BeautyWeek of March 10, 2008
“Beauty is never only what our senses report to us but always also a sign of what’s just beyond our senses – an innerness and depth. There’s more to beauty than we can account for empirically. In that more and beyond we discern God. Artists who wake up our jaded senses and help us attend to these matters are gospel evangelists. In the presence of the beautiful we intuitively respond in delight, wanting to be involved, getting near, entering in – tapping our feet, humming along, touching, kissing, meditating, contemplating, imitating, believing, praying. Painted prayers; sung prayers; danced prayers. It’s the very nature of our five senses to pull us into whatever is there – scent, rhythm, texture, vision. And it’s the vocation of the artists to activate our senses so that they do just that. “
These words, which Kirk read to me Sunday morning (from Eugene Peterson’s book Leap Over a Wall) as we relaxed in the beautiful lobby of Henderson’s Wharf Inn in Baltimore, perfectly encapsulated our week. Yes, the week included work and typical to-do lists, but interspersed beauty throughout made it a 2008 stand-out.
Their Monday evening performance in the exquisite Music Room of Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown truly had us “responding in delight” to the rippling opening bars of Fauré’s piano quintet, a dramatic and impassioned Franck, also a piano quintet (both including pianist Cristina Ortiz), and an early Shostakovich quartet, which took us from lament to lilt, through the frantic rush of the Allegro molto, and finally the intense and complex allegro.
The recently restored Music Room itself was a delight to the senses – with its massive sixteenth-century stone chimney piece, eighteenth-century parquet floor, and a stunning coffered ceiling painted in the sixteenth-century French style - it is now my very favorite Washington area venue for concerts. I can’t wait until the next one!
(an exquisite wood carved Virgin and Child drew our eye again and again), paintings (El Greco’s The Visitation just at the end of our row!), and impressive European tapestries . Eyes and ears just FULL of beauty!
Not only music has been heard in this room: it was also the site of the Dumbarton Oaks Conversations, in which delegates from around the world met to discuss what would become the United Nations.
To give ourselves more time with our out-of-town friends, we chose to spend the night in
Although the hotel was unremarkable, the location was fantastic, and before heading back to
and stopped for coffee and a decadent pastry or two (I think there was a whole stick of butter in my croissant!) at Leopold’s Konditorei.
After a busy Tuesday of work, we headed back to D.C., this time for the annual Amalfi Coast Music Festival Benefit Concert, where the Fine Arts Quartet thrilled us with another evening of glorious music. We really enjoyed Ralph Evan’s (first violinist) warm and entertaining introductions to the pieces. A bouncing Haydn provided a fun and joyful beginning. My favorite snippet of music from the entire two evenings was the last movement of the Quartet (G major, Op. 77 # 1), a flying-fingers Presto, punctuated with superb harmonies – with almost a contemporary sound to the rich chords at times.
The foursome continued with a movement of one of their very favorite Mendelssohn quartets, an exotic Orientale by Glasunov, then finished with the finale from Shostakovich’s first quartet.
The directors of the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival put together a lovely evening in the historic James Monroe home – now the Arts Club of Washington. Following the concert, we enjoyed a delicious champagne buffet while talking with the artists and fellow music lovers.
To top off our week of beauty, we headed north to
But stepping into the warmly elegant lobby of the
( a fruity and flavorful Beaujolais Villages) and directed us to our garden view room. We can’t recommend this place enough –wonderful location in waterside Fells Point, beautiful rooms equipped with everything one could want, and one pleasant surprise after another – from basic amenities like free WiFi and parking to thoughtful touches like cozy robes, a so-helpful concierge/front desk, and a bountiful breakfast buffet.
We dropped off our luggage and headed out for a day full of beauty – a water taxi ride across the sun-sparkled inner harbor, and a walk up
Catering staff are setting up between the arches of the courtyard for a gala evening to celebrate the opening of a new exhibit – Maps – Finding O
At closing, we stroll around the gracious neighborhood, serenaded by a saxophonist rehearsing on his balcony high above.
After a delicious dinner at Sascha’s 527 we taxi further up
Back “home” to the waterside, where after a good night’s sleep, a yummy breakfast, and a relaxed morning reading in the lounge we check out and drive back up to the Walters Museum where Kirk, a confirmed map-o-phile, enjoys the special exhibit, and I take an audio music tour (listening to selections of period music keyed to certain pieces of art) through the museum.
We exit the museum to a colorful street party – lots of green – and the warm-up for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A cacophony of sound scurries through the air – marching bands practicing their licks,
a multitude of bagpipers droning their tunes,
a rousing Danny Boy from a high school band, the rat-a-tat-tat of a fife and drum corps in the shadow of the Washington Monument (the first in the country, designed by Robert Mills, the same man who built the more famous one in D.C.).
Eyes wide, we walk along the streets where the acts are all lined up – vintage cars, curly-topped Irish dancers, even a Yankee Civil War re-enactment (Kirk, my Georgia love, is discomfited – having never in his life seen a Yankee re-enactment!)
We duck into Donna’s for a quick lunch, watching through the café windows as the bands step out, and finish in time to catch the last couple of acts as they strut down