Saturday, December 15, 2012
It’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit when the temperature is in the low 70’s. It’s also hard to get into the Christmas spirit when you’re Jewish, but that’s another issue. Interestingly enough I always associate Christmas with events at the various schools where I have taught.
The Christmas Pageant at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia was something to behold. It always happened on a Sunday and the entire Middle community was invited. The night before the event faculty and students would assemble in the gym and would share the task of assembling the wreaths and garlands that would decorate the gym. It was one of many community-building events that took place at the school.
Chal Hemmenway was the person responsible for putting together and directing the pageant. She had been doing it long before we arrived at Foxcroft and she continued to do it long after we left. The day that new students arrived in September, as one would expect, all faculty were gathered on the lawn in front of Brick House. We were all there with one thought in mind. We wanted to greet both the new students and to reassure the parents who were dropping them off that they had made the right decision in entrusting them to us. That was Chal’s motivation, also. However, she had another motivator. She was looking for the ninth grader that would be perfect for the role of the Virgin. The ninth graders were the “actors” who played all the roles in the pageant.
The cast for the pageant included the ninth graders, the Glee Club. Octet – a student directed singing group – and, in the early 80’s, The Soggy Cheerios – a singing group that had been founded by an English teacher by the name of Marilyn Robie. In addition to the human component, the Pageant featured a number of animals including Epiphany, the donkey. Live doves were also released during the singing of Oh, Holy Night. One year Mary Lou Leipheimer who was an English teacher at the time and now is the Head of School was asked to sing the solo for Oh, Holy Night. This was her first year at the school. Rehearsals went well, but unfortunately everyone had neglected to tell Mary Lou that when she sang the phrase “Fall on Your Knees” the doves would be released. The pageant that year had an additional element that no other pageant before or since has featured … Mary Lou’s blood curdling screams that were occasioned by the surprise release of the doves.
Westridge School also had its holiday traditions, prime among which was the Holiday Concert. When I first arrived it was an event that took place in the gym. The gym was decorated appropriately and students from all three divisions participated in the event either as singers or musicians. When the Performing Arts Center was completed the event was transferred to that venue. There were so many attendees – parents, as well as alum and friends of the school – that it was necessary to schedule a number of performance sin order to accommodate everyone.
Another tradition was the Holiday Assembly that was the responsibility of the senior class. It usually consisted of a number of skits that poked fun at the lower classwomen and the faculty. The skits were funny – as long as you weren’t being lampooned – and they were never mean spirited. The program was supervised y the Senior Head Class Advisor who, more often that not, was yours truly. Skits were submitted ahead of time for administrative approval, but they were never cast nor rehearsed until the night before the event. We would gather in the gym and the process would begin. There was always pizza to sustain the masses and cold drinks were in abundance, also. After the rehearsal ended various groups would head home and continue rehearsing. The events was always an occasion for tears as members of the senior class would invite lower classwomen to join them for the final song. When the event was moved to the PAC a certain sense of intimacy was lost and while it was nice to have all the bells and whistles of a modern theater the proximity of actors to the audience in the gym generated feelings that could not be reproduced in that newer space.
While Susan was at Pilates on Friday morning, I continued unpacking my magic and arranging it thematically. By the end of the day everything magic had been unpacked and was in its now proper space. I had lunch at home since Susan was lunching with the women in her Pilates class. They had decided to eat at Salatén, which is located on Calle Quart and where we would occasionally go for tapas when we lived on Borrull. According to Susan the meal was disappointing because everything came to the table either lukewarm or cold. It did not surprise me because we had stopped going to Salatén for lunch because it was obvious that, with regard to the menu of the day, everything had been prepared in advance and warmed up when ordered by a client.
We were in our seats at the Palau de Música at 7:20 in anticipation of what promised to be an exciting concert. The orchestra would be playing works by Bernstein, Barber, Copeland and Villa-Lobos. The guest conductor was Carlos Miguel Prieto from Mexico and the guitar soloist was Pablo Sainz Villegas. The concert began with Bernstein’s suite for “On the Waterfront” followed by Villa-Lobos’ “Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra”. Sainz Villegas’ performance was absolutely amazing. The audience was so appreciative that he ended up playing two encores. After the intermission we were treated to Barber’s “Symphony Number 9 Opus 1” followed by Copeland’s “Salón de México”.
The concert ended a little after 9:30 and the weather was still balmy as we exited the concert space. We walked into Cánovas in search of a place to have a light bite and people were out in force and it seemed like every outdoor table was occupied. We eventually found a couple of seats at a nearby bar and enjoyed some pulpo, croquetas and some patatas bravas. We then hopped a cab back home, puttered around a bit and then went to bed.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Hurray! Everything has been unpacked and, with the exception of the pictures that need to be hung, everything is in its proper place. Today’s cooking class with Jordi has been postponed until January and that means that we can just kick back and relax today.
Yesterday we continued with the unpacking. I did manage to escape to the market and pick up a few things, including the shrimp that became our lunch. Sofi came by at 5:00 and we discussed the elements of our upcoming performance on Wednesday. She has added a bit to her portion and so have I. We also took out a couple of things we had planned to do in order to keep the performance time to as close to thirty minutes as possible.
At 7:30 we walked over to Klaus and Zahava’s place to have some potato latkes and to celebrate the last night of Chanukah. After lighting the candles Zahava placed a large plate of latkes on the table and a number of items with which to top them. There was crème fraiche, caviar, horseradish and applesauce. Even though we were going out to dinner at 9:00 we somehow managed to finish off the entire plate of goodies. We then gathered our things together and made our way to a recently opened restaurant called Q Tomas. Brian was to meet us there and when we arrived he was already seated at our table.
Q Tomas is the newest restaurant opened by Tomás Arribas who is often referred to as the padrino of Quique Dacosta, the award-winning chef who now has several restaurants of his own. Dacosta worked with Arribas at El Poblet, bought a 50% share in the restaurant and eventually bought the other 50%.
This new space is very elegant with lots of black and glass. It s called an alta Taberna meaning that it’s not your average neighborhood bar, but like a neighborhood bar it features a variety of appetizers and main dishes. Although many of the names sound familiar the quality of the food here is outstanding.
We decided to order a variety of dishes that we would all share. We chose a tuna tartar, a ceviche of boquerones, a carpaccio of scallops, a variety of croquetas, garbanzos with codfish, a garbanzo stew, huevos rotos and calamares a la plancha. Our waiter, Toni, was an excellent server and all his suggestions, wine included, were spot on. Everything was uniformly excellent including the bread that we used in abundance for the various mojos. For dessert we ordered the tarte tartin, a milhojas and a chocolate flan. I was the only one to have coffee and both Klaus and I had an after dinner drink.
It was close to midnight when we left. The restaurant is a five-minute walk from the house and we entered what truly feels like our new home at the stroke of midnight. It was like a reverse Cinderella story where the good things began at the stroke of midnight.