They Can Do This With Their Eyes Closed

Mike Katz of the Battlefield BandMonday evening’s Institute of Musical Traditions concert featured the Scottish folk music institution Battlefield Band playing to an enthusiastic full house.  From the first notes from Mike Katz’s Highland pipes to the last notes of the encore, this thoroughly entertaining and professional group took the crowd on a delightful tour of traditional and contemporary Scottish folk music.

Battlefield Band has gone through a variety of personnel changes over the 40 years since the group was formed. Besides the bearded multi-instrumentalist Katz, the core of the current band features fiddler Alasdair White (who has been with the band since 2001, when he was 18 years old), and vocalist/guitarist Sean O’Donnell.

The band ripped through a strong first half which concluded with a “big set” of tunes featuring the pipes and twin fiddles. Then Katz came out solo to begin the second half, mesmerizing the crowd with the haunting sound of the pipes before being joined by his band mates.

Then, as O’Donnell began singing a song about bagpipes, everything went dark. As in, the power went out.  No lights (except for the church hall’s emergency lighting), no sound system, nothing. And we soon learned that the power was out all along Old Georgetown Pike.

The band missed a beat for about 15 seconds, then Katz begin playing the pipes from the stage (he never used the sound system in any event), and the other members of the band began wandering through the crowd.  Smartphone lights came on to provide lighting for the strolling musicians.  And the magic began, as first a fiddle would pass by, then perhaps the guitar, then a tenor guitar, and back again.  If you closed your eyes, you heard different lines rise and fall as the musicians walked past different sections of the hall.

This continued for at least 10 minutes, and then the lights returned. But the band stood at the front of the stage and played “acoustic music” for a while longer, perhaps captured by the magic they had just conjured up.

Battlefield Band

Live music is wonderful because of special, unexpected delights. This would have been a terrific concert without the power outage.  With it, the evening became magical.

Enjoy Eight Men of Moidart from a recent Battlefield Band concert.

More to come…

DJB

Exploring Savannah’s Gem of a Cathedral

Lafayette Square in SavannahA week would generally be enough time to explore large sections of a city the size of Savannah, Georgia. Time to linger among the live oaks and Spanish moss in the historic squares, eat at the growing list of restaurants, visit the museums, and share stories with friends and strangers in the coffee shops and bars scattered throughout the downtown.

Plenty of time…unless one has a conference to run.

Well, run is actually much too strong a word.  While technically responsible for ensuring that last week’s PastForward 2014 – the National Preservation Conference went off without a hitch, there are many staff members who carry a far heavier load as we worked to reach that goal.  Much of my oversight actually took place over the past 18 months.  Once the week of the conference comes, I just “enjoy the field trip” as Candice – the former elementary school teacher – says at times like these.  At the conference, I often have my day structured by others: be here to welcome this group, then go there to say thank you to the folks who made it all possible, to be followed by a pre-arranged dinner with colleagues and partners.

But it all means that I had  precious little time to really explore Savannah.  That is just the nature of my job, and I am not complaining, as I get to see and experience so many wonderful places.  Candice – who was traveling with me to the conference – took a half-day bicycle tour of the city among other jaunts and still had time for 6-7 of the conference presentations.  Me? I was able to catch glimpses of the city while traveling between sessions and meetings.

So when I found myself with 90 minutes on Friday afternoon, between the closing luncheon and a scheduled tour of historic homes, I decided to stretch my legs and visit the church whose two spires were visible every time I opened the drapes in our hotel room.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The Spires of St. John the Baptist Cathedral

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a gem of a building in the historic district and the mother church of the Savannah Roman Catholic Diocese.  It sits on Lafayette Square, and the outside of the building dates from the late 19th century.

The inside was rebuilt following an 1898 fire, and the results are beautiful.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Interior

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist - Organ

I’ve visited Savannah on multiple occasions since the 1980s, but have somehow missed seeing the interior of this gem of a cathedral.  Earlier in the day, I had the chance to listen to my colleague and friend Tom Mayes speak to a full house about the place of beauty in preservation.  His blog post on the topic is a highly recommended and wonderful read that includes the following:

President Kennedy said, “I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our National past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.”

