Category "In Memory / In Honor"

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Texas"

June 23, 2008

Rebooting a Life

Today was one of those watershed days, full of symbolism and meaning. Today was the day we held the final memorial service for our Dad and buried him next to our Mom in Dallas, their home. The memorial service was at the community where he and our Mom lived from approx 1992 - 2000, and he continued on after her death until 2006. Quite a few people joined us this morning, including a woman who was his secretary for 18 years (her first job; she is now retired and said he was the best boss she ever had). Many people were grateful to have the opportunity to remember him and celebrate his life, since they were not able to come to New Hampshire for his funeral back in March. His best friend, who had been housebound since November, made the special effort to attend.

My sister and I took a drive around the parts of town we haunted as teenagers. Our old neighborhood is still looking good, but down the street from our childhood home is a whole row of tacky MacMansions. If you have enough money, you can have a Tuscan villa, or a half-timbered Tudor, or a replica of Mt. Vernon --- and they can all be on the same street! You get the idea. Our old elementary school looks just like it did in the late 1950s. The church we attended looks as cold as it always felt. But we had fun going down each street and reminiscing about who lived where. It was amazing how we dredged up some names neither of us had thought about for decades.

For me, there was also a sense of closure. It's unlikely that I will ever be in Dallas again. The Texas part of my heart was long ago given to Austin; and Austin and Dallas are totally different cultures, although only 200 miles apart.

But to me it also felt a piece of a larger "reboot" my life is undergoing. New job, new part of the country, new professional responsibilities, new house, now the "senior" member of the family. (I'm not too sure how keen I feel about that - I have lots of tread left on me.) But it all definitely feels new, providing opportunities for both continuity and change. Very exciting.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:53 PM | In Memory / In Honor | Life | Massachusetts | Texas

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Minnesota"

Category "Music - of all kinds"

June 29, 2008

Tanglewood, Garrison Keillor, & Good Friends

The title really says it all. I spent yesterday at Tanglewood with a friend of 40 years, celebrating our friendship at the live broadcast of the Prairie Home Companion. Lots of meaning packed into that sentence; all good.

Of course, brought to you by Powermilk Biscuits, in the light blue box with the stain on the front that indicates reshness. Heavens, they're tasty!


Tanglewood has been on my MUST DO list for this summer for quite a while. It is as idyllic as its name suggests. Nestled in the Berkshires, its lush campus invites relaxation and camaraderie, even with total strangers. It's the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a venue for summer music institutes, and a place with an amazing summer music series. (Chanticleer and the Shanghai String Quartet are performing together next month -- stay tuned for that...)

Thanks to my colleague here who told me about the performance. We got 2 of the very last tickets in the Shed -- 3 rows from the back -- but who cares, it's a radio show! I just pretended I was listing on NPR, like I do almost every weekend.

Stage from inside Shed.jpg

We would have gotten Lawn tickets (great fun - people bring elaborate picnics and hang out), but the weather threatened rain, and it actually did rain for a time during the performance. I'll do that another time...

On lawn in rain.jpg

I've seen PHC live once before -- in the mid 1970s when I was in graduate school. It started broadcasting in 1974, so I must have been to one of its first shows, when it still had a small, local following. Now it goes out to millions every week. It was a great show -- excellent music, and poetry from the Poet Laureate of the U.S. (Where else would the Poet Laureate perform??) Turns out, he is from New Hampshire, not too far away from here.

Keillor clearly draws energy from the crowd. This was most evident after the broadcast was over. I expected a polite encore (the audience was very enthusiastic), but he and the rest of the cast stayed around for more than a half hour. They did some of their things, but mostly led the audience in a love-fest sing-a-long. What an unexpected pleasure! Singing can bring total strangers together.


The woman in the white blouse, second from left, was swaying to the music on her cane, along with her son in the red shirt. It was very sweet.

My feeling is that the Greatest Generation all knew a lot of songs in common, but that seems to be vanishing. Yesterday, we sang things like "Summertime," "Good Night Ladies," "Amazing Grace," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," ... you get the idea. What songs will the next generation of young people know in common? I really wonder. I could tell Garrison especially loved turning the audience loose in some a capella verses -- from stage, I'm sure it just felt like energy rolling right at him.

