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Monday, December 3, 2007
About Town: Music, Negotiations, Ballots, and Irrigation

Catching up . . . and some thoughts on the American Fork Symphony's latest concert.

What do a hard hat, a Yogi Berra quote, an orchestra, and provisional ballots have in common?

Was it that obvious? You're right, they all are about to find their way into this blog post, along with a guy who apparently hails from New Hampshire. (You know New Hampshire? Drive to Boston and take a left? Lots of New England, very little beach?)

. . . And I haven't even mentioned that amazing American Fork High School Marching Band and its recent Manhattan debut. An excellent photo by John Miller himself graces this Daily Herald article.

The Hard Hat

The ceremonial groundbreaking for the American Fork Pressurized Irrigation project happened last month. MFCC came home with a ceremonial hard hat. There was also a well-prepared open house about then, where a number of residents were able to learn more and ask questions of engineers and other knowledgeable types.

But I'd rather tell you about the hard hat. It's white. And it hadn't been in our house for a full week when it acquired a face and was cast in a supporting role as a flamingo egg in a fourth-grader's storytelling assignment at school. (No, I'm not entirely sure why a flamingo egg would have a face, but thanks for asking.)

The Yogi Berra Quote

"It ain't over 'til it's over," quoth the Yogi. He was probably talking about baseball, but I'm talking about American Fork City's negotiations to sell its municipal broadband system to Surpha. There's already a letter of intent. Recently, the City Council extended that letter of intent, because the negotiations are still in progress.

Officials have assured me of their optimism that the City will be able to conclude the negotiations successfully -- that is, to sell the system. The alternative is not for the City to keep running the system, but simply to shut it down.

My own thoughts on the subject don't matter much. But, for what it's worth, I'm still throwing away the weekly Qwest and Comcast mailers unread. So I wouldn't call myself pessimistic.

I simply am acutely conscious that, until there is a deal, there is no deal. Right now there is no deal.

(For more Yogi Berra wisdom, check out Wikiquote. Comma splice notwithstanding, I'm fond of, "No one goes there any more, it's too crowded.")

The Orchestra

The other day, someone told me quite seriously that, before she got to know me, she thought I was a snob. I assured her that I am a snob, once you get to know me. So if that is your impression as you read the following, take comfort in the knowledge that others have come to that conclusion before you.

I don't attend every American Fork Symphony performance, but I've been to most of them over the past two years. Their Christmas Spectacular tonight was the best of their concerts in my experience. Under the comfortable, capable baton of Dr. Terry Hill, the orchestra played a challenging and varied program of holiday favorites, with an orchestral suite from Disney's Beauty and the Beast thrown in for good measure. Appropriately, the American Fork High School auditorium was sold out.

Here's where you might think me a snob. When I attend a community ensemble's concert, in American Fork or elsewhere, I am somewhat satisfied if there is only a handful of excellent moments in which one might forget, if briefly, that it is a community ensemble, and simply enjoy the music. So perhaps I have set the bar too low in my mind, but this level of expectations saves me from being disappointed by groups of amateur musicians who are doing their best, and allows me to enjoy what they produce. (I have a rather different standard for Abravanel Hall, Carnegie Hall, Heinz Hall, the Kennedy Center, Tanglewood, de Jong, Libby Gardner, Temple Square . . .)

In any case, tonight the American Fork Symphony cleared the low bar by several feet, which is a lot in this metaphor.

Tonight's concert began with some brief, non-musical reminders of our slowly fading, salt-of-the-earth community roots -- if you can decode that, you probably will judge me a snob -- but once the orchestra began to play, there was an abundance of excellent moments. There were a few frayed spots, to be sure, especially when the orchestra (occasionally) didn't shift gears perfectly smoothly between sections of a medley. But mostly the sound was fairly clean and precise. And yet it was not coldly so. There was a noticeable passion and energy in most of the music tonight. I wonder, is that because the musicians particularly love Christmas music?

Midway through the 75-minute concert with no intermission, I began to worry that the orchestra would get tired. No sooner had I thought this than the first two or three dozen bars of Tchaikovsky's "Trepak" unraveled ever so slightly. I wondered if that might be a symptom, but the orchestra rallied, and the latter part of that brief Russian frenzy was excellent. After that, Dr. Hill called a time out to let the team catch its breath before the impressive Beauty and the Beast suite. Or maybe he just wanted to talk to audience for a minute. In any case, the orchestra's conditioning proved sufficient to see them energetically all the way through the fourth quarter.

Oops, I slipped into football there for a moment. What I meant was, the orchestra sustained its energy and precision for the duration of the concert. Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride," a perennial favorite, came near the end, and it's a good test. It's familiar and fun to play, but not easy by any means. They played it with excellent energy and a good, tight sound.

A final note: My own contribution to the performance was not on the orchestra's level, I fear. Before I attend next year's concert, maybe I'll remember to read through the bass part of the "Hallelujah Chorus." It is the program's traditional final number, in which the audience is drafted for service as the chorus. I used to have that famous Handel chorus memorized. Now, alas, it is about 20 percent forgotten. I don't suppose anyone noticed or cared about the quality of my own performance, but one does like to do one's best.

Those Provisional Ballots

The election results I reported in November were unofficial, of course. The numbers change a bit when provisional and absentee ballots are finally counted. On Tuesday, November 20, the American Fork City Council met as "a Canvassing Board" to approve the final results. The interesting point is that Councilman LeBaron actually edged out Councilman Storrs for second place, after trailing him by four votes on election night. There is not much practical significance to this, since the top three finishers all won seats, but I found it interesting.

For the four-year seats (winners in bold):

3764 Sherry Kramer
3678 Shirl Don LeBaron
3654 Ricky K. Storrs

3093 Jason Porter

In case you care, Referendum 1 (the school vouchers) failed in American Fork precincts by a vote of 3329 to 2419. And Councilman Gunther, running unopposed for a two-year half-term on the City Council, received 4892 votes.

The Guy from New Hampshire

. . . is Caleb Chapman, founder of The Music School and conductor of our local Crescent Super Band, which, according to this long article in The New Hampshire Union Leader, was just named the best high school-age jazz band in the world. It's a good article. We'll officially forgive writer John Clayton and his editor for allowing "American Forks" to slip through once.

Kevin Dent comments (12/12/07):

Thanks for the Broadband update. I've been wondering about the status of the sale.

I shudder at the thought of going back to Qwest or working with Comcast; I hope that day never comes.

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