looking for something to eat until the rooms were ready for changing, napping or unpacking concert clothing.

Never knew a MALL could be such fun, and the Borders had British magazines! I cannot find UK magazines near me… it was actually a nice MALL (as far as MALLS go). Please forgive the capital letters of MALL — I am still in shock that I went to a MALL. It’s online ordering for me!

While at the MALL, we noticed that most people were wearing black ribbons in memory of the Big Branch Mine disaster. The mine is about 20 minutes from here. All talk today was about the mine.

People here are SO friendly, and when they find out that we are with the NSO, the hospitality is extraordinary. The concert last night was sold out, and the sponsor of the concert (a glass factory owner) gave each musician a glass paperweight and each Maestro a piece of art glass. The staff received a gift as well.

The concerts in Wheeling were sparsly attended as the tickets were $25. The musicans thought that the concerts should be PWYC or free, but the concert presenters did not agree. Last night and tonight were SOLD OUT with standing room only.

Yet, there was no reception for our cell phones in Morgantown. According to the TV reports, when the Red Cross came in to help with the mine explosion, they were flummoxed to find that there were no cell phones and only “dial up service” (whatever that means). Not many extremes here. HA!

Tomorrow is a concert matinee in Princeton and 3 outreach programs including a chamber concert and a small group at an assisted living facility.

On Monday, there is a children’s concert at 10. My husband, Lewis, has a “sectional coaching session” in CLAY county and then we have another “Teddy Bear” concert at 2! There are 9 outreach programs on Monday, including string coaching, in-school ensembles, conducting coaching etc.

The NSO provides everyone with a book for each tour, telling us where we are to be every minute of the day — what time the luggage needs to be in the lobby, what time the buses leave, dress for day and evening concerts, what hotel facilities are available, how long it takes to get to each place, etc., etc. CANNOT do without “the book”….I have forgotten where we are at times…think how the musicians feel?

When we finally got to our room here in Charleston (our last hotel) I was sick to learn of my leaving my Scottish feather pin (on my sweater/ costume for the concert on Monday and my slip) at the last hotel…remember what I said about unpacking? I unpacked these things and put them aside to keep my “wardrobe” together for the concert. Well, I left them, and we did not have the time to drive back to Morgantown. The pin was from Scotland (we go to Scotland in the concert). Needless to say, there was not another at the MALL. Oh well. I guess I am officially initiated into the NSO tour lore!

The audiences have been visably moved when the NSO plays Bach’s “Air on the G String” in memory of the miners…the concert hall is so quiet, no coughing or shuffling… just a collective sigh and a great appreciation of the NSO remembering this tragedy; it happened on the first day of the tour. Some of the musicians wanted to go to Big Branch to play but it could not be arranged. I was astonished to hear that the miner families brought food to the rescue workers, the press, and the Red Cross. Miners are close-knit — families that have been miners for years. The sad truth is that there are few union mines, and mining is the only work available. As a friend of mine said, “Don’t want to go to the mines? Then don’t, but do not expect to find other work in the area that will support a family.” SO very sad and a real wake up call for me.

We leave W.Va. on Tuesday, after the final concert in Clay. It has been a remarkable experience.

I know I have said it over and over, but I have been so taken about by the people of W.Va. that I have met. Absolutely kind. Many have told me that the “hick” status is hurtful and that they are aware of the poorness of the western regions of the state. They may be desperate, but from what I have seen, they are proud and kind.

If only we spent our tax dollars on places like W.Va. and New Orleans and not on wasteful things…. I would rather my tax dollars go for domestic social programs than wars etc. Oh well, not my world…. the coal and petroleum lobbies control. In Europe, there are no lobbbyists, so in Norway (where they drill their own oil) fuel could cost 25 cents per liter, but the people voted to let petrol cost 7$ per gallon, to pay for social programs! They voted in a referendum…. can you imagine this in W.Va. or America? I can only hope that Mr. Obama goes after the mine lobbyists and the oil lobbists…. never happen? I can only hope. We still have the lowest prices on fuel in the world. I have learned a lot in W.Va., and I am so grateful to have been a part of this tour.

This BLOG will be the last as the next 2 days do not provide me with any free time…. so, thanks for listening, and if you ever get the chance to come to the western parts of W.Va., do.  AND I do not mean the Greenbrier….

We got another message from the teachers in Phillipi, thanking us and asking us to return….I hope that we can.

