Monday, December 27, 2010

O Holy Night

This Christmas, we stayed right here at home. Seems like traveling during the holidays has always been a nightmare for us, and what with air travel getting more ridiculous by the minute, it just doesn't make sense to add even more torture to an already crazed time of year.

Our Christmas season began when we got to see The Wizard of Oz on the big screen at an old movie theater in town. I know, it's not a Christmas movie, but it felt festive getting to see it on the big screen. In truth, it's really more a Halloween movie, as scary as it is to Mickey.

Then there was the holiday fair at Mickey's school. We usually get our tree there for $25, but when I arrived 15 minutes after the fair began, all the good trees had already been taken. Dang it. Tom worked the fair all day seeing that the school's book sale was being held in his classroom. Mickey played outside in the cold all day with a revolving door of school mates. I stayed home and cleaned house.

The following weekend we ventured out to find our Christmas tree. I stopped by the local nursery to price trees there, but nearly fainted when I found that most were priced at $80! I hadn't seen any Christmas tree stands anywhere in town, but remembered the place where we go to get our pumpkins for Halloween at a good price, so I figured it was worth checking out their trees. When we arrived, I was floored. They were all gargantuan. Our den has high ceilings, but the trees that greeted us when we first arrived at Taft Farms were clearly too tall. And the price was too tall as well, $70. Undaunted, we cruised each aisle until Tom found the $50 trees. More than what I wanted to spend, but they were getting ready to close and if we didn't get a tree that day, who knew when we'd be able to get one. Tom dragged our tree to the front to pay. When the guy came over to help us, he looked at the tree and said $35! SOLD! Merry Christmas!

Last Christmas, Mickey commented on the colored lights he saw on other trees. Our tree had white lights. My trees have had white lights ever since white lights became available, even though I always loved colored lights on Christmas trees when I was a kid. The hardware store across from work had colored lights on sale this year, so I bought six strings with a total of 900 lights. I must say, I do love the colored lights.

When I was growing up, it was tradition in our family to put the Christmas tree up on the Saturday closest to my birthday, December 11th. We did the same this year and I was given the most lovely watercolor from Tom and Mickey. I spotted the watercolor at the school's holiday fair. It was being sold as part of the silent auction. The artist, Ann Getsinger, is someone I met while working at the Southfield Store. She would come in some mornings while Mickey was still there waiting for the bus. One morning she and Mickey sketched together. I still have the newspaper on which they did their doodling. Sometime after this art session, Ann had a showing of some of her work, so we went to have a look see and were floored by the magnitude of talent this woman has. I determined then and there that one day an Ann Getsinger would hang in our house. I bid on the watercolor, but after I left, parents began flocking to the watercolor and out bid me. Or, at least, that's the story Tom told me. Apparently there were many interested parties, but in truth, he stood near the painting and threatened everyone who came near because he wanted to buy it for me for my birthday. Happy Birthday!

Not long ago, the preacher at our church started a mid-week prayer service, primarily for interested parishioners to gather to pray about growing our church and to sing worship songs. I attend every Thursday and have become the de facto song leader, and let me tell you, we sing our guts out. It's really a lot of fun. One Thursday I suggested that we should go Christmas caroling as a means of getting the word out that we were out there. So we did. There's only about 5 steady choir members, but that was just enough to sing some carols in harmony and spread some cheer. After several hours of traveling around and singing for our older folk, we ended the day at the New Marlborough Meeting House for the annual Christmas carol sing.

There is a famous percussionist who lives in our town and he leads the singing every year. He always hauls in straps of bells for the kids to play as we all sing Jingle Bells. The sound is a little deafing, so I've dubbed it Jangle Bells, as in jangled nerves.

And wouldn't you know it, all that jingling of bells summoned old man Christmas himself.

Just about one year ago, we started attending church next door at The United Church of New Marlborough. Last Christmas eve, I was just one of many singers in the choir (some how, we had lots of singers last Christmas eve). This year was a different story. The organist and I played carols for fifteen minutes leading up to the service. Mickey rang the church bell to start the service. He rings the bell every Sunday morning, too. I sang with the choir for all the carols, and jumped in on the violin on certain carols. Then, after the preacher's message, Mickey and I sang Away in a Manager together, with me accompanying us on the autoharp. And then for the offertory, I sang O Holy Night. Unfortunately, I had a hideous cold and couldn't reach my high notes. Oh well, next year.

