Many exciting adventures coming up from the Riderwood Special Trips department

By Elaine Hauptman

Resident Writer

The sun dips slowly in the western sky as the day disappears into darkness. The days are dreary, and winter is upon us, yet the joys of the holidays, the frenzy of shopping, and the warmth of the fireplace brings us all together. Janet Birchfield has provided several Special Trip options for theater-going this holiday season and the months beyond.

The excitement of the Cirque Nutcracker will offer the awe-inspiring talents of the Troupe Vertigo with their acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, strongmen and high-flying aerialists joining with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for a spectacular show on Thursday, December 13.

To whet the appetite even further, the special trips calendar includes “Talley’s Folly” on December 29. This is a Pulitzer Prize play that is romantic, enduring and will reaffirm your faith in the power of love. Matt, a forty-year-old “nerd” has fallen in love with Sally, a woman from the upper middle class in the Midwest. She is a princess in a fortified castle. Most certainly, her parents would not accept Matt, a Jewish accountant, as their son-in-law. The audience roots for the underdog, Matt, who tells them in confidence, that the play is ninety-seven minutes long and could be called, “The Moonlight Sonata.” This tale of two lost souls who find solace in each other is a perfect play to reassure ourselves that love conquers all. 

Another wonderful dramatic experience will be offered at the Arena Stage on January 26. Kleptocracy” is a serious, provocative play that discusses U.S. and Russian relationships in dramatic format. In “Kleptocracy,” the 110 billionaires control everything. Putin is the prime beneficiary. Real estate schemes, money laundering, election fixing, offshore accounts, bribery, rigged privatization deals, colossal corruption is the norm, and the stakes are high. This matinee will undoubtedly give you food for thought and perhaps a sleepless night. It will certainly initiate debate, discussion, and provocative arguments. 

In addition to these dramatic presentations, Janet is accepting some advance registrations that include “Miss Saigon” at the Kennedy Center, plus three fabulous performances of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. On January 5, pianist Leon Fleisher will play Mozart’s Piano Concerto number 2 in A major. The orchestra will also perform Brahms’s Symphony Number 2. 

Leon Fleisher’s history is both frightening and inspiring. In 1963 he was told that he had a condition labeled “dystonia.” His third and fourth fingers of his right hand curled under. Deep depression and despair overcame him, but he turned to both teaching and conduction as a solace. In the 1970’s he made a discovery. Paul Wittgenstein, a Viennese pianist who had lost his right arm during World War I, commissioned some of the greatest composers to write concertos for the left hand. Leon Fleisher became a one-handed pianist. He realized that the most important thing in his life was not playing with two hands, but it was music. 

Fleisher worked with Mark Halle at the NIH, who was researching dystonia. He used carefully placed injections of Botox and a treatment of deep-massage known as Rolfing. The combination of Botox and Rolfing offered Fleisher a breakthrough, and in 1995 he was able to give a two-handed performance with the Cleveland Orchestra. 

Fleisher speaks of his return as a “rebirth, or state of grace, of ecstasy.” Yet, he must be careful. Each day he must stretch each finger and also avoid “scaly” music which might trigger dystonia for him. This concert in January will be an experience of a lifetime. It will be an evening of unforgettable music and in the faith of medicine, hope, and courage to persevere in the face of adversity.

On Friday evening, January 11, the Baltimore Symphony is offering “Off the Cuff,” a Turangalila Symphonie performance. It is an opportunity to listen to Marin Alsop discuss the music, to provide explicit examples, and truly enhance your understanding of this exciting work. 

Looking ahead to February, be sure to save February 7 for the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. They are incredibly adventurous, playing a program from Mozart to Carl Nielsen. The Nielsen “Quintet for Winds” opus 43 is an enormous challenge even to the most outstanding musicians. 

On February 22, Janet is planning a trip to the Baltimore American Craft Council exposition. For this event, you will need both your wallet and a good pair of walking shoes. 

See you all on the bus!

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