On Friday, Pam and I met with our immigration lawyer. It seems that my soon-to-be employer didn’t properly interpret the bureaucrat-ese of the Labour market Opinion from the HRSDC (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, which has now been renamed Employer Services — does this mean that it will now be referred to as the E‑S? I doubt it; too easy to say it.). It seems that our wait really is over, and I’m entering the final sprint to becoming a gainfully employed resident of BC.
So, with a Monday trip to the border to apply for a Work Permit in mind, Pam and I located my Diploma from the University of Cincinnati and got yet another set of Passport photos taken ($30 again, cha-ching!). I also withdrew the $300 in fees for the both of us to apply (cha-ching!), and put the stack of documentation together (forms, photocopies of letters and diplomas, the aforementioned photos and my passport). We’re all set now, so tomorrow we’ll rent a car and drive down to the border crossing at Blaine. Oddly enough, that date is also an anniversary of sorts; it’s exactly 5 months from the date that we left Cambridge, MA.
I’m pretty excited about this. Getting the work permit not only means that I’ll start working (and we can stop living off our savings). As if that weren’t enough, it triggers the domino-effect of several other milestones. With work permits we can apply for Health Coverage, Driver’s Licenses, and BC Identity Cards. We can also sign up for the Co-operative Auto Network of Vancouver, a great car sharing system that has fleets of cars parked throughout the city, since we’ll probably need a car only occasionally. It also automatically kicks off the process of making us Landed Immigrants, which means that we can stay here as residents without me having to stay in the same job (useful if something bad happens to the business, or things don’t work out for me there). Although Landed Immigrant status should take about 6 months, by all estimates, the BC Nominee program, which I also applied for, should be coming in soon, and that will also speed the process.
As as I understand it, there is a last, strange little pirouette that we must perform tomorrow. We leave Canada in our rental car, wait in line at the border, and enter the US. Then we do a U‑turn somewhere in the first mile or so of Washington state and get in line again, this time to gain entry into Canada. We then meet with Canadian immigration officials to get the work permit paperwork done. If we’re lucky, the lines won’t be long. It’s varied from 5 cars and 15 minutes or so to 2 1/2 hours. Hopefully 10 AM or so on a Monday morning in rain and snow shouldn’t be a peak time of day (or year). It will be pretty funny to tell the US border guards that our purpose in entering the US is to do a U‑turn in order to get our work permits. I hope they have a sense of humor about it too.
Friday night we had a nice celebratory dinner with Matt and Oana,( the nouveau novelists) and three of us got a bit tipsy on Saki (man, does that stuff sneak up on you!) and full of tasty Japanese Tapas — Fried baby octopus, anyone? — at Gyoza King on Robson.
Music at the Chan Centre of UBC
Last night, Pam and I took the bus (only about 25 minutes, but it felt longer and farther) to the far western point of Vancouver to the UBC Campus, and the Chan Centre, which house UBC’s handsome concert hall and recital hall (although we only saw the former).
OK, I’m now going to put on my music critic cap, so I’ll try and be honest, but this one is hard. The bad concerts are always the hardest, as I learned when I used to to this as a part-time job back in my Grad Student days. Here goes:
The program included just 2 works, and both were for chorus and orchestra. The first was John Adams’ ‘On the Transmigration of Souls’, a memorial to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th. It’s the kind of work that probably needs more than one listening to fully appreciate. It weaves together recordings and readings (also on tape) of phrases from missing persons posters and memorials posted in the vicinity of the Twin Towers in the weeks after 9/11 along with choral settings of the same and some very imaginative orchestral writing. Parts of it were beautiful, but some historic events can overpower whatever a composer tries to do with them, if only because of how recent they are in memory. Who knows, it may just take some time. On the other hand, as Johnny Carson used to remark ruefully that you couldn’t ever make any jokes about Abraham Lincoln, it may be a long time before artistic memorials to 9/11 will succeed without that problem, at least for me.
If the Adams was problematic, the next work on the program was much, much worse. The piece was called ‘A Requiem for Peace’ and was by UBC alumnus and high school teacher Larry Nickel, who started studying and writing music again after a battle with viral encephalitis in 1989. As the program notes read: “After what some would consider a miraculous recovery, Larry committed himself to writing music more earnestly for God. Since then, his career as a composer has taken a dramatic turn.’ That should have tipped me off. It was a classic case of a composer biting off far more than he could chew. The Requiem lasted about 45 minutes, and was in 15 movements. It was in 9 languages, by my count, including Latin, English, French, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Dutch. The orchestra was normal size (although it included lots of percussion), but there were at least 2 choirs. The result was a multi-cultural mess. Besides producing a collection of picture-postcards of these languages and cultures, the composer also had 2 habits, one bothersome, and the other dire: First, he was fond of orchestral and stylistic clichés, including harp glissandi just before climactic moments, liberal use of the bell-tree (that new age sparkle you hear in so much Musak) and the use of whole-tone passages as transitions. More seriously, he had a habit of reaching a cadence or resolution in the middle of his movements, making the endings (including the final one), entirely unconvincing. One final blunder: A composer should never set the Dies Irae with the original Latin plainchant, a melody that gained notoriety and lost all of it’s meaning a couple of centuries ago except as a kind of shorthand for the concept of death, thanks to Berlioz, Liszt and Rachmaninov. Apparently Mr. Nickel decided that he’d ignore all of that and used it anyway. The cellist who we chatted with as we exited the bus on the way to the concert said that the piece was ‘kind of cheesy’. Little did I know that he was being charitable.
The audience didn’t seem to mind any of this. They applauded wildly and gave it a standing ovation. Maybe it was the text more than the music (It was nice poetry, and surely there was a movement in a favourite or first language for everyone!). Maybe it was the preponderance of proud parents and colleagues.
And maybe it was also because nearly 2 out of every 3 classical music concerts one attends these days gets a standing ovation. This was a trend that my parents and I noticed many years ago. People, when you give a standing ovation for everything, then the whole point of it being a special tribute goes away. (*sigh*)
Gee, can I say anything nice? It really was a beautiful concert hall, even lovelier on the inside than the outside, and the orchestra seemed to play well. The strings were a little thin — the tell-tale sign of a student group, but they had a really fine brass section, which showed up well in the Adams. (I suspect that piece also has a reference if not a complete quote of the trumpet solo from Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question.) I’ll look forward to other concerts there. It’s good to have more than one concert hall nearby. The Vancouver Symphony plays in the Orpheum theatre, which is right on Granville Street and a 10 minute bus ride for us. There are also some concert halls in Burnaby, which is a little further than UBC.