Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Symphony Orchestra and Sigulda

Last week was quite busy with musical activity.  Bill played 3rd trumpet and the muted piccolo trumpet solo on Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition for 3 Childrens' Concerts at the Liela Gilde (Large Hall...home of the Latvian National Symphony) on Wednesday, February 17.
          Trumpeters Janis Ivuskans, Viljams Ricardsons, and Guntis Supe

The performance was broken into several parts, with a narrator discussing the music and other things about the orchestra and instruments.  Niki, Sarah, and Leah attended the first performance, which featured students from the Art Academy painting on-stage while the orchestra performed.  Although we didn't understand much of the conversation, the concept was very cool and we all had loads of fun.

On Friday, February 19, the J.V.L.M.A. Symphony Orchestra performed Pictures, a Latvian piece called Migla, and Chopin's Piano Concerto in E at the Great Hall on Barona iela.  Janis Ivuskans was called away to perform with the symphony in Liepaja, so Bill stepped-in to play principal trumpet for the performance.
On Saturday, we took a train ride to Sigulda, Latvia, with fellow Fulbrighters Ardyth, Gabe, and Tom.  This city features the luge/skeleton/bobsled track on which Latvian Olympic athletes train.  We rode the "soft bobslejs" on the actual track.  Here's a video we found that features our exact experience (minus sideways snow in near-blizzard conditions!):  Sigulda Soft Bobslejs

It...was...AWESOME!  Apparently, we reached speeds up to 70 Kilometers per hour, which is over 40 MPH, through 12 twists and turns.  Gabe and Tom were the first brave souls to take the plunge.

Needless to say, we had fun.  When we reached the bottom, two soft bobsleds were piled into a truck, along with the passengers.

                            Our truck passenger friends from Lithuania 
When we reached the top again, we traveled to the men's start (starts a bit higher and has 4 extra turns before joining-up with the women's start).  Here are some fun pics:

After we grabbed some lunch, we took a micro-bus to Turaida Castle, a 13th-century medieval structure.  We took a short hike...
then found the Watch Tower, which was open to the public.  Everyone walked all the way to the top through some steep, winding stairs and caught some neat scenery along the way.
Minus the castle and watch tower, the landscape looked a lot like Warsaw, Missouri, after a major snow. 
There was a museum that we visited for a short time.  We were a bit rushed because we didn't want to miss the early train home.  Sarah and Leah had never ridden a train before, so this was a fun experience on many different levels.  

We arrived back in Riga and are still talking about our trip to Sigulda.  Although there are many other places we will likely visit while in Latvia, it's likely that we will return to this beautiful place.