Monday, January 12, 2009

The Perfect Year: Spending New Year's Eve in Washington, D.C. 2008

I think I can safely say this was the most memorable New Year's Eve of my life. How often can you attend a performance of your favorite music performed by your favorite artist? To top that, to have that artist look smilingly down from the stage at you and wish you a Happy New Year? We had front row center seats two nights in a row and could have touched the performers we were so close. What a way to start the year! We spent New Year's Eve in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center, with Eric Kunze who was appearing in a 17 performance run of "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber". Eric brought down the house early in the program with "Gethsemane" from "Jesus Christ Superstar". My favorite songs were the romantic ones he did with Laurie Gayle: I Believe My Heart, Too Much in Love to Care, and Love Changes Everything done by the whole cast at the end. New Year's Eve there was an encore was sung to the audience by the cast called The Perfect Year from Sunset Boulevard. Here are some of the lyrics:

It's New Year's Eve, and hopes are high Dance one year in, kiss one good-bye
Another chance, another start So many dreams to tease the heart. We don't need a
crowded ballroom, Everything we want is here And face to face, we will embrace,
the perfect year Everything we want :-)

During the performance, the lady sitting next to me didn't know my attachment to Eric, yet leaned over to say, "He's the best one in this show." Each of the performers were really excellent, yet I had to 100% agree with her. Eric sang with HEART.
Here is an excerpt of "Too Much in Love to Care" from Sunset Blvd.
I guess you could just about say, this has been a "Perfect Year"! More photos of our trip:

The reason for the trip was the same as the last four trips I've taken this year: to see Eric Kunze perform. He is such an extraordinary talent and such an exceptional human being that I don't want to miss any of his appearances. Luckily, my friend Jan feels the same way and we were able to convince our husbands to join us. The opportunity enriched all four of us with a chance to get to know one another better and enjoy a unique experience in a fantastic venue: the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center. Along the way we took fans from the Eric Kunze fansite and my girlfriend Ingrid and her husband Jake along for the ride.
My quest for a great hotel in a perfect location was rewarded when I found the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle. The hotel itself was everything I look for in accomodations: modern, artsy, interesting, cool and affordable. We hit the jackpot! Those requirements were immediately apparent upon entry of the hotel. There was a gathering area to the right with modern couches, coffee tables and a two-sided fireplace. At 5:00 each day there was a free wine reception here. the reception personnel went above and beyond to find us adjoining rooms. The rooms themselves were huge. We had an extremely comfortable king sized bed with a faux animal print throw, flat screen TV, couch, coffee table, office area with free wireless and a closet in which hung animal print terry cloth robes and (for purchase) camisole pajama sets. Since we had adjoining rooms, we kept our door open most of the time, thereby doubling our space.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
We arrived early in the day and were able to check in immediately and relax. The hotel restaurant, Urbana, was reputed to be good and we decided to eat dinner there before heading to the Kennedy Center for that evening's performance of Legally Blonde. We couldn't believe our good fortune. What a great restaurant! The food, the service and the prices were perfect. We were to eat there twice more during our short stay. Legally Blonde was a pleasant diversion. The highlight was whetting our appetite for the following evening's festivities. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed the full moon, the fountains and our view of the Potomac River from the back of the Kennedy Center. In hopes of surprising Eric, we went to the stage door and waited. Finally, I texted his mobile and he called back immediately saying he was already in his hotel room. He was sorry to have missed us, but we made plans to meet the following night after the performance. Earlier in the day we had stocked up on beverages and snacks and we went back to the room and gathered in our room for an afterglow.

Wednesday, New Year's Eve, December 31st

Today was the big day: New Year's Eve. We didn't undertake much so as to conserve our energy for a late night. We did have reservations that night at Urbana (again) for a special prix fixe New Year's Eve dinner.

We took a cab to the Kennedy Center and arrived at about 7:15. I had communicated via email regularly with Lio and Laura from the fansite regarding our plans for the evening. They were beyond excited about the performance and hopefully meeting Eric afterward. Laura had brought her friend Jeannie along. We all met at the Kennedy bust in the lobby at the Kennedy Center beforehand. They recognized me immediately from photos on the fansite. We got along amazingly well, considering we had just met. Soon it was time to go to our seats. The Eisenhower Theater was a beautiful venue. I knew we would be sitting close, with our front row tickets, but we weren't prepared to be sitting so close we could practically have touched the performers. Since the orchestra was onstage, the orchestra pit in front of us was covered and they came almost right to the edge during some of the songs.

