Orchestra wows with its mastery

Letters to the Editor
Published April 17, 2005

We just spent three wonderful days with the Florida Orchestra. What a blessing to have these talented musicians among us.

On Thursday afternoon, April 7, at the Coffee Concerts, Stefan Sanderling delighted everyone with witty stories of the great composers and led us from Rossini to Mozart to Beethoven. He finished with a lively Cuban dance that had everyone swinging in their seats. Stefan is a very youthful, charming and powerful conductor. Everyone enjoyed him immensely.

That Friday evening, Susan Haig took us on a marvelous tour of Opera's Greatest Hits. Believe me, the tour was inspirational as she wove together the huge assemblage of singers from Tampa Bay's Master Chorale, the beautiful, operatic voices of soprano Erin Wall and tenor Joseph Wolverton, and our beloved Florida Orchestra.

The evening was so well-planned and the progression so dramatic that when the operatic duet sang the last aria, the audience members leapt to their feet with loud applause, whistling, and shouting, "Bravo, Bravo!" As we walked out of the Mahaffey Theater, we heard everyone talking about the wonderful and inspiring evening they had experienced. We assured ourselves that nothing could compare with that performance.

That Saturday evening at Symphony of Life, Susan Haig again commandeered our souls. The concert, held at Plant Park in Tampa, was free. Our benefactor was the LifeLink Foundation that promotes and supports organ transplants. Little did we suspect the pyrotechnics they had planned for us.

The evening began properly with the national anthem and progressed through the masterworks from Beethoven to Duke Ellington, from scherzo to concerto, from Star Wars to Symphony No. 2. Then, as the night drew to a close, all havoc broke loose. The orchestra with scintillating strings, punctilious percussion, brilliant brass, and rockin' reeds burst forth into Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, followed by Stars and Stripes Forever. Simultaneously, from behind us, a gigantic display of fireworks lit up the night sky over Tampa. The people went berserk. They screamed. They cheered. They applauded. They danced in the park.

Wow! What a show! What an orchestra! What a wonderful weekend!

-- Dr. and Mrs. Erik Raichle, Pinellas Park

Let community use gem of airport land

It was very nice during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to finally be able to tread on the open area on the water that Albert Whitted Airport uses. It is a shame that just once a year or so we can pay admission to access this beautiful piece of property. More people used this land in one weekend than will the whole year for airport business.

Building a new terminal should be reconsidered. Why is some city money being spent when the Mahaffey Theater next door is struggling to get financing? Again, more people will use the Mahaffey than will use the airport in a year's time.

This current administration needs to wake up and realize it is misusing a gem on the water. The airport should be downsized and the freed land used for community access. A new outdoor amphitheater could be built to replace the concerts at Vinoy Park (as more condos go up in downtown, so will the complaints of noise and parking the Vinoy generates). This issue needs to be addressed now, along with many other important issues for downtown. Does this city have a 20-year plan? Or does it just run from one problem to the next, not planning for future downtown development?

The university needs more space, and the airport limits it (height- and land-wise). Opening land now used by the airport would help the university to expand housing and classrooms, and an amphitheater can be built that the university and the city could use. This amphitheater could generate much more money than the airport now does, and the city would still own the land. Don't you call that a win-win situation?

-- J. Scott Hoffman, St. Petersburg

You can't always tell who's disabled

Re: Handicapped passes given too freely, letter, March 20.

The letter writer's position is one I have struggled with for the past 12 years.

I agree that many people misuse the privilege, using the tag of another or simply taking the designated owner of the tag with them and leaving him in the car while they do the walking. This frustrates me also.

However, there are many invisible disabilities.

I can't speak for the asthmatics, sufferers of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease or cancer who could be of the same mind-set as I. I can only speak for me. I have multiple sclerosis and I look good, which is my goal. The better I look to you, the better I feel.

You look at me and you have no idea how dizzy I may be, or if my vision is blurred because of the temperature. You can't tell that I have such crushing fatigue that I feel as though I carry a weight in the center of my chest, and I will never admit how much pain is simply part of my everyday life. That's how I exert some control over this out-of-control piece of my life. How I pretend to you, and therefore a little bit to myself, that I'm not just that "disabled" label I have to carry in other areas of my life.

This letter is not to tell the letter writer that I'm any more disabled than he is, nor any more deserving than those who have that "disabled look." It's to try to get across to him and those who agree with him: Please remember, you can't always tell.

So yes, I park in one of those "front row, close to everything, prized spots." What a lucky girl I am.

-- Bobbi Stapleton, Gulfport

Hurt bartender deserves help offered

Re: Friends, customers raise funds for hurt bartender, April 13.

How sad that Leigh Clifton has had to resort to hiring a lawyer to get the compensation she's due for her job-related injury. As a longtime former customer of Philthy Phil's, I can attest that the previous owners of the restaurant treated everyone from customers to employees like family, and I suspect they would have done everything in their power to help her.

Sadder still is the fact that other bars and restaurants on the beach are the ones reaching out to help her. She was a real asset to Phil's, and brought many customers to the restaurant. Kudos to Ricky T's, La Croisette, Mike Alstott and all the other merchants bending over backward to help. That's what our community is all about.

-- Bob Dalzell, St. Petersburg