XXX
Lynn-Jane
Editor’s note: For more about the tour, see the tour blog of Emil de Cou,  Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra

Bringing Music to the Masses

Lynn-Jane Foreman is an English-American actress working in film, television, and on stage. As a patron and wearer of Ivey Abitz designs, she is generously sharing her thoughts for Ivey Abitz Voices about art during hard times, particularly whilst traveling on tour this spring as a guest artist and narrator with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Kennedy Center
Lynn-Jane Foreman wore an Ivey Abitz Solomon Jacket on stage at the Kennedy Center.

Lynn-Jane’s tour began at the Kennedy Center, and her favourite Ivey Abitz design, the Solomon Jacket, was featured onstage at this very special event. Other Ivey Abitz designs toured along with her as the group of artists traveled their way through West Virginia mountains, taking art to communities and schools that don’t have access to cultural events.

She reveals the less-than-glamourous events of life as a touring artist. She shares her thoughts about the importance of art in everyday life and what it means to share art with depressed areas of the country.

Since many of our readers are artists, Lynn-Jane’s words have extra special meaning; she is an artist writing to artists about art. We at Ivey Abitz thank her deeply for sharing with us.

– Cynthia Ivey Abitz

By Lynn-Jane Foreman, Washington, D.C.

Writing One:

Solomon Jacket by Ivey Abitz
This is the Solomon Jacket, similar to the one worn by Lynn-Jane Foreman at her Kennedy Center performance.

I was the guest artist for the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) at the Kennedy Center, and Ivey Abitz should be proud to know that they were represented at the evening show, featuring the Solomon Jacket.

After the Kennedy Center performance, I began traveling with the NSO as a guest artist. It has been clear to me for many years how difficult these tours are and how much work goes into planning them. I am playing a small part in these concerts, so I have an “insider” view of touring – and this is only a domestic tour! No wonder so many of the musicians find touring so hard. Arrive at 12 a.m. after a concert to a new hotel, cannot find your keys, room, or suitcase, and then someone always misses one of the 3 buses or gets sick. AND cell phones do not seem to work up here in the mountains! This is a very typical day… there are always glitches with rooms, noise, instruments, suitcases, etc. BUT since my husband and I drove (along with others), it was a bit easier on us.

Yesterday, we drove from Morgantown to Roanoke, West Virginia. A long windy ride (yea, Dramamine). We are at a beautiful resort on yet another river. Deer and wildlife all over…. but not anything is nearby, which makes many of the musicians antsy (not that they have a lot of free time) as they came on the buses from the Kennedy Center… about 15 or so musicians drove, as W.Va. is so close.

This hotel is centrally located so that the music outreach programs to the schools are fairly accessible. This morning at 7:30 AM, we drove to Philiipi where we had the first concert, which began at 9:30. It took us an hour to get there (again, beautiful, but hard for someone who gets carsick.) The Dramamine made me so sleepy, I wondered if I would remember what I was to do…

There were 400 children there, K-1st grade. Bussed in from all over. Absolute quiet and well-behaved. Over 90% of the children had never heard live music before. Some of the band members at the local high school acted as our stage crew, as the NSO crew cannot go on all of the outreach programs. For example, there were 12 programs today alone.

The thoughts that occurred to me were many. These children are so eager for art and yet so isolated. They looked at the instruments on the internet beforehand so that the teachers could explain what a violin or bassoon was, or classical music, or the “places” we visited in the story of the program. There were 2 deaf children in the audience, and we let them sit on the stage so they could feel the music vibrations. They also had an interpreter.

This is a very depressed area without resources, and they treated us like “heroes.” They gave us box lunches for the journey back to the hotel. They had water, coffee, and tea backstage for us. They thanked us thousands of times and asked us to please come back. The children were enchanted. We ended up staying a bit longer to talk to them and to show them the instruments. Some of them had traveled 2 hours to hear us.

We performed in the high school auditorium; little lighting, only 3 mics, yet it was PERFECT. My husband and I drove home through very depressed country….lots of substandard housing, etc. I kept wondering who lived in those trailers and what their lives were like. (Actors are like that, trying to get into someone else’s skin.) My husband was also astounded at some of what we saw, and we are not “unseeing people.” How do they make money? Where do they get food? Medical care? Unemployment? How can we deny our citizens social programs? I know, I know, a social monarchist.

Being fairly informed about social issues, I wondered so much about what I saw… perhaps I really have been protected. I was quite moved by the children and seeing this part of the USA.

to be continued…