"The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" started with music from Jesus Christ Superstar and we didn't have to wait long for Eric's signature number, "Gethsemane". I had heard him sing it on YouTube many times, but this was so thrilling the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I could see others in the audience looking at each other incredulously. Someone commented to me later that Eric was the gutsiest singer they had ever heard. Someone else had mentioned his "go for broke" style. I was so proud to be in the same room with him. The rest of the concert was very good as well. Each of the other five performers were extremely talented in their own right and the order of the songs flowed well. The night passed very quickly. At the end of the concert the clock was nearing midnight and the cast came to the front of the stage for an encore song. It was "The Perfect Year" from Sunset Boulevard, which they sang to the audience. At the last line, Eric extended his hand down to us in the front row and said smilingly, "Happy New Year". It was a thrill. I met Eric almost exactly one year ago after a performance of Whistle Down the Wind in Detroit on January 9th. And this was a perfect end to a perfect year.

After the concert we tried to find our way back to the Kennedy bust in the lobby; our preassigned meeting spot. Little did we know we would be battling a thousand other theater-goers, who were toasting their champagne glasses, dancing or milling about. The seven of us did manage to meet, but it became apparent that Eric was not going to be able to find us. He was feeling the same thing: I got a text to that effect. Thank God for cell phones! He was still at the far end where the theater was. I muscled my way through the crowd ("like a Lion's linebacker", Paul exclaimed) with my entourage following in my wake. At the other end of the Grand Foyer, we searched the sea of faces, until Jan yelled "there he is!" and I finally saw him at the other side. He saw us too and we met, joyfully hugging, to be able to wish each other a Happy New Year in person. I had bought little cans of sparkling wine with straws attached and we all got one to toast each other. Lio and Laura were each able to have their time to chat with Eric. Eventually, Georg, Paul and Jeannie finally caught up with us to say hi to him as well. We all floated home that evening (well, Jan and I did anyway) with the beautiful music ringing in our ears. We stayed up really late rehashing the evening's events and enjoying cocktails in our room.

New Year's Day, Thursday, January 1, 2009: Visiting the Wall

The next day we did a little sightseeing around DC. Georg had not been to the Vietnam Memorial. It is a sobering place. No one of our generation has not been touched by the loss of someone we either knew directly or indirectly from that time. I actually found the name of my first childhood boyfriend from 7th grade at Burton Junior High on that wall, Dennis Fernandez. He was a tall, thin, blonde young man with a twin sister. I attended my first junior high dance with him. I even remember the name of the song that was playing while we danced: "Wonderland by Night". Rest in peace, Denny.

Back at the hotel, we were meeting my childhood friend Ingrid and her husband Jake, who were driving in from New Jersey for dinner and the show that night. Ingrid's family and my family came over on the boat from Germany together. Both our parents' worked together at Seabrook Farms for a year and then we moved on to Michigan. Her family stayed in New Jersey. We remained childhood penpals, stood up at each other's weddings and see each other every few years. After visiting with them in our room for awhile, we drove to Legal Seafoods for dinner, where we were meeting a fellow Kunze fan from the internet. Her name is Beth and she is a violinist who has accompanied Eric many times as an orchestra member during his shows. She had never seen him perform as an audience member and had never met him in person.

The concert was just as good this night as the previous. Eric has a way of making eye contact from the stage so that you feel connected to him while he is performing. That is why I love to sit in the front row. Also, because although I am very self-conscious about it, I always make a point to give him a standing ovation at the end of the performances. These days, most performances are rewarded with standing ovations, whether they should or not. Eric's shows always deserve them! A funny thing happened during intermission. I was standing with my back to the stage looking at the auditorium when a couple came up to me and asked if I was Maggi from the fansite. They recognized me from the photos and introduced themselves as Eric's aunt and uncle! They were just as nice as the rest of Eric's family and Eric himself. After the show we all went round to the stage door and they insisted on a photo with me. Beth got to meet Eric, finally, and like everyone else who meets him in person, was enchanted. Afterward, we all sadly parted our separate ways. Eric and his family in one direction, Beth in another, and Ingrid and Jake drove Jan and I back to our hotel. They faced a three hour drive back home to Jersey that night. As Ingrid said that night, "You only live once" and this occasion was certainly worth the extra effort!

To read more about Eric, go to the fansite:

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