It was a really beautiful service and it was so nice to see all the pews filled. If only it could be like that every Sunday.

After church, Tom and Mickey and I each opened a present. The rest had to wait to be opened along with the loot that Santa would drag in for Mickey while we were sleeping. Wink, wink. We ended Christmas day having a wonderful dinner down the street at our friends, the Richmans.

God bless us everyone.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What's In A Name?

Well. I need your help. I've been considering for quite a while to change the name of my blog. Well, not the name of the blog, per se, but the address of the blog. Since I chose to use my home address as the address of the blog, I also chose not to publish my blog for all the world to find and read. But I think I'd like for the world to be able to find and read my blog, so now I need to change my address. But it has to be something catchy, something meaningful, something memorable. I wanted to use, but it isn't available. If you go to, you'll find an old blog from 2002 with only a handful of posts. See, that's the dangerous thing about the internet, nonsense gets posted and it stays for years and years and the whole web is such a giant thing that no one can manage it much less clean it up. So, I have to come up with something else. If you have any ideas, let me know!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Guess Who Came To Lunch!

So, I got up this morning and pulled on my dirtiest clothes and proceeded to collect all our trash and recycling and load it out to the car. There were some old fluorescent light fixtures that used to hang in the workshop that is now our den that I have been wanting to take to the dump but kept forgetting that I finally remembered, so I dragged those out of the basement and shoved those into the car. And one last piece of the old shower that used to be in what will someday be our library jumped into my memory, so out to the car it went as well. My hands were filthy and my clothes filthier. No matter. I'm going to the dump.

I go to the dump and no one was there. Well, Alvin, the old guy who runs the dump was there but he was in his shed with the door closed. Alvin gave me a photo once of he and one of the girls that grew up in this house, kissing him in front of his old car parked in front of the garage that was torn down just before we bought the house. Everyone has some connection to this house. Anyway. I digress, as I do.

On the way back to the house, I pass Elise who is gardening this public triangle out in front of The Southfield Store, so I stop and visit. As we're visiting, Miriam, one of the gals who does pastry at the store comes out and says "Guess who's inside! Guess who's inside!" My mind races. Martha Stewart comes to mind, but then maybe it's Bill Clinton or Jake Gyllenhaal. "Ina Garten!"

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I LOVE INA GARTEN! THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA! What do I do, what do I do? I HAVEN'T EVEN BRUSHED MY TEETH! Is my hair messed up? What hair I have. Maybe she'll autograph one of my cookbooks. I have all of hers, after all. Which one to bring!!!! I go inside, but I can't even look at her. I walk passed her table and recognize Jeffery, her husband. I talk to Andrew, the store manager, who tells me that he has told her that we, the store, uses her french toast recipe, which we do because I started it! What do I do? Elise says she's going to tell her that her biggest fan has just ran home to get a cookbook for her to autograph, so off I go.

I get home and excitedly tell Tom who's at the store, brush my teeth, check to make sure what hair I have isn't pressed down in weird patterns because of sleeping on it, grab the cookbook with the french toast recipe in it and fly back to the store. I walk in and one of her friends sticks out her arms, presenting Ina. Ina reaches out her hand to introduce herself and I take it. "And this is Jeffery", she says. "Oh, I know Jeffery", I respond, and everyone laughs.

I ask for her autograph and she graciously obliges and I ask if I could have a photo and she nearly has a heart attack. She wasn't filthy like I was, but she wasn't wearing a stitch of make-up and was dressed in an old track suit. But she obliged. She looked at me and said "This is a private photo isn't it? It's not ending up on YouTube or anything, is it?" Of course not. So, as I type this, I've decided that if you want to see the photo, you'll just have to come visit, but here's her AUTHOGRAPH!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Kitchen

Well. Summer is gone, cold weather is upon us and it seems my time may allow me to sit at my computer and do a little catch up on my blog. Doing a post about my new kitchen has been on my mind, even though it has been done for a good while and there are so many more important things I could be focusing upon, but I guess I just need to get this over with so I can move on to those more important things.

Last fall, just about this time last year, I was frantic to get our kitchen done so that I could fix Thanksgiving dinner in my house. I wasn't going to my Mom's house or my mom-in-law's house for the holiday. I was staying home, AND, we would be having house guests, AND, Tom and I would be tying the knot as recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Massachusetts is a commonwealth, not a state, and don't ask me what that means. I just know that it is, and that our marriage is considered official and legal here in the commonwealth. 'Nuf said (pull left, bottom eyelid down with left pointer and assume haughtiness).