It's such a pleasure to live close to Chris after all these years. We were college roommates for 2 years and then went separate ways geographically. We've always stayed in touch, but visits have been infrequent. That will be changing. Tanglewood is just about half way between us -- a real bonus. (It's about 1 1/2 hrs west of here.) We talked and talked and talked, as always. Before heading home, we stopped at a funky Indian restaurant in Lee, MA. The staff seemed a bit pverwhelmed by the larger-than-usual crowd. Tha lamb I had was good, but I'm sure it was swimming in a sauce I will react to. I took as little sauce as I could. At the end, we both ordered coffee, but got tea. interesting.....

But overall, what a special day. A great way to start my life here. Maybe things like that happen when you CTRL-ALT-DEL.

Posted by hgroteva at 6:22 AM | Life | Massachusetts | Minnesota | Music - of all kinds

Category "Family"

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

July 6, 2008

Maine on the Fourth

Relaxing .jpg

I spent the long 4th of July weekend at my sister's cottage in Maine. NB: In Minnesota, they are "cabins," in New York, they are "camps," and in Maine they are "cottages." We had a great time --- eating, resting, talking, reading, paddling around the lake on the paddle boat, more eating, watching fireworks, roasting marshmallows, going in to town, & repeating same. It was a good get-away. It's great to be closer to family.

We stopped at a restaurant nearby for lunch, and their menu featured home-made potato chips -- they were thin, crisp, hot, and sprinkled with bacon, onions, cheese, and a Gorgonzola cheese sauce. Totally decademt.

On the 4th, we went into the Town of Limerick and stopped at the Runaway Cowgirl's Hideout on the main drag. I was totally smitten by a large Newfoundland. He came right up to me very calmly, and I thought I had known him all my life. In fact, I could have sworn that there was someone I knew in that dog suit. It was quite remarkable - I can't recall ever having such a strong pull toward a dog. That's probably a good sign as I prepare to welcome Sierra into my life in just about a month.


Posted by hgroteva at 8:38 PM | Family | Life | Massachusetts

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

July 10, 2008

Objects and Feeling at Home

Coffee cups.JPG

My office is beginning to feel like my home-away-from-home now that I have unpacked my coffee cups. I have this unique collection of coffee cups that goes back to the early 1970s. Each cup tells a story and evokes memories. I thinned out the collection a bit before I left Minnesota, but I brought most of them with me. (There are several more out of view on the right of the photo.) And I was able to find a good spot for my Amado Peña tile -- I like his work very much (he has Austin roots -- used to teach art at Austin High before he got famous and moved to Taos and Santa Fe.)

Briefly, here are the stories of the cups in the front row (L to R):
Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis - a wonderful German restaurant / beer garden with an outdoor patio - I've enjoyed a number of meals and happy hours here with friends.

A cobalt blue cup with gold writing: "President Bill Clinton - A Cure for the Blues" (with him playing the sax). I picked this up at National Airport when he was running for election. With all the bad economic news that seems to worsen by the day, we sure need a cure for the blues! How about it, Bill? I have an extra one - maybe I should put it on EBay?

The Arctic Cathedral; Tromsø, Norway. I've been to Tromsø twice -- once to present at a conference and once to do some teaching about adolescent development. It's the northernmost university in the world. One visit was during May, not too long before the summer solstice. It was light almost 24 hrs / day, and people were out all night long, soaking up every bit of daylight possible. My friend Jane has an amazing hutte (summer cottage) that is glass all-round with a thatched roof.

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Within a short time of arriving in the Twin Cities in 1990, I heard my first live SPCO concert and was smitten. We had season tickets most years and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful music and the intimate group that seemed to have a real personality.

Star Ship Enterprise -- I picked this up when Mark and I attended a Star Trek Convention in Minneapolis when he was a teenager. It was a very special day, even though we weren't dressed as Captain Kirk or Spock. (Many other folks were...)

Sundance -- A memory of numerous trips to Sundance, some for professional conferences and some for fun.

As I look at each of these objects placed in my new surroundings, all the wonderful memories flood back and keep me centered.