I’ll take it as a bit of grace that 90 minutes popped open on a very busy schedule during this trip to allow for reflection about the beauty of this space and the beauty of the world I get to work in every day.

More to come.

DJB

Family, Friends, Food (Or How Candice and I Spent a Wonderful Weekend With Our Daughter)

Candice and DJB with ClaireFor the second weekend in a row, we’ve enjoyed time at college with one of the twins and are the richer for the experience.

I had appointments that took me to Los Angeles for two days late last week. Candice joined me so that as work wrapped up, we could take the short drive east to Claremont for a visit with Claire and her friends.

Claire’s friends are much like her – sharp, inquisitive, interested in others, outgoing, and easy to be around. When we arrived on Friday evening, we stopped by Claire’s senior dorm suite and then headed to The Junction for an evening of small plates, laughter, and conversation with her suite-mates.

These three young women all come from the west coast (California and Oregon) and have bonded over swimming, academics, and their shared optimism for life. We have known two of these young ladies for three years now, and have enjoyed getting to know the third over the course of this year. They all seem to be taking in everything the college experience has to offer.

Calire and her suitemates

The Pomona-Pitzer Swim & Dive team hosted a relay invitational on Saturday afternoon…which arrived with some of the first meaningful rain in Southern California in ages and cool temperatures that felt much more like Providence – where we were last week – than a typical fall weekend in Claremont.

PP Swim MeetBut Claire and the rest of the Sagehens took it all in stride. This was their season opening swim meet and we had a blast watching the team, which has grown progressively stronger during Claire’s four years. Like most of her teammates, she swam in multiple relays – even competing in her first breaststroke in some time. We may not be able to see another of Claire’s college swim meets live before she graduates, so even in the dampness and cold, we savored every minute.

Claire with friends at Bardot

Later that evening we joined Claire and three friends who bonded early in their freshman year for a time of family updates, laughter, post-graduate plans, and good food. All four had been away from Pomona during portions of their junior year, and it was clear they were enjoying being back together on a regular basis.

Sunday – with the extra hour of sleep – was just what we needed.  The weather was perfect – more like we expect when we travel to California. After a slow rise and some exercise, we met Claire downtown at the wonderful Claremont Farmers Market, where we filled up bags with cheese, nuts, and fruits for her suite.  Then we met another group of friends for brunch in the dining hall, with yet another set of lively conversations.

As we dropped Claire off tonight after a tapas dinner in the village, I thought of the last time we parted in front of Pomona Hall. This time there were no tears, just hugs, kisses and thankfulness for time spent with such a wonderful group of friends.

Thank you, Sweetheart, for the terrific weekend.

More to come…

DJB

The “Not All Who Wander Are Lost Tour” Lives On!

Claire and DJB with MapRegular readers will recall those intrepid travelers – Claire and David – making their way cross-country in August on what I dubbed the “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” tour. For twenty days, father and daughter crossed this great land, all the while keeping readers of More to Come… updated on our travels with daily posts, photos, and stories. It was a once-in-a-lifetime bucket list adventure for both of us.

So you can imagine my delight when Claire told us a few weeks ago that she had placed a map of the US on the wall in her dorm room, with the route outlined and photos from the trip displayed along the way.

Old school wall posting.  Oh my…do I love that daughter of mine!

The first thing I did when Candice and I walked into Claire’s dorm room on this late October/early November “she’s not coming home for Thanksgiving so we’re going out to see her” visit, was to go and see THE MAP.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Tour Map Overview

Just look at that beauty.  Twenty days of memories captured in one place, with the route marked and pictures pointing to the places we had visited along the way.

