Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Birthday Celebration

My birthday was on Thursday of this past week, but we didn't have much of a chance to celebrate on the day of.  This was fine, because I already knew that hubby had plans for us over the weekend.

Back in October he had told me not to make plans for around my birthday and that I may even need to take some vacation time at work.  Then I went on a business trip in late-October and when I got home he told me that due to technical difficulties the plans were moved to the weekend.  Ever since then, I've been wondering what we were going to do.  I had a guess but when I asked him about what I needed to pack he told me casual clothes were fine.  So okay, I thought, nothing fancy, which blew my guess out of the water.

Turns out he was just trying to throw me off.  Saturday morning he told me that yes I would need to wear something nice Saturday evening.

And it turns out that my guess was pretty accurate, it was just the details I was missing.

So we drove north and headed into Covington, KY, which is just on the other side of the Ohio River from Cincinnati.  We had a room at a Marriott right on the river and my dear sweet hubby had even requested a room with a balcony (in November?) overlooking the river.  This picture I found was basically the view we had from our room.

What you don't see in the picture was the stadium for the Bengels, off to the left of what you see.  We had a pretty good view of it as well.

After getting settled in we headed out again for dinner.  We accidentally took the wrong bridge across the river and got lost and discovered that we had a Louisville map and about 5 Lexington maps with us but not the Cincinnati map we had bought a few months ago when we were last there.  So we turned around, found the bridge we had come across and went back over the river and then found the correct bridge from there.

We found our way to the west part of Cincinnati, up a very steep hill (I wouldn't want to be on that hill when it was snowy and icy) and found the restaurant hubby had made reservations at.  We were surprised at first to find the restaurant on the first floor of this pretty tall building.  But once we got inside we realized that the hill we took to get up here was enough of a view!!  It was pretty cool!!  We could see all of downtown Cincy, the river, and across to Covington.  We had a fabulous dinner as well: calamari for an appetizer, salad, entrees (I had penne in a vodka tomato sauce with chicken and hubby veal with prosciutto and cheese with some green beans and a polenta cake), then we finished the meal with a vanilla cappuccino for hubby and a raspberry sorbetto for me.

Once dinner was over we headed back into Cincinnati and found our way to Music Hall (pictured left).  The concert on Saturday night included a work by Salieri and three by Mozart.  Very much a Classical Era concert.  All three Mozart pieces were choral/vocal works (not my favorite) and because all four pieces were composed somewhere between 1773 and 1780, there were no clarinets.  Also, Paavo Jarvi was not conducting (actually, I don't know who the conductor was, his name was unfamiliar and he wasn't listed on the orchestra personnel page, maybe he was with the choir, I don't know).  Regardless, it is good for my musical ear to hear things I wouldn't normally choose to listen too and the concert was very good.

The Salieri Sinfonia in D major, the only orchestral work on the program, was nice, had some good solo parts for the winds and many enjoyable moments.  Next was Mozart's Solemn Vespers, the longest piece on the program.  I don't know that I had ever heard this piece before and certainly don't recall ever studying it when I was in school.  It was really interesting to see how he set the various parts of the Psalms in regard to what the choir sang and what the soloists sang.  After an intermission the soprano soloist joined the orchestra for Mozart's Exsultate jubilate.  Finally, the last piece on the program brought a good number of the orchestra members back on stage (most had played during the Salieri piece and then had left for the middle two works).  The concert ended with Mozart's Mass in C Major, and this was probably the best piece on the program (in my humble opinion).  Again, Mozart's understanding of the Mass itself as a Catholic was evident to me in how he set the parts of the Mass.  I noticed that during the Credo that the choir sat and only the soloists sang the part that normally when we recite the creed in Mass we would bow for, and the orchestration was lighter as well.  Little things like that were noticeable to me.  The settings were beautiful and I enjoyed all the music.