Anyway. Here we would be in our house for the Thanksgiving holiday, with guests in the house, so the kitchen just HAD to be finished. I will say the contractors hauled it, and they did indeed give us a kitchen in which we could have cooked Thanksgiving dinner, however, our friends, the Richmans, who live down the street three houses, invited us over, and, well, who could say no? I did fix some marvelous big breakfasts that holiday weekend, just not turkey and dressing.

Anyway. It's been a year now, and while there are things that are not done, the kitchen is as done it's going to be for a good while, so I guess it's time to show it off.

We decided that we were not going to put in a kitchen to just get us by, and then put in the kitchen we really wanted years later. I mean, really. Who has the time for that? I said, "Lookit. I don't have the patience or money to put in crappy cabinets and make-do appliances only to do it all over again some other year. Let's just bite the bullet, dig our hole, put in the cabinets I've been fantasizing over all these years, and the best appliances my patience will allow, and be done with it." So, that's what we did.

Earlier in this blog you have seen the before and during, but instead of making you go all the way back to look at all that mess, I've copied some of it forward for your convenient viewing pleasure.

The first two "before" photos are similar, but different. The first was taken by the sellers of the house, capturing the door into the area that would become our den, the second photo was taken by me, capturing more of the area that would become the stove area of the kitchen.

This next photo is another perspective of where the new kitchen will be. This photo is actually of the old kitchen, which in our reality it becomes the dining area. The wall behind the microwave is now gone, revealing the space that is the new kitchen.

Okay, these next photos shows the "during". What's missing is the wall behind the microwave above.

This next photo represents what happens if we scan to the right from the photo above.

And these next photos is what we see if we continue scanning to the right - "during" and "further into during".

Okay, maestro, drum roll, please!

Presenting "Our New Kitchen".

Here are a couple more photos, taking in more of the kitchen, left and right, while standing in the old kitchen space.

Now, as for the old kitchen, which is now our dining area, it's still a construction zone. We were hoping that the old floor hidden under the layers and layers of tile and linoleum would be restorable. Let's just say there was a good reason it was hidden under layers of and layers of tile and linoleum. When we can, we'll lay a new floor of antique pine. The wainscotting was tore up moving a window and deleting a door, and sections of it that lived behind the old sink area was pretty much rotten. We could go through and piece together and restore it, but the longer we sit and look at the old wainscotting, the more I think we'll end up ripping it out and putting in all new while having a mud room bench custom built for the area where the old washer and dryer used to live.

As for the pantry, all it needs is shelving, and as for the den, well, it looks like an explosion hit it most of the time as that is where we live and will continue to live until more the house is done, which ain't gonna be for a gooooood while (imitate Andy Griffith or Grandma Foon for the correct effect).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jesus Loves Me

One morning as I was fixing breakfast, I made Mickey sit down at the table and take dictation so that he could do some practice handwriting and spelling. I didn't know really what to dictate, and then it popped into my head that I should teach him Bible songs, just as Grandma Stover did with me when I was Mick's age. So, I dictated Jesus Loves Me, and then I taught him the song. We practiced it many mornings as I drove Mick to Tom's office, where Mick would hang out before Tom would later take him to summer camp.

Then one evening as I sat in the den watching the evening news and Tom compulsively pulled Japanese knotweed out of the rock garden behind the house, Mickey played in the sprinkler and sang his new found song. He sang and sang and sang. Luckily I had my wits about me enough to grab the camera. How I love my son.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Can't Believe It's JUNE!

I should say "I can't believe it's almost JULY!" Well, school is out - First Grade is a memory and Second Grade is on the horizon - and things get even more complicated than they were during the school year. Scheduling is so danged difficult. First off, what do we do with Mickey all day now that he's not in school. Well, summer day camp, of course. Summer camp for Mickey is Flying Cloud. Flying Cloud is not far from our house, luckily, and it is great because the kids have fun while learning music, singing, dancing, art, pottery, gardening, nature and tending chickens and goats. Last year our summer was about nothing but rain, and Mickey would come home soaked, wound up and exhausted. The photos below are taken off Flying Cloud's Facebook page. I thought I had better hurry and get last years' photos posted before I have photos from this year to post.

