Music in Paradise!

By , Columnist

Miss Music Nerd has been on vacation this week; McDoc and I had the opportunity to stay in a friend's condo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and after the rough winter we had in Boston, we were grateful to accept. Eighty degrees at 10 p.m.? Okay by me!

It's funny how music follows me everywhere I go, even when I'm supposed to be taking a break! I arranged to practice the piano at a local church, because music never sleeps and I have playing to do when I get home! You may have heard this quote about practicing, attributed to violinist Jascha Heifetz and, with slight variations, pianist Vladimir Horowitz: "If I don't practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it." They weren't kidding.

When I arrived at the church, I met a violinist from the New River Orchestra, which will present a summer concert series with the church as its venue. As I chatted with Bill the violinist, I discovered that he had only taken up the violin seriously as an adult, seven years ago. This is quite unusual in classical music - the violin is difficult enough that, in most cases, you need to start as a child if you're going to get anywhere. It was inspiring to hear of an exception to that. I always tell people who want to play music that it's never too late!

With my practicing done, it was time for McDoc and I to do something frivolous. We had driven by an old-fashioned "Tiki Room" type restaurant called the Mai Kai, and that had a dinner show and everything! I wasn't fully aware that Tiki Culture is a 20th-century American invention that borrows various trappings from Polynesian culture and fuses them into a fantasy born out of the imagination of a few canny entrepreneurs. McDoc and I were rather disappointed that they had run out of souvenir Tiki mugs to take home after we drank our rum cocktails out of them!

The floor show featured what I can only hope was fairly authentic music and dance of several cultures, mainly Maori, Tahitian and Hawaiian. There was drumming, there were flaming batons, and there was plenty of hip-shakin'! It looked like a good workout as well as a lot of fun, and I was envious of the two audience members chosen from the crowd to dance onstage with the performers.

Here are a few examples of the kind of performances we enjoyed:

Haka, a Maori dance that is not exclusively a "war dance," contrary to popular belief:

Otea, a Tahitian dance:

Polynesian Fire Dance - the Grand Finale!

The Island Paradise theme didn't stop there, though; this evening we moseyed down to Fort Lauderdale's Intracoastal Waterway to take a water taxi ride, and were serenaded by a steel drum player while we waited. I always marvel at the resourcefulness symbolized by the steel drum, as it was traditionally made from an oil barrel - in other words, it was an ingenious way that folks from the Caribbean took what some considered trash and made it into a vehicle for art.

I once spent so much time watching a steel drum player in the New York City subway that he kindly offered to show me how they worked and let me have a try. It was tricky, because the tuned depressions in the drums that make the different notes are not arranged stepwise, the way adjacent notes on the piano are. But after a few minutes of trial and error and head-scratching, I think I managed to tap out "Mary Had A Little Lamb."

Here's something significantly more accomplished!

Remember, music nerds, anywhere you go, if you take music with you, it'll be paradise!

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Miss Music Nerd is the nom de net of Linda Kernohan, composer, pianist and music journalist. Her music has been played across the U.S. and Europe, and she has performed in a wide variety of venues, from a West Hollywood nightclub to the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican. She also writes at…

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