Litton Farewell

This week I've been saying good-bye. Breakfasted with a dear, crazy art teacher friend who will soon be living in a cute college town and undoubtedly scrounging for interesting recyclables back east. Said good-bye to a incredibly talented young teacher I've had the joy of working with for three years. She's also moving to the right side of the map, taking my enormous respect (and her cute husband) along.

Last Sunday I said good-bye to Maestro Litton of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. True, I didn't know him personally. Andrew Litton and I shared just a few afternoons in the last year, but they were powerful aesthetic experiences.

On Sunday Litton introduced me to Elgar's Enigma Variations, and my world added many friends. In January he gave me the transcending gift of Janacek's Glagolitic Mass. Last fall he transformed me to glowing particles of pure energy with Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5. During the winter his youthful excitement before conducting Ives: General William Booth Enters Into Heaven made me feel like a co-conspirator in a raucous, colorful scientific experiment (or a bar joke); Red Barber, Red Skelton, and Red Grooms Go Into a Symphony.

I sit in the cheap seats behind the orchestra when I go to the DSO, or else up in the cardio workout section known as the Grand Tier (or K2). I love sitting in the Dress Circle Loft's eight dollar seats because I can look down on the orchestra members and straight into Maestro Litton's face. I consider those cheap seats the Catbird Section. The Grand Tier has its visual moments, too. Sunday's violin soloist, Gil Shaham, looked like he was trying to kick down trousers afflicted with horrible static cling without missing a note! On the drive home I wondered what that spray stuff was that we used to fight static cling.

Saw in the newspaper that the Littons are moving to the right side of the map to be near Andrew's father. I hope three generations of Litton males will head on out to some ballgames!

Catbird seat/empty nest catbird 1731, common name for the North American thrush (Dumetella Carolinensis), so called from its warning cry, which resembles that of a cat. Catbird seat is a 19c. Dixieism, popularized by Brooklyn Dodgers baseball announcer Red Barber and by author James Thurber (1942). " 'Sitting in the catbird seat' meant sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him." [Thurber, "Stories from New Yorker"] According to my bird book, a catbird is a close relative of the mockingbird, the Official Texas State Bird.

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