Friday, August 31, 2007

Oregon Symphony...along the river

We continue to find fun little gems in our new homeland. We attended one last night. The Oregon Symphony does a free show, outdoors, every Labor Day weekend along the Willamette River in "dawntawn" Portland.

The riverbank in this area is bowl shaped which allows 10, 15k people to sit on the grass or, as we did, in bag chairs, eat a picnic and enjoy the show.

First the setting: Portland spans the river with the old down town being on the west side. The river is about the size of the Ohio at the confluence. It has barge traffic and pleasure craft floating around. They have done a good job of making the river front park-like, and being built mostly on hills...there are spots where the bank is flat and places where it is relatively steep...but not cliff-like. The setting for an outdoor concert at the end of a 90 degree day is perfect.

We got there at about 5:30 when the Youth Symphony was winding up its concert. There were plenty of choices for spots albeit a good 100 yards away from the stage. We were in what turned out to be the middle of the pack. The sun was blocked by the tall buildings and the hills, and within a half hour the entire venue was in the shade. The temperature for the evening was perfect. The venue is set parallel to the river, so the long sloping bowl makes for easy viewing. There is not a bad seat in the house. Of course, there is a super amp sound system set up. We sat between the speakers so as not to get blasted out.

We took a picnic. We drove our friends the Springers so the four of us feasted on fried chicken, veggies, macaroni salad, cheese, cookies and a bottle of red wine. Portland is a wine drinking community. There were wine parties everywhere.

The symphony played a varied program...classical, opera (with the fat lady singing) a piece from Carmen and other recognizable songs (Aaron Copeland, Wagner, Carmichael) were featured (they really did a good job with Georgia on My Mind.) They even had a ballet selection with two very agile dancers (they must do yoga...ummm) on a separate stage. But the finale was Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with (maybe you can guess) real cannon provided by the Oregon National Guard. It was amazing.

On cue after the last cannonade which went on long after the finish of the piece the barge in the river (which crept in at dusk) gave us a fireworks display that would have done the Zambelli family proud. It was between the bridges just in front of where I-5 with its double decker bridge skirts the east bank of the river. It was spectacular...about 20 minutes of perhaps the best show we have seen. You have to wonder what the drivers of the cars crossing the I-5 bridge were thinking when they rounded the curve to see the city. The shots, many of them, were eye level.

All in all it was a fantastic cost, except five bucks to park...and the byo treats. We vowed to make it an annual affair...this was #5 for Springers, so they guided us through the process. A spectacular end to a fun-filled, spectacular week with our little boys, first Tru at Pacific City, then Asher at Champoeg. We are now ready to face....non-stop football.

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