Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mr. Spock Got Old

This past Friday, my husband and I pursued an unusual activity — we went to a concert. Ordinarily, we don't spend money on such things, but having been given a gift certificate from my piano students, I decided to splurge. The following is the blurb about the concert:
To Boldly Go...
Emil de Cou, conductor
Leonard Nimoy, narrator

WITH FAMED STAR TREK ACTOR Leonard Nimoy as your guide, journey to the final frontier and beyond with music inspired by outer space! Your great galactic adventure begins with selections from Gustav Holst's The Planets, a symphonic exploration of our solar system. The work will be complemented by stunning images of the cosmos on giant screens. Then it's full warp-speed ahead through your favorite sci-fi and fantasy movies with music from Star Wars, The Twilight Zone, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and of course, Star Trek. Beam me straight to Wolf Trap, Scotty!
From the program's inception, I was a fan of the original Star Trek, which debuted on NBC-TV on September 8, 1966 (nearly forty years ago!), so this particular concert had the additional appeal of a personal appearance by Mr. Spock (aka Leonard Nimoy, who had done work other than Star Trek, including directing the film Three Men and a Baby as well as publishing two biographies and books of photographs and poetry). Apparently, several thousand others also found this concert's celebrity worthy of seeing in person. Wolf Trap was packed — so crowded, in fact, that it took us a full thirty minutes just to get out of the parking lot!

Wolf Trap is a beautiful and unique venue for concerts with an interesting history:

"In 1833 Thomas Fairfax and his wife divided Towlston Grange, his 5568-acre portion of land located in the south central section of the Providence Magisterial District, between their sons in portions of 1152 acres called Ash Grove and 2458 acres in the division of Towlston. The Ash Grove portion included the part of Wolf Trap Farm on the east side of Wolf Trap Run, the Towlston tract the land on the west.

"Various land owners and divisions of the property occured until 1930. At that time, Mrs. Catherine Filene Dodd (later Shouse) purchased a 53-acre plot, which made up the original tract of land that Shouse, keeping with its history, called Wolf Trap Farm.

"Indeed, from as early as 1632 records indicate that wolves had caused much damage in the region. The General Assembly, in trying to deal with the wolf menace, offered rewards of tobacco for those who constructed pits or traps to capture and deliver wolf heads to the General Assembly. A smaller reward was given to those who used a gun or some other means to kill the animals.

"As more people populated the area wolves became less prevalent and less of a threat. In an official land survey dated August 17, 1739 the name 'wolftrap' appeared as a branch of Difficult Run.

"Shouse purchased the aforementioned land for $5,300. She continued to purchase additional parcels of land until 1956, totaling 168 acres in all...."
A mere $100 per acre for land in Fairfax County? Those were the days! The cost of dining at Wolf Trap were not in line with the prices of days gone by, however. A hotdog cost $5.00 and just a bottle of water was an astounding $4.00! My husband and I skipped buying any refreshments except for a softie ice-cream ($4. 50) and a bag of stale, too salty popcorn ($5.00). Never mind the $28.95 charge for a steak at the one small restaurant. Next time we go to Wolf Trap, we'll do as the hordes and bring our own cooler.

Despite the drawbacks of the food prices, the huge crowd in attendance, and our aching backs from all the walking, my husband and I had a perfect evening for attending To Boldly Go. The weather at this time of year is usually hot and steamy, but last Friday evening was much like the beginning of spring or the start of autumn; several of the attendees had to don jackets as the evening wore on. Adding to the effect of the music combined with images from NASA, from time to time, the moon peeked through the slats of the pavilion where we were seated. And, conducted by a most enthusiastic director, the National Symphony Orchestra was in top form.

Most attendees obviously came to see Leonard Nimoy, who narrated the second portion of the concert. A few of those in the audience sported Trekkie shirts. And when Leonard Nimoy flashed the famous split-finger Vulcan salute, the crowd inside the pavilion and outside on the lawn went wild with cheers. They didn't seem to mind that Mr. Nimoy was seventy-five years of age and that, consequently, his voice wasn't young any more. In fact, the man's voice has so changed that I barely recognized it when he spoke at the end of the first segment, and my husband didn't recognize the voice at all. Nevertheless, Spock's words, as uttered in the epilogue to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and spoken offstage, provided a dramatic voice-over to the musical sounds of the National Symphony Orchestra:
"Space...the final frontier. These are the continuing voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her on-going mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!"
Mr. Nimoy's final words as narrator of Holst's The Planets were predictable:
"Live long and prosper."
Again, the crowd roared as they reacted to that famous split infinitive "to boldly go," perhaps the most famous such grammatical structure in pop culture today. At the conclusion of the concert, Mr. Nimoy and the conductor got a standing ovation and three curtain-calls. Therefore, one might say that the concert was a success.