As Andrew and Claire were growing up, we had a map of the world on our downstairs wall.  We encouraged friends who were traveling to send us postcards from far away places. When the postcards arrived, we would post them on the wall and attach yarn to the back, which then stretched to a pin located in the appropriate city or country.  It was a great way to learn world geography (we have a lot of friends who travel extensively) and it stayed up until we painted the house sometime in high school.

Eastern portion of the tour

Claire used that map as her inspiration.  She shows us at the beginning of the trip – with the picture by the rental car outside our house on the morning of August 1st – and then heading up to Cleveland (first of three baseball stadium pictures) and Chicago. Our You Want Nutrition, Eat Carrots! day in Madison is captured as well, with that delicious ice cream cone photo.  (That was the top-rated post from the trip, BTW.)

Central Time edition map

Here you can see Claire’s part of the map I dubbed the Central Time Edition in one of several Observations from the Road.  Seeing the world’s largest ball of twine rolled by one person, our second baseball stadium (Target Field in Minneapolis), and fields of sunflowers were among the highlights.

Western tour

End of the road map

The last two portions highlight the western and coastal route of the trip, along with our arrival in Claremont.  I’m not going to say much about these photos or I’ll start crying again, but you can get a sense of my gratefulness for this trip in The Thankfulness Edition of Observations From the Road.  Candice, Claire, and I are going out to dinner on Sunday evening at the same restaurant where I wrote that final post…and had to put on sunglasses so that the waitress wouldn’t call the manager because of my tears. Sunday should be much more joyful!

What father wouldn’t want to come into his daughter’s dorm room and see their special time together posted in such a wonderful way on the wall.

She is one in a million.

More to come…

DJB

Music of Water + Fire

College Hill in Providence, October 2014Saturday evening’s WaterFire Providence – an award-winning sculpture installation featuring 100 blazing bonfires floating atop the water of Providence’s rivers – was capped with a terrific Brown University Chorus concert of Water and Fire-theme music. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful fall Saturday of activities during the university’s family weekend.

After a late-night Friday dinner at Gracie’s (if you go to Providence you must eat at Gracie’s, and then have breakfast at Ellie’s, the restaurant’s partner bakery), we slept in a bit on Saturday but made it up in time for a fascinating lecture as part of the Family Weekend Forums.  Professor of Medicine Richard Besdine spoke on Fit at 50, Sexy at 70, Nimble at 90:  The Fundamentals of Healthy Aging to a room full of parents who looked a great deal like us!  (He added the “Nimble at 90″ part of the title on the fly, and noted that our children’s granddaughters – Andrew and Claire’s granddaughters – would have a life expectancy of 100.) While there wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before, Dr. Besdine did present some sobering data about health care and healthy living in the U.S.

But he did it all with a dry sense of humor…as typified in cartoon caption that read,

What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?

But I’m here to talk about music…not successful aging.

Brown University Chorus

The Brown University Chorus is a group of highly talented musicians under the able direction of Frederick Jodry. Andrew is one of the tenors, and we’ve enjoyed getting to know Fred a bit and hearing the chorus whenever possible. Saturday evening, the program consisted of five Songs of Water along with six Firesongs based on Italian Renaissance texts by the contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen, all wrapped up with Thomas Morley’s Fyer, Fyer.   Among the water songs, the Robert Pearsall Full fathom five and Victoria’s Super flumina Babylonis (Psalm 137 – By the waters of Babylon) were wonderful. Candice was over-the-top excited to see that the chorus was singing one of her  favorite pieces, The Water is Wide (in the John Rutter arrangement entitled O, waly, waly.)

The firesong madrigals were terrific, as the fire that was featured was that wonderful Italian fire of love.

Eyes bright and clear,

You set me on fire, you, but my heart feels

Delight in the blazing fire, not pain.

Following the concert, Andrew, Candice, and I strolled along the riverside for more than hour, enjoying the sights, sounds, and people of WaterFire.

