It was just one of those glorious days yesterday. We had decided to invest it at "the happiest place on Earth"...Disneyland. Each time we go we try to find something new to enjoy. We don't like to stand in lines or eat fast food so this is usually a big challenge. We didn't have our children or grandchildren with us and they usually have an agenda. This was our day just to have fun and practice walking and standing for our upcoming cruise excursions in Greece, Rome and Turkey. It was shirtsleeve weather and actually hot in the sun. We tried to find some shady or sheltered activities. Of course we had to visit "Soarin' Over California", still one of our favorites. We revisited the Haunted Mansion to see that it had gotten back to its original displays without the "Tim Burton Touch". We put on our "bug-eyes" (3-D) and saw the cute bug show with all the sensory surprises. We saw that Pirates of the Carribean was closed for refurbishing to coincide with the new Pirates movie coming out with Johnny Depp.
That's when we saw the banners leading to the Art Gallery above Pirates. We took the challenge of the wooden stairs and banisters above "New Orleans Square" and were pleasantly surprised with four rooms and a patio up and away from the din and ever-milling crowds. They were filled with over 50 artist's works over the last 50 years of Disneyland. Not just sketches, these were professionally wrought and hung paintings and models of many of the "lands" and "ideas" before they saw fuition. There were even two "Thomas Kincaids" of "Mainstreet". Yes, the "Painter of Light"(Lux) as he or someone calls himself. They had the customary "light touches" in the windows etc. I know my son, Brooks, just abhors this "type of art" but, it is art and very "marketable". Everything, of course, had a price and was "for sale". We were tempted by a charm bracelet under glass with the "Small World" theme...only $125. Something to add to all the Disneyesque bling. Now you see lanyards and vests with all the "flair" ie. tradeable pins.
Then we decided to check out the old "Horseshoe Saloon" which had a long-running show we had seen many times through the years This is the one where the "top banana" unendingly spits out his "teeth" after being "slapsticked". They still have shows and some "western fast food" treats. We settled for some sassparilla type root beer. "Billy Hill and the Hill Billies" is now holding forth. You might guess the kind of "blue grass" and finger-pickin' they attempt. They do get you to laugh and just marvel at their talent with fiddles, guitars, mandolins, bass viols and harmonicas. For their grand finale they stand close enough together to play each other's instruments, quite a trick. Although a "lighter fare" we did enjoy it serendipitously.
From the ridiculous to the sublime we were just sauntering out and heard a great "band sound" coming from the bandshell next to Frontierland. Betty had memories of this place on her numerous "date nights". She would go dancing at this spot on Fridays or Saturdays. (even polkas). What we discovered was a fully decked-out high school band in place and ready to perform. They were all the way from Gresham, Ore., Sam Barlow High. What a fine looking group! We decided to sit in the back and enjoy, expecting the typical "band fare" by a "seated, not marching, band. Wow! Were we surprised! This group could play! They sounded well rehearsed and polished. They were serious too. Two young conductors were very precise and expressive. We were expecting the usual "Disney Tunes" from their movies and cartoons, like a medley, (and that came later) but, shock, a classical favorite of mine from way back. I didn't even know a "band" would attempt it or that there was band orchestration for it. "Lux Aeterna" by Morten Lauridsen. This is a requiem. It was premiered by the Los Angeles Master Choale a a few years back and composed for them. It is the most glorious expression of the concept of "eternal light" that I could ever conceive. I had the rare previledge of singing it with the Mountainside Master Chorale. It soars melodically and I have all I can do not to sing along and or "conduct" it. Human voices make it thrilling for me but those high school instrumentalist were getting to me right there. Afterwards I went and shook the hand of the conductor and thanked him for that "sound trip down memory lane".
What struck me as tragically sad is that few if any of our "wonderful california schools" could begin to perform such a piece at that level. Long before I retired from teaching, "The Arts" had been the first thing to be cut from the school budgets. It started so slowly and innocently when they no longer offered instrumental lessons (even 1/2 hr.) at the elementary schools. Each year, the Jr. Hi. and High school music teacher used to come down and "pitch" to each class in the 4th grade the "fun" of renting an instrument and taking lessons...so that by the time they got them they would be in the marching band or orchestra. No time was set asside during the day because it would take them away from the "standardized test prep" that is now called "education". Choral teachers at the local schools by then were long gone...ie no glee clubs or choruses. It first was relegated to afterschool if a kid could stay and it didn't interfere with their full plates of team sports and gymnastics etc. I remember one of the last "music teachers" that had to teach a regular elementary class, had a Jazz Band that kids did try to get into. His name was "Joe"...(something)...he moonlighted at Disneyland by climbing the "Matterhorn" in ledderhosen. He got us into Disneyland free one time. The last glee club/choruses I directed were connected to "Musicals" I was doing. I had no accompaniest I could count on. What a challenge. We also had several "recorder ensembles" and folk dancing groups. It was all done under the umbrella of P.E. at my last school. Thanks to Mr. Yeager. It was surely "enlightening" to realize that music is still taught and respected at least in Oregon. Bob!