Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- Y is for the Yarmouth Argyle Port Maitland Opera Lovers Society

Welcome to Day 25 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge where --

Y is for YAPMOLS, or the Yarmouth Argyle Port Maitland Opera Lovers Society

My grandmother grew up in Amirault's Hill just outside of Yarmouth, and after living her married life in Sydney, Nova Scotia and then in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, Gram returned to her hometown when Grandpa retired.

My mom joined them when she and my dad parted ways in 1989. For my Mom, Yarmouth had always been a weekend sort of town, a place where she'd visit her parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, but Mom was used to city living -- and Yarmouth is a working fishing town. What was she going to do, exactly?

During one memorable dinner which Mom attended, along with several couples she'd met as she'd settled into Yarmouth life, it became clear that the opera playing in the background was sparking a brilliant idea.

Yarmouth's summer population always swelled with 'summer people' -- retired professionals who relished the peace of the seaside community but who were also used to city life and all the culture readily available to metropolitan tastes.

Yarmouth boasts a small live theatre venue, and a really accomplished community choir, as well as a vibrant east coast music scene -- but definitely no opera performances. The closest operas could be found four hours away at the Dalhousie University's music program graduations in Halifax.

Why not build a dinner evening out of a particular opera recording, have everyone either dress formally as if heading to the Met, or else dress as the characters in the story would dress? Then they could plan the dinner menu around the country featured in the libretto.

That is how YAPMOLS came to be. The initials stand for the three communities from where the members hailed: Yarmouth, Argyle and Port Maitland. All three communities are close to each other, and the society had a floating host format, whereby the next event would move to another member's home in rotation.

As Mom told me about some of these evenings on the phone when I lived in Toronto, finishing up university and working at the performing arts theatre which was then home to the Canadian Opera Company, they sounded like so much fun, I couldn't wait to experience one myself.

When my sister and I flew to Halifax and drove down to Yarmouth to attend Mom's art show at Th'YARC, luckily for us there was also a YAPMOLS event showcasing Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. This is my sister and me decked out in some of Mom's formal clothes, listening to the opera.

The general program of a YAPMOLS opera night ran like this:

All the guests arrived, looking gorgeous, of course. This is Carolyn and Henry.

Everyone either introduced themselves around, or caught up with old friends. This was my husband's and my second opera night, and our first as newly-arrived residents of Yarmouth in 1999. (We're now in Halifax.) Musical family friends Gail and Ed are second and third from right.

A great time to relax with some wine and appetizers, while feeling the buzz of anticipation for act one of the opera. Mom's good friend Bill, center, chats with Mom's friends Peter and Janet.

When it was time to start, someone would read the act one description of the story -- in this case, it was me.

Everyone would find a seat, and a recording of the opera would play.

At the end of act one, it was time for the main course sit-down dinner.

That's Mom in the center chatting with Peter and Janet during a Madama Butterfly opera night.

Of course, if it was The Girl of the Golden West, opera night became an opera barbeque.

Once the second act description was read and everyone settled in to listen to the opera, dessert was served between acts two and three.

This is the Tosca opera night co-hosted by Mom and me, that being one of my favorite operas. We held it during one of our trips home to Nova Scotia from Toronto after I'd finished my final year and graduated from Ryerson University. L to R: Mom, Dad (who were still close friends, even though divorced,) Brad and me.

Following the conclusion of the opera, often there would be brandy and chocolates, or cigars in the back porch for the men, and the evening would go on until the wee hours of the morning. That's Peter and Janet enjoying a laugh.

Mom and Bill -- is it morning already? Time to go?

Yes, the opera nights of yore spanned the decade of the 90s and were a magical part of life in Yarmouth for everyone who took part. If you can't get to the opera, bring the opera to you.

Tomorrow will be the final day of this year's challenge -- wow!

I can't believe how much fun I've had doing the challenge. Thanks to all who have dropped by. I'll branch out to visit fellow A to Z-ers in the weeks to come, as I know many of you will also be doing. This has been my fourth A to Z Blog Challenge, and I'm already looking forward to the next one.


Kristin said...

This sounds like lots of fun and a great idea. And that it actually happened. We have lots of ideas around my family, but actually making them happen, not so good.