Candice, Andrew and David at WaterFire in Providence October 25, 2014

Candice and David at WaterFire

WaterFire in Providence

Candice and Andrew at WaterFire

Not content with two evenings of wonderful music (having attended the Brown Madrigals concert on Friday evening…more on that later), we made the decision to attend Central Congregational Church on Sunday morning in order to hear the Gloria by French composer Francis  Poulenc. It was wonderful – ranging from “exuberant to haunting and introspective” as described in the program notes.  The final Amen was such a delicious ending that the soloist (a Brown voice teacher) and choir sang it at the end of the Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris and then again – as a final coda – following the Benediction.

Amen!

More to come…

DJB

Beer and Bluegrass

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen

Beer and bluegrass.  Betcha never thought of that combination before.

Yeah, right.

At a festival that took “parking lot picking” to its logical conclusion (i.e., it was held in a parking lot next to the Clarendon Courthouse Metro Station), Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen rode to the rescue when the organizers of the Clarendon Arts & Crafts Beer Festival’s Acoustic Music tent were struggling with a bad sound system and horrible logistics (the sets were almost an hour late in starting). When the Dirty Kitchen band finally began their set  in the tent’s lengthening shadows, we were only ten minutes away from the festival’s posted closing hour.

Somehow, with six Virginia Craft Brewers and about a dozen local food trucks to choose from, it didn’t seem to matter!

Christie LeneeThe artist who was really shortchanged in the logistical and sound mess was Christie Lenee.

This finger-style guitar tapper was new to me, but she has obviously been making waves in the acoustic music world for a while. Her inventive sound reminded me of Michael Hedges, but she clearly has taken a range of influences and made them her own.

She began with the beautiful Breath of Spring from a new all-instrumental CD entitled Chasing Infinity.  Four tunes later, she had to call it a night to make way for the headliners.  It was much too short, but enough to whet the appetite for more.

Take the time to listen to her studio version of Breath of Spring:

After Lenee’s too-brief set, mandolinist Solivan and his band – fresh from winning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Band of the Year award – tore into those bluegrass standards The Letter and Ain’t No Sunshine. Banjoist Mike Mumford’s Line Drive gave him room to stretch out, and the entire band showed their considerable chops on a tune I requested of Frank before the show – Tony Rice’s Is That So. Chris Luquette on guitar led the way, followed by Solivan on fiddle, Mumford on banjo, and Danny Booth on bass.  Dirty Kitchen didn’t hit too many songs from the new album Cold Spell, but they did showcase She Said She Will. The band played their full hour set and may have kept going, except that the cops were shutting us down.

At the end of the evening, it was a satisfying festival and a very satisfying show by FS&DK.  We’ll go out with the video of She Said She Will (and don’t try and say that three times fast, as WAMU’s Katy Daley finds out at the front of the clip).

Enjoy!

More to come…

DJB

Cheerfulness

Dale Chihuly Art WorkIn the recently published The Keillor Reader, Garrison Keillor begins the book’s final essay with these insights:

Cheerfulness is a choice, like choosing what color socks to wear, the black or the red. Happiness is something that occurs, or it doesn’t, and don’t hold your breath. Joy is a theological idea, pretty rare among us mortals and what many people refer to as “joy” is what I would call “bragging.” Bliss is brief, about five seconds for the male, fifteen for the female. Contentment is something that belongs to older cultures: Americans are a hungry, restless people, ever in search of the rainbow, the true source, the big secret. Euphoria is a drug.

Keillor wrote the essay on cheerfulness after his mother died at age ninety-seven. He noted that she possessed cheerfulness, as did his father, but that it was a new topic for him. Yet as he realized in the writing, he is a cheerful man.  Later in the essay he notes:

Cheerfulness is a great American virtue, found in Emerson, Whitman, Emily Dickinson, even in Mark Twain: Don’t be held hostage by the past, the bonehead mistakes, the staggering losses, the betrayals of trust. Look ahead. Improve the day. Grow flowers. Walk in the woods. Be resilient. Clear away the wreckage and make spaghetti sauce. Power and influence are shadows, illusions. As Solomon said, the race is not to the big shots nor the battle to the tall nor success to a guy with connections.

