You know, Harrisburg could actually be a fine small city. It's not, as everyone now knows, thanks to the ridiculously large financial hole they've dug themselves, while the consultants and lawyers got well paid to advise them to do it.
Tonight we went the the symphony in the fine old art deco Forum building, nestled in a corner of the state capitol grounds, to hear Respighi's "Pines of Rome." We played that (on reel-to-reel tape, still a current technology in 1979) at our outdoor wedding, after the same composer's wonderful "Ancient Airs and Dances," so we couldn't miss a live rendition. And it was spectacular. How H'burg could have such a fine symphony orchestra with a world-class conductor, I do not know. Said conductor, among his many other accomplishments, won a Tony for his orchestration work on Billy Joel's "Movin' Out." He's comfortable with any kind of music and sells his enthusiasm with ease.
We weren't certain about the second selection, 70 minutes of Mahler's Symphony No. 5, which followed that wonderful aural tour of Rome, but it was beautiful throughout and had the audience waiting on each new twist and surprise. As conductor Malina said in his introduction, "they play the heck out of it!"
We rarely go downtown anymore for entertainment or dining due to the pervasive violence. And with the daytime parking restrictions and relentless enforcement, going there on weekdays is never an option. But we took a chance, since a Sunday would probably be less crowded and the daylight at this time of year lingers. It was a perfect evening as we walked throught the Capitol grounds around the thousands of blooming bulbs and under the exhuberant flowering trees toward Carley's Ristorante, of which I've read very positive reviews for several years now. It's in one of those old brick buildings that respond so well to tasteful restoration; the interior was candle-lit and lined with shiny old walnut planks and warm colors of tile.
Somehow, despite being on foot and not hurrying, we were the first ones there out of the symphony crowd, except for a full complement at the bar. This netted us the best table, despite our not being regulars (score!). I had found out earlier that it was show tunes night, and the music started early, at 6:30 p.m. The drink menu was one of those you wish you could try at least a half-dozen from -- and I like something new all the time; some prefer their favorite wherever they are. Their take on the famed lemon drop martini was called the Cello Drop, featuring their own homemade limoncello. Now we've had lemon drop martinis from Philadelphia to Las Vegas, and this was the best -- smooth as ol' Dino Martin. I made sure to tell Alma the bartender so.
Our piano man singing the show tunes was young, but old school, as he had a two-foot high stack of printed music (everyone else has a laptop these days, don't they?). He invited a friend to sing with him, and it was a delight. Of course, martinis and after-dinner liquers always make the music better.
A fine evening is like the perfect risotto: "just what is needed and nothing else."