But I found that seeing and hearing an aging television character who is forever young on the screen to be a bit disconcerting — even melancholy. Despite the twenty-year age difference between us and Mr. Nimoy's grace and stage presence, seeing an old Mr. Spock reminds me of my own mortality. I wonder if anyone else felt the same way as we left Wolf Trap last Friday night.


At 7/11/2006 11:00 AM, Blogger L.E. said...


That's so ironic! My father and I were thinking of going to this concert because of our love of, not only of Star Trek, but also of the NSO. We ultimately decided that if Marvin Hamlisch wasn't going to conduct this concert that we'd save our money for another "NSO does the Pops" concert with the famed composer of "A Chorus Line" (you MUST see him conduct - He's extraordinary!).
As a side note, my dad has many stories to tell of Leonard Nimoy, mostly because he dated Mr. Nimoy's daughter. Once, my father told me of Leonard's hilarous "two books" you mentioned. The first was titled "I Am Not Spock," in an effort to create a new fan base. When Mr. Nimoy realized he couldn't succeed in this endevour, he tried to reclaim his old fan base with his second book, "I Am Spock."
I've always found that interesting.

At 7/11/2006 1:40 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

I'm green with envy over your concert! It sounds great.

I don't know about the mortality of seeing an old Nimoy... I usually don't think about that sort of thing, past the initial, "Wow, he's gotten old!"

At 7/11/2006 2:22 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

E. Rice,
Hello! Enjoying your summer break?

I must hear some of your father's stories about Leonard Nimoy! When I was your age, I thought that Nimoy portrayed the most interesting of the characters on Star Trek.

I'd love to see Marvin Hamlisch conduct. I've not had that opportunity, though many years ago at the Kennedy Center, I once attended a concert where he was the featured pianist. The rage at that time was Scott Joplin.

Too bad you didn't attend To Boldly Go. We could have made an evening of it.

Next up for me at Wolf Trap--the Beach Boys. I'll be going by myself because not enough money remained on the gift certificates to pay for two tickets.

At 7/11/2006 2:28 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

My husband and I don't go to concerts very often, mainly because I can hardly budge him from his recliner and the remote control. LOL.

However, we try not to miss a particular homeschooler's recitals on the pipe organ. One of his recitals is coming up in August. We can hardly wait! He plays music for the soul.

Let's see...The last professional concert which my husband and I attended was that of Bruce Springsteen when he did a tour with the E Street Band shortly after the release of the CD The Rising.

At 7/11/2006 8:01 PM, Blogger benning said...

Every time I see William Shatner, as he continues to grow into the world's largest Hamster, I am reminded of the passing years! Oy!

At 7/11/2006 8:48 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Every time I see William Shatner, as he continues to grow into the world's largest Hamster...

He DOES look like a hamster, though I hadn't thought of the analogy.

Shatner was always on the beefy side, and now that he's older, he's porked out. One particular Commander's shirt--the one with the V-neck--made him look even fatter on the screen. That particular shirt lasted only one season, at the most.

At 7/11/2006 9:18 PM, Blogger cube said...

I am jealous that you were able to see Leonard, old or not. Thanks for sharing your experience.

BTW entropy spares no one.

At 7/11/2006 9:20 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I admit that Nimoy's age, particularly the change in that unique voice, was disconcerting. But he was still effective as narrator. And his ability to laugh at his Spock character, which used to give him so much angst, was delightful.

I'm glad we went to the concert.

At 7/11/2006 10:07 PM, Blogger Dardin Soto said...

AOW: How funny both our latest postings mentioning Spock... (albeit completely different contexts :) Great post! Kudos!

At 7/13/2006 1:31 AM, Blogger Grizzly Mama said...

I fondly remember watching 'Star Track' (that's what we kiddies called it) with my 2 older and 1 younger brother and dad. I was 3 or 4 I guess. Still love the show and I always loved Spock.

At 7/13/2006 6:33 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Monica R,
Those many years ago,my little group of Star Trek fans lived for the moments when Spock would show emotion. He was the unsolvable enigma--half Vulcan, half human. Almost a Jekyll and Hyde.


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