I got to thinking about this as I realized how I chose to be cheerful – and how I chose to spend my time (and yes, the two may be related) – on the Saturday of the Columbus Day weekend. This is the last three-day weekend before what appears – on my calendar – to be a grueling stretch of meetings and travel. Columbus Day is a three-day weekend without a focus, and I like that. We don’t gather around a big turkey dinner or give gifts on Columbus Day weekend. There is no Columbus Eve special liturgy at St. Albans. The closest thing I have to a commitment this weekend is that we bought  tickets to drink craft beer and listen to Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen play marvelous bluegrass in Arlington on Sunday afternoon. Without realizing it, I had specifically scheduled a cheerful weekend.

When we are home, our Saturday’s always begin with a 9 a.m. run to the farmer’s market, to ensure that we arrive in time to secure our two dozen eggs from Evensong Farm. This could be seen as a chore, but Candice and I have chosen to see it as pleasurable, even on a rainy day. As we buy our four bags of the bounty of the earth, we chat with our favorite farmers, catch up with Sue on Mel’s health, sample some apples and cheese, and take a stroll through the market. That’s followed by a spur-of-the-moment decision to have a chi latte at Kefa Cafe, our favorite independent coffee shop in Silver Spring.

I had some things on my to-do list, but not too much. Idleness was really the point. Writing was on my list, but it was not related to work.  I had reconnected recently with a wonderful couple – retired professors at Andover – who I met on a National Trust tour of the Black Sea about ten years ago.  Ed and Ruth love baseball, and one of their sons works for the Red Sox. Ed has been reading my recent posts about the Nats season, and wrote with some encouragement about the writing and – eventually – with condolences about the Nats. I confided to Ed that I had a fantasy about how this year’s World Series played out, and that email exchange became the rough draft of a Saturday afternoon blog post. I chortled (literally) as I wrote and edited my fantasy, and loved spending time watching an old clip from 1985, as the hated Cardinals lost the argument with Dan Denkinger (again) and also lost the game and the Series (again).

Keillor suggests that cheerfulness is a “habit you assume in the morning and hang on to as best you can for the rest of the day.”  It is, he says later in describing his mother’s cheerfulness, “that spiritual awareness that Buddhism holds up as enlightenment, in which one does not covet more than one’s small lot, one is free of animosity, and one lives in the immediate present, day by day, without dread of what might befall.” That sounds right to me.

So yesterday I finished the Keillor book (uneven but recommended); read a short book on idle pleasures (Philosophizing:  Sometimes you have to talk to find out what you think); sang and played guitar for an hour or so; sat with Candice over a fall dinner and together watched the last five innings of the Orioles/Royals game; read Joe Posnanski’s wonderful blog and learned a new word:  Yostify*; checked out some music of the people on the wonderful Fiddlefreak web site; and had a nice scotch on the rocks before heading to bed.

(*Yostify (yo-stah-fy), verb: give an explanation that is more irrational than the irrational decision.

[In speaking about the 7th inning of Game 4 of the NLDS] Matt Williams yostified that he didn’t use Clippard because it was the seventh inning, which is not Clippard’s inning — this is bizarre yostimony that Ned Yost [manager of the KC Royals] himself has used.

The reason he didn’t use Strasburg, it seems, had something to do with his plan to not use Strasburg except in case of an emergency [and facing elimination in the 7th inning doesn't, I suppose, qualify as an emergency].)

Was any of it earth-shattering? No. Did it lighten my work load next week? Well, no…but that wasn’t the point. The work will be there, and I am prepared to do that work and welcome it, in its own time. I’ll get the job done and will enjoy it, in its own way. But I’ll do so with a bit more cheerfulness of heart because of farmer’s markets, mushrooms, books, baseball writers, good friends, and the most amazing version of John Hardy you’ll ever hear, played by the incomparable Bryan Sutton and Michael Daves (thanks to Fiddlefreak for the tip).

More to come…

DJB

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