October 17th, 2009



A Fine Dine Out

Given we had tickets for downtown Grand Rapids for Friday night, I picked up Mrs. Dr. Phil at the back of the GVSU library and we drove back into Allendale to Stromboli's. Actually, we took the back way around which avoided all the traffic lights and Michigan Left Turns -- and had the added benefit that as the gray clouds broke into blue sky and the sun came out, we got to enjoy some of the fall countryside. Mmm.

More Mmm was the lovely dinner we had at Stromboli's. This Italian (and Greek) restaurant in Allendale has long been a favorite because they feature very nice sauces and quite a varied menu. They've been adding and changing their menu -- and next week Chef Cezar said that they are adding some 1-star fine dining items to the menu. Well, we think they did quite fine last night -- we shared a Greek Caesar salad with black olives and feta. Then I had the lasagna and Mrs. Dr. Phil had the eggplant parmesan. Both were the best ones and prettiest we've ever had there. Seriously good yum.

Actually, we'd planned on trying their new Friday-Saturday dinner buffet, since when we have visitors and have them deliver we usually have an array of dishes to sample, but alas the buffet didn't start until after 5:30 and we did need to get out in an hour or so. Unfortunately our waitress, who was quite new, didn't quite translate this and the eggplant parmesan, which takes some time, took some time. The hostess, Mrs. Chef Cezar?, was much more apologetic than it really needed, and comped Mrs. Dr. Phil's glass of wine. Apparently the new girl was having some troubles, because I heard the hostess comp the wine at the table behind us. For all the things we love about food and restaurants, running a restaurant is hard work.

The Grand Rapids Symphony in Concert
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Friday 16 October 2009, 7pm, DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids MI
Mezzanine Left, Row E, Seats 48-49, 2×$67

Our seats on the far left aisle were perfect for us. We could see nearly the whole orchestra and the two choirs behind them, and we had a good sight line back to where the two soloist singers stood, plus the huge projection screen was not at an appreciable angle. And we were the first ones to the bathrooms before they got huge lines at Intermission. (grin)

Howard Shore's glorious score to LOTR has been performed before as The Lord of the Rings Symphony, but only a few cities have hosted a symphonic and choral performance of the film. This was the real deal -- they didn't just play the DVD. HD widescreen format, surround sound speakers, and the music soundtrack deleted. I realized at one point that the conductor had a flat screen monitor right in front of his score, and it included some large white dots over the center of the screen at key timing points. You could be forgiven for thinking you were just at the movies and get lost in the story, because the musicians were flawless. But of course it was a lot of fun to watch the orchestra as well -- and who wouldn't want to put on their resume that they played First Clanking Chain -- as they sat and played through a three-hour movie marathon.

Of we know both the theatrical release and the Extended Edition DVD versions of the movie backwards and forwards. Actually we know LOTR-FOTR EE much better -- they should never have cut it in the first place. But this was the shorter version, which is still plenty long.

It was a very appreciative audience. Many were LOTR fans who had never been to a symphony concert before. Some were Grand Rapids Symphony subscribers who probably had never seen LOTR before. Yes, it was a huge and sold out house, but I don't think I've heard as many gasps and laughs and murmurs since we saw the first films on their opening nights. And one of our pet peeves is that most people don't stay through the credits, but except for a few people trying to get their cars out of the parking structures ahead of the crush, the concert went all the way to the closing fade to black at the end of the credits -- and a bright red line panned across the conductor's screen. (Mrs. Dr. Phil said that the opening black screen with the overture after the Intermission was greeted with a similar green timing line.) Too many people give standing ovations at the drop of a hat, but this was a tour de force performance.

And I cannot complain at all about the review in The Grand Rapids Press (whose pictures appear on this page -- I wasn't a troll with a camera in the audience), which gushed:

The Grand Rapids Symphony performs a full-scale screening of “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” with choirs and a vocal soloist Friday night, You can keep your surround sound — give us a night at the movies with the Grand Rapids Symphony anytime.

The orchestra and a couple hundred friends in the Symphony Chorus and Youth Chorus played the full Oscar-winning score to “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” as the epic film played on a 20-foot tall by 48-foot wide screen Friday night in DeVos Performance Hall.

And, frankly, it doesn’t get any better than this.

You haven’t seen — or heard — Peter Jackson’s blockbuster like this, and the audience of 2,206 realized that right from the opening bars as Cate Blanchett’s narrations set the stage for the action to come.

What followed was an almost mind-boggling marriage of epic-scale cinema with live music that proved the power of music not only to enhance mood but to be a major member of the cast of characters.

An epic night. And should they try this in your city -- Go.
Highly Recommended

Dr. Phil