A bulky bass ambles by the minuscule piccolo; three violins natter nervously in a corner; an agile cello darts easily around the placid guitar; a tuba, also hurried, barely acknowledges the waving trombone and massive bass, wrapped hermetically in its hard black plastic shell. They look so young - the students, not the musical instruments. To fit in, I wish that I carried a guitar. Even an accordion. Instead, barehanded, I remain fixed to observe the bustling action inside Eastman School of Music's hectic lobby.
A few doors south, inside
Java's, a funky 1960-style coffee house with eclectic vibrant art adorning every wall, my spouse and I sip fragrant, freshly perked coffee and a hot chocolate lathered in cream.
Eastman Theatre Exterior
Eastman Theatre Interior
Eastman Theatre Decoration
Retracing our steps, we enter
Eastman Theatre to listen to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by their new, Norwegian-born music director, Arild Remmereit. Youthful-looking, lean, energetic and engaging, before the concert, he leads a discussion about tonight's offerings including an interview with the principal percussionist who outlines the difficulty of his 18-minute sustained, climbing crescendo during
Maurice Ravel's celebrated Boléro.
Under Remmereit, the BPO will play the work a female composer during each concert.
Susan B. Anthony, Rochester's 19th century civil rights leader, would be proud. Tonight, there's a poetry reading and dance and the moment that guest pianist, Canadian
Jon Kimura Parker touches the keyboard, we realize that we are in for a superb treat as he revels in Mozart. The acoustics, thanks to recent renovations, are superb. A wonderful way to begin a visit.
The next night, after dining at the honky-tonk Dinosaur BBQ on the best ribs I've ever tasted, we watch Toronto's Marlies narrowly beat Rochester's Amerks in
Blue Cross Arena, a large, impressive rink that attracts a hefty crowd of AHL fans.
Our final night at downtown's
Geva Theatre, we catch the sold-out, hilarious one-man show hit, Late Night Catechism which amuses Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
From our convenient base at the centrally-located
Strathallan Hotel on East St., we are walking distance to many sites, and on two evenings, we enjoy the first floor bar. The neighbourhood's huge, ornate wooden homes remind me of Buffalo's many mansions in the Delaware and Elmwood area. And the bonus with all there is to see and do in Rochester is that it's a short, easy drive (106 km) from the Peace Bridge.
The George Eastman House and International Museum of Photography & Film is Rochester's must-see. One might easily spend an entire day here, with movies played in the evening. George Eastman was the prototypical self-made man, leaving school at age 13 to assist his widowed mother. From our passionate, knowledgeable guide, Shari Clement, we learn how he self-taught himself chemistry and persevered to invent a revolutionary camera,
the Brownie. He developed KODAK to become extremely rich and a generous philanthropist, initiating a precursor to the United Way. Indeed, he was so generous to his employees with wage benefits and bonuses that he aroused the displeasure of avaricious titan, Henry Ford.
Eastman started a local school of dentistry, and at the end of one meal, donated $30 million to several colleges. Unfortunately, well into his seventies and afflicted with debilitating ailments, he ended his life with a single gunshot, leaving an eloquent note that read,
"My work is done." To qualify for burial at St. Paul's,
the death certificate was fudged to indicate "temporary insanity."
At the Susan B. Anthony House,
docent, JoAnn Middleton helps make Anthony's life and struggles come alive. With ally and friend
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the two became early champions of the Women's Rights Movement, leading up to the first Convention in 1848 at nearby Seneca Falls. Unfortunately, Anthony never realized the vote in her lifetime despite her purposeful arrest and constant government petitions. Her home and adjoining buildings are in excellent shape, and a dedicated park exhibits a statue of Anthony and Frederick Douglass, a former slave who became one of the great American anti-slavery leaders of the 1800s.
Just north of the Strathallan Hotel, surrounded by artwork such as a
Henry Moore sculpture, we ate a tasty lunch at the Memorial Art Gallery, considered one of the finest regional art museums in the country with a permanent collection of 11,000 works which spans 50 centuries of world art and includes important pieces by Monet, Cézanne, Matisse, Homer and Cassatt.
Today, we are treated to "Extreme Materials 2," showcasing 41
from the US, Canada, England and Germany with extravagant works that include a room-sized structure built of Neutrogena soap, an installation created entirely from preserved insects, a nightgown made of condoms (utilitarian), and a Byzantine mosaic recreated in breakfast cereal, bizarre works that leave most patrons smiling.
Next, we venture into the National Museum of Play at the Strong, National Toy Hall of Fame, an architectural oddity that partly reminds me of Calgary's Saddle Dome. Its mammoth collection fascinates kids, but we notice parents look a wee bit haggard at the end. It's a 282,000 square foot wonderland of play, fulfilling the museum's philosophy that play is a vital component in education. I watch with fond memories as one dad plays his first game of checkers with a young daughter. And if one tires of play, there's also a butterfly garden to explore.
On a Saturday morning we enjoy breakfast at
Rochester's teeming Public Market, voted best in the nation! Seattle might disagree, but this place is packed and parking almost impossible.
Get here early because it's worth the effort. They have everything imaginable, and the price is right!
Rochester boasts several unique urban areas such as Park Avenue where we visit Stever's Homemade Candies, the Parkleigh boutique and Jines restaurant. After the RPO, we dine at
Tavern 58 at Gibbs, just up the street, an intimate up-scale restaurant.
We thoroughly enjoy three fun-filled days of myriad activity, and will happily return. A friendly couple (everyone we met was friendly) whom we encounter both at the RPO and at the market share that they like it so much here, they retired in Rochester after working in Washington, DC. Given DC resources, it's an endorsement indeed!
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.