I did have a video to share. It was taken by me during the performance on the last day. I tried uploading it to the blog, but it failed. And then my computer crashed, and of course, I didn't have anything backed up. So much lost. Again. I'm so sad to lose the video, but at least I still have the memory. The song that the kids were singing was composed in part, I believe, by the older kids, but all the age groups got to sing it. Mickey was so taken by the music and the rhythms, he couldn't hold his body still. He was so hot and exhausted, his eyes appeared to want to pop out onto the floor. He looked crazed, maniacal, hot and miserable, but oh so happy. And you could clearly hear him belting out the song. As the music began, his body began to move, and you could hear some adult off-stage trying to get him to stand still, but he just couldn't. During the verses he would stand quietly, pretty much, and then he'd belt it out during the chorus and during each musical bridge his body would unleash. It looked like a cross between Irish step-dancing, African dance, and some sort of seizure. I couldn't decide if I should be proud or mortified. Afterward, when parents were coming up to him telling him how much they loved his dance, I decided I was proud AND mortified. I'm so sad you'll never get to see it. (Never mind. It's there! Hurray! Something told me not to delete it's place marker in the edit view version. After I published the page, it actually worked!! I can't tell you how wildly happy this makes me.)

Here's Mickey with his best friend Alek working with Jane Burke, the owner and director of the camp. She's one of these crazy smart people who is good at a lot of things. She's a potter, dancer and scientist. And she loves Mickey.

Here's Mickey and the crew building this hut they held classes in during camp.

Here's Mickey with his crew and I have no idea what that mess is on the blanket in front of him. The little blonde girl in the orange pants across from his is Lily. Her dad bought a house just up the street a piece and these two played together a lot last summer. She's there with her dad about every other weekend during the school year. She lives with her mom in Lincoln, Mass the rest of the time. I wish she was here year round so Mickey had a playmate nearby.

Flying Cloud, being a 200+ year old colonial farmstead is big on gardening. Here's Mickey tending to some tomatoes they grew up an arbor that was just built last summer.

Here's Mickey and the crew in front of the arbor that was built last summer. It reminded me of some of those wacky buildings built by architect Frank Gehry.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Boy and His Borrowed Dog

Our friend, Elise, who lives three houses down for us and who moved up here from Dobbs Ferry, New York two weeks before we moved here, adopted a puppy last fall which she named Henry the 8th because he was she and Michael's 8th dog. There were moments when I thought the dog was going to be ours, but ultimately we just couldn't take him. At the time, we still had Misty and we wanted her to live out her last days as the queen of her castle. But we all love Henry. I'd marry him if I could. The shelter that had him up for adoption described him as a Miniature Pinscher. I love Min Pins, as they are nicknamed. There was a gym I used to go to in NYC and there was a trainer there who owned a Min Pin, and that little dog used to follow him all around the gym, prancing like an itty bitty show horse. Cute. The two of them together - the trainer and the dog. Made me want to have one of each.

But as it turns out, Henry is no miniature anything. Elise had his DNA mapped and it turns out he is one half Standard Pinscher (huge), one quarter Leonberger (huger), and one quarter everything else. Henry is not going to be a small dog but we love him anyway.

When Mickey is craving "a boy and his dog" moment, we borrow Henry and bring him up to our house so he and Henry can run around the yard. Mickey is so overwhelmed by Henry being here he can't just run around the yard with him, he has to bring him into the house and show him around, pick up him up and carry him, and force him to be cuddly on the sofa.

I love it when Henry looks like it's taking all he's got to hold it together. His tiny ears lay back flat and his whole head seems to do the same thing.

Elise and Michael have had to install an invisible fence in their yard because Henry and Cha Cha (Henry's housemate, and really, the Queen of all she sees) . . .

. . . will take off like a light through the woods, up the street, and around and around. So they can get out and really stretch their legs, Henry more than Cha Cha as Cha Cha has hardly any legs to stretch, Elise takes them both down to Umpachene Falls - I've taken you there. Look for a very early post. One day she threw the dogs and Mick in the car and they all went to the falls and expended a little energy.

Mickey is often the conscientious citizen. Upon arrival to the park, he began picking up litter to put it in its proper place.

Don't you think he should be in Ralph Lauren ads?

