More Immigration News and a Concert at the Chan Centre

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.