Why am I not a fan of vocal music?  First, I'm a clarinetist.  I spent way too may years studying and playing orchestral, band, and chamber music and thus have very little knowledge of vocal music.  It's just not in my listening repertoire.  Second, I think that because I'm an instrumentalist, I just don't hear the words.  For me, the voices just become another "instrument" amongst the orchestra.  I often forget to follow along in the words and have no idea what they are saying.  I'm much more comfortable listening to lines of instruments moving around each other and forming interesting sounds than I am trying to understand a message being conveyed through a choral work.  When I try listening to the voices, I then miss the fun of the orchestration.

Sorry for the aside.  People hear I'm a musician and they automatically assume I have a great love for all sorts of choral works I have never heard of.  Why is that?

Moving on ....

Luckily, after leaving Music Hall, we only got turned around once in Cincinnati.  For all you who are scared of driving in big cities with lots of one way streets, you have no idea how easy it is to get back on track when you get lost, the one way streets actually make it easier!!  (Go ahead and laugh, but it's true!)  I easily navigated my husband back on track within one block and we quickly found our way back to the highway.  Piece of cake!!

But the fun didn't end there!!  At 4:30am we were rudely awakened by what I thought was my alarm on my iPod.  I hadn't remembered changing the sound and soon discovered that I was correct!  There was a fire alarm in the hotel complete with an announcement telling us to make our way to the stairwell.  So my first thought was to use the bathroom!  We threw some things on, grabbed our coats, and headed out to the hallway to discover people all standing outside their rooms at the railings looking down towards the lobby of the hotel (picture a hotel with an open middle and all the rooms open out to that).  No one seemed to be willing to leave, yet the announcement kept coming on and we were told that the fire department was on its way.  We walked around to the street side of the building and looked out the windows to see if anyone had arrived or if anyone was standing out there but all seemed quiet on the street.  Hubby noticed that there were still people at the front desk, so obviously they didn't think this was much of an emergency.  By then the alarm finally stopped and we were told that we could return to our rooms.

I didn't sleep well for those last three hours I had, making it difficult to get up when it was finally time.  We found a letter form the management under our door apologizing for any inconvenience the false alarm might have caused us during the night.  I don't know how it didn't inconvenience anyone, it was way too loud to have slept through it or to have stayed in your room when it was going off.  But maybe some people weren't inconvenienced!

After breakfast we checked-out and headed up to the Covington Cathedral, St. Mary's Basilica, for Mass.  Our hotel was just down the street from it and we had been there earlier this year so pretty much knew where we were going. The one way streets and construction had us going a couple blocks past the Basilica and back again, but we easily found our way into the parking lot. This church is amazingly beautiful!! If you are ever in the area, you must check it out. "Stunning" doesn't even begin to describe it!   The picture on the right is of one of its many stained glass windows, probably the most amazing of them, but this Church is filled with many, many more!!  The Bishop of Covington presided at Mass this morning and we enjoyed his homily. It's always refreshing to have a homilist who tells it like it is (abortion is evil, no ifs, ands, or buts!).

Following Mass we headed home and back to our real lives once again. I'm so glad we got to do this and that my husband surprised me with such a fun weekend. He's such a blessing to me!! In another couple days we'll be packing again, this time to head south to visit my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. In the meantime, it is nice to be home.


  1. Sounds like quite a weekend! Happy birthday! :)

  2. What a wonderful birthday minus a few hiccups. You do have a thoughtful husband. Have a safe Thanksgiving trip!

    Must have been the weekend for late night fire alarms. I was awakened at 2 am Friday night to burnt cookies in the kitchen of one of the buildings.

  3. Happy Birthday! How sweet of your hubby to plan such a nice weekend for you!

  4. Thank you all!!

    BeNotAfriad: Have I ever told you about the graduate housing building I lived in during my year of grad school in SC? Fire alarms were a regular thing, always around 2am or so, and once it went off once you could count on it happening another 2-3 times the same night. It was horrid!