A birthday is coming up in July for one little boy desperate to have a dog that he can play ball with, circle the yard with and call his own. I hope Henry doesn't get jealous whenever that day arrives, and I hope he finds they can be the bestest of friends.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ah, the Days of Summer!

I meant to post these photos last summer, but was too overwhelmed with everything else to do so. Now, as the spring rains come and the snows melt and temperatures begin to rise, I thought I'd post them to remind ourselves of the warm, and soggy (in so many ways) days of past and the warm, and hopefully less soggy, days soon to come.

One warm day last summer when it wasn't raining, Mickey and I were home and he was yearning for a play date, as he always is. We made a phone call to his friend Alek's mom, Lori - who you do not see in the photos - and asked if Alek could come and play. Yes, Lily could come, too. Then, we got a call from Lori who asked if she could bring along two little boys - Winter, and the other name escapes me as I write this - whose dad, Asa, was having a meeting up the street with Alek's dad. The boys were sitting in the office bored out of their minds and trying to behave. Sure, the more the merrier! Soon, Lori arrived with the four kids in tow. We pointed them toward our "playground" and said "have at it", while she and I sat in the shade barking at them to stay away from us with the squirt guns. Before long, Asa arrived, his part of the meeting having ended. Asa picked up a squirt gun, or two, and Lori and I couldn't figure out who was the bigger kid! The afternoon was sheer joy and bedlam.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bells Are Ringing

Did I ever tell you that Tom and I got officially married in the state of Massachusetts? Good old Massachusetts. Tom and I had our commitment ceremony back in May of 2004. It was a beautiful, but chilly Saturday at my best friend Kelly Kirby's house, surrounded by 40 friends, fed by a great caterer. It was the whole sha-bang. But since we are now living in Massachusetts where we could be legally married, we thought we should do as the Romans do and tie the not, again. So on the cold Wednesday before Thanksgiving around 5:00 in the evening, our friend Nancy, who officiated at our commitment ceremony, Uncle Patrick, Tom and Mickey and I crept out onto the north lawn, lighted candles and written ceremony in hand to take our place within a circle of candlelight Patrick and I had set up on the lawn moments before. There, by dim candlelight and through much emotion, Nancy revisited her text and we restated the vows we wrote for our commitment ceremony in 2004. Uncle Patrick, who was not present for the commitment ceremony, boo hooed like a girl, and Mickey looked at all of us like we had lost our minds. It was a great and memorable evening. After we got Nancy back into the safety of our house without her breaking a hip out in the dark of night, we piled into the car and headed up the road a piece to have a celebratory dinner at The Old Inn on the Green. Chef Platt and Meredith Kinnard, innkeepers and proprietors of The Old Inn are also my employers at The Southfield Store. They each visited the table to bestow upon us their best wishes which they topped off with a very nice bottle of bubbly for the table. After a fantastic dinner, Meredith took our one wedding photo for us to remember the evening by.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Grand Central

This photo was taken a few weeks ago. We have more snow on the ground now since we had that string of storms, but look at all those foot prints. THOSE ARE ANIMALS! The fatest footprints starting on the right hand side about half way up the photo and going up the hill are mine, all the others are the animals that criss cross our property when I'm not looking. Recently we've been visited by the fantastic Mr. Fox, and we've seen him! He's beautiful. We see him in the morning when we're getting ready for work and school. One of these days I'm going to have my wits about me and get a picture of him instead of just galking at him and screaming at Mickey to look out the window. All those prints aren't Mr. Fox's, they belong to deer and God knows what else. Today I went out to check the level in our gas tank and around the tank were the most delicate paw prints, much smaller than those of a cat. I have no idea what they could be. Old Mr. Bear should be waking up pretty soon and paying us a visit. I wonder if we'll see any faun trotting through the yard with all the adults we saw last summer. I love our wildlife.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Music Appreciation 101

There is so much going on here these days, but what with working two jobs to help make ends meet - shoot, I don't know why I said that; most days here lately I can't even find the ends, much less make them meet - it's just hard to find the time to sit down and write. But tonight, since Tom's in the the city because he's teaching at Pace University tomorrow (yes, we're both working two jobs), and Mick is in bed fast asleep, my night owl muscle gets to be exercised. So here I sit. Me and that old crow.

Here lately, I'm finding music creeping back into my life, little by little. Nice. When I was little, I used to sing out on the swing set. I remember hearing stories about how I used to sit out there and sing and sing and sing. (Mickey sings. There's nothing I like more than to hear him off in another room singing to himself. He has such a sweet little voice.) Grandma Stover would literally sit me at her knee and teach me Bible songs that I would eventually sing in her Sunday School class. I guess I loved singing. And then, I remember the first time I heard Gordon MacRae in "Oklahoma". Maybe I was 12 or 13. "Oklahoma" was being broadcast on television and I was so taken by Gordon MacRae's voice, I ran and got my Radio Shack reel-to-reel tape recorder and recorded the songs he sang. He is such a phenomenal singer and actor. He doesn't just sing technically correct, he connects with his gut and you feel his story, what the heck is going on, what he wants, what he really means. You hear it in his voice, see it in his face, and feel it in your gut.

I played that tape over and over, and sang and sang and sang along with Mr. MacRae. They're going to hate me for saying this, and I know they were just being lovingly hateful, the way siblings can be, but I remember my brother and sister telling me I couldn't sing, and shouldn't. And so I didn't. For a very long time. Songs would come on the radio in the car and while everyone else joined in, I remained silent. "I can't sing" I would remind myself. And I didn't really sing again until I was in college. In my freshman year, the theatre department produced the musical version of "Peter Pan", and I was hell bent to be Peter, but I was going to have to sing. So I showed up to those auditions and I sang. I didn't get cast in the role of Peter (that's a whole other story), but ultimately it didn't matter. I was singing, and nothing was going to stop me. There's nothing I like better than opening my mouth, letting go of my gut and singing my damned fool head off. Some of the most memorable and significant moments in my life were times when I was singing. That is the truth. Over the years I have sung in shows and in choirs, but for a while now I've not really been singing. Oh, maybe I'll sing while I'm out fiddling in the yard, or driving somewhere alone, but I've not really given myself the space in my day to sing. Really sing. Until lately.

We've started going to the little church next door. It used to be a member of the United Church of Christ, but it isn't a member of anything at the moment. It is, without a doubt, a little country church preachin' that ol' time religion. It's good enough for me. And I've joined the choir. So far, the most we've had in the choir loft on a Sunday morning is eight, which isn't bad. One of these days I'm going to get my hands on that little choir and we're going to tear that place apart. The church choir apparently had quite a hey day back some number of years ago, but there's been some political nonsense going on for a while, as can happen in churches, and attendance has dwindled to a paltry few. But we show up and sing our little hearts out. I joined the choir just in time to sing for the Christmas Eve service. Upon hearing me sing, one of the tenors whispered to the other "I think we have our quartet back". The former and long time choir director had written arrangements for four of the men in the choir, but with all that has happened there at the church, the quartet has been a non-entity for quite some time. But we're up and running now and we meet by ourselves on Thursdays and you know, we sound pretty good, if I do say so myself. We sang for the first time this past Sunday. We're not perfect. Yet. But after we finished "It Is Well With My Soul", I was so emotional I couldn't sing the congregational hymn. (Be patient, it may take a while to load.)

So the music ball has started to roll. When I lived in Kansas City, I used to listen to the classical music station, KXTR, all the time, mostly because I had it on in the car. Hearing it there kept me in the music mood, so when I was out of the car, I often had it playing on the stereo. I used to drag the speakers outside on Saturday evenings while I worked in the yard and listened to the live broadcast of the Boston Symphony. You know what? It just dawned as me as I was writing this, but what I was listening to was the Boston Symphony live from Tanglewood. TANGLEWOOD! Here in the Berkshires! My home! Destiny. Anyway, I would crank it up and the neighbors would sit out on their steps or side porches and listen right along with me. But when I moved to NYC, oddly enough, the music stopped. I didn't listen to the radio because I was never in a car and I never sat still in my apartment long enough to have the radio on. And even now, I don't listen to the radio because the only station around here that plays classical music is NPR and all that's ever on NPR when I'm in the car is some inane dialogue about how contra rebels are having nervous breakdowns because their mothers didn't breast feed them when they were infants. I mean, really. NPR can make me NUTS. I don't see the fascination with it. However, I am listening to my music in the car, taking the advantage of the cd player and my collection of cds.

I'm not one of these people who buy every cd of every Beethoven symphony, or every Puccini opera. I only buy the cds of those pieces of music that really turn me on. Or, at least I try to. I could do a little paring down of my collection and not miss anything. Anyway. I have this boxed set of Howard Hanson's symphonies. I know that most of you, if not all, are asking yourself "who the hell is Howard Hanson." Well, I don't know a lot about him, but I know this. When I was in orchestra at Emporia State, Maestro Hanson died. My orchestra conductor, Howard Halgedahl, decided we would do an entire concert of Hanson pieces. The only piece from that concert that has stayed with me is Hanson's Symphony No. 2, the "Romantic." Maestro Hanson had been one of Mr. Halgedahl's professors at Eastman School of Music, and apparently not just a professor, but a real mentor, like Mr. Halgedahl was to me. I can count on one hand the teachers I view as my mentors, and Mr. Halgedahl is one of them. He really stood up for me and watched out for me. Listening to Mr. Halgedahl's stories about Hanson during our rehearsals of the symphony, I knew that Howard Hanson meant the same to Mr. Halgedahl as Mr. Halgedahl meant to me. We recorded the concert so that Mr. Halgedahl could give the recording to Maestro Hanson's widow. It was an emotion charged evening.

As I said, years ago, in order to get a recording of the 2nd Symphony, I had to buy the Howard Hanson boxed set, and I must confess I've barely listened to his other symphonies. But Symphony No. 2 is momentous. I am now listening to it over and over in my car these days. I've listened to it at least a 1,000 times, if not a million. I just can't get over it, or enough of it. I just don't get it. I don't understand how it's possible for a human being to write a bunch of notes down on a lot of pieces of paper for a motley crew of weird contraptions that are sawn, blown, plucked and pounded and still be responsible for a sound being produced that can grab your gut and move you to tears. I don't get it.

Have you ever really thought about an orchestra and all the instruments in it? It all really doesn't make any sense. That these instruments exist singly, and as an integral part of an assemblage we call an orchestra, is a simple and profound expression of the Divine. It all couldn't happen otherwise. It couldn't. Not without the Divine. I mean, you take a cigar box, stick a pole on one end, string four different strings on it tightly, stick it under your chin, drag a stick tied with horse hair - HORSE HAIR - across it with your right hand while your left hand is sliding around and if you're good, people like the way it sounds. What? Who came up with this? You take a black tube with a bunch of holes in it, stick a splinter of a reed on one end and blow throw it and make more sounds people like. How? What planet did this come from? A French Horn? You wind twelve feet of brass tubing around and around and around itself, blow through it and Mozart writes a fantastic piece of music for it. It's all wacky, and so wonderful.

I digress, as I am want to do. Where was I? Howard Hanson. The Romantic Symphony. I can't get how it's possible for someone to write a piece of music that can bring you to tears. But this symphony surely does it. Now, I like Beethoven's symphonies, but ain't none of 'em ever brought me to tears. But you have to listen to the all three movements. I mean, to really be affected by the piece, you can't just listen to one movement because Hanson introduces themes in the first movement that he develops and then revisits in the second and third movements. He tells a story, in my mind, of love and passion and fighting and reconciliation, and his melodic themes recur throughout the varied stories, and in so doing, the story is told, layer upon layer, so that by the time you get back to the main theme toward the end of the third movement you're completely undone. I'm telling you, I've almost had to pull over and gather myself. Out of the turmoil and passion swells a theme of great love, and it's made ever more palpable by the pounding heartbeat portrayed by the timpani. The violins sing, swell and soar, taking you higher and higher, the passion burning till it can't burn any longer. Doesn't need to any longer. Simply, a few strings quietly express the truth, even more profoundly than before. And in its simplicity it is grand. And then we're home. God is in his heavens and all is right with the world, and the brass majestically let you know this. Oh, I just can't take it. Just talking about it tears me up. The recording I listen to is of the Seattle Symphony conducted Gerard Schwartz. I think it's really great. Get it and treat yourself to all three movements. Get rid of all your other distractions. Put on the cd, sit back and let the music wash over you. Let your imagination and the music come together and tell you a story. I used to turn off all the lights and listen to my music good and loud in the darkness because there I could more clearly see what my ears were hearing. Do that. Treat yourself. Here's just the third movement.

Anyway. What does all this mean? I have no idea. I hadn't posted in a good while; the kitchen isn't done enough for me to show it off, and this blog isn't just about the danged house. I've been so wound up about the music I'm enjoying here lately, I just wanted to share.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010