In Vol 8 (1) issue of Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research (2008), Jane Kroger has a fascinating article that fits well: "Symbolic meanings of valued personal objects in identity transitions of late adulthood." She and her colleague interviewed 20 folks age 65 - 89 who were in residential facilities in New Zealand, and they all talked with her about various personal objects they had in their living units -- some of which would have made little sense to an outsider, but made perfect sense to them. I saw how important such objects were during my father's last two years, especially when he was in assisted living. My sister lovingly gathered photo albums, CDs of his favorite big band music, and plaques and awards from his career and arranged them so they would be easily visible every day. They talked through the picture albums numerous times. Even if he couldn't remember whether he had eaten dinner, he could name all his buddies from high school and the Navy.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:21 PM | Life | Massachusetts

Category "Cats"

Category "Massachusetts"

August 24, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: No Peaceable Kingdom Yet


This picture, taken last week, belies the level of serenity in the feline kingdom here. The MN tribe (pictured above; L to R: MacKenzie, Pookie, Shadow, Sadie) is as mellow as ever within its own boundaries. But the NM tribe is a bit more rambunctious, and there have been numerous border skirmishes among various, mostly female, parties. Sadie, the littlest, refuses to relinquish her status as alpha. Chloe deals with threat by appearing to be aggressive. Shadow's size can be intimidating, but he can also be scared into a corner by Chloe. And King Pookie is royally above it all -- he just lounges around and lets it all happen around him. It's pretty funny.

This is a pretty big house, so there's really room for everyone to have his/her own corner. The MN tribe have continued to hang out in the guest bedroom (see photo). Often, they are in their Tonkpile ... but once I saw them each posted at a different corner of the bed, as if to be protecting against incursions. I think they will all gradually settle down eventually.

New students start arriving this week. After 5 or 6 trips this summer (I lost count), I am glad to have my feet on the ground for a while. With a bit of luck, the sale of our MN house will close this week. I will post fireworks about that when it happens.

PS: I had intended to post this Friday...

Posted by hgroteva at 6:18 PM | Cats | Massachusetts

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Minnesota"

September 8, 2008

Things New and Old


Campus View UMass.jpg

**Being able to park the car once in the morning and walk anywhere I need to on campus during the day.
**Having a computer file-sharing service (U-Drive) that permits collaboration with others who do not have university IDs.
**Hearing the marching band rehearse outside my window - go drums!
**New friends and students.
**Having a fairly flexible schedule for the first time in years. (I know it won't last.)


CHE front McNeal2-b.jpg

**The comings and goings in the mail / coffee room.
**Old friends and students.
**My hot tub.
**A convenient airport.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:14 PM | Massachusetts | Minnesota

Category "Massachusetts"

September 13, 2008


Yesterday was faculty convocation - an opportunity to meet colleagues and to hear the new chancellor. The event began with a faculty procession all the way across the center of campus, with a carillon concert as we marched. Here we were:

led by the banners of each college

banners at convocation.jpg

The Chancellor's talk was quite good, I thought. Click here to go to the text of the talk.

Holub 0908.jpg

He was complimentary about many features of the university - especially the faculty, the students, and the staff. But he also enumerated areas where greater strength was needed. In his words, "Thus I come to areas in which I believe we must make progress, sometimes substantial progress, if we are going to assume our place as one of the premier public institutions of higher education in the country."

The list was familiar and made me feel right at home.
**more grants
**more interdisciplinary work
**more fundraising
**clearer communications strategy
**more attention to graduate education
**opportunities for freshmen to take small seminars
**improving the quality and state of repair of existing space
**identifying areas for national centers of excellence.

After some years of inattention from the legislature, it seems that the university is in a better position now than it has been in recent years. New faculty positions, new buildings, and better qualified freshmen are good indicators. And so it begins...

Posted by hgroteva at 5:40 PM | Massachusetts

Category "Cats"

Category "Massachusetts"

September 18, 2008


This kind of mouse??

computer mouse 2.jpg

No, this kind of mouse....


I have never lived in a house with mice, but there's a first time for everything. Technically, the mice are in the garage, not in the house, but one got into the kitchen last night. Would you believe these sweet things are good mousers?

Cats together5.jpg

Last night, Chloe saw a mouse run under the refrigerator. She worked really hard to get it with her paw or her mouth ... no luck. When I went to bed, she stayed on the watch. This morning when I went down for breakfast, she was STILL THERE waiting for that mouse!

She apparently waited until mid-day, when the mouse finally appeared ... and she GOT IT! Three cheers for Chloe.

She and Dylan are enjoying time outside, individually and together. Tonight they were rolling around on the driveway under the car. That's one way the tribes are keeping the peace a bit -- the NM cats spend some time outside, and the MN cats are indoor beasts. I thought things were calming down a bit until last night. Chloe was curled up on my desk. When Sadie spotted her, her tail exploded to 5 times its normal size and the hissing began. She chased Chloe all over my study until I finally separated them. She kept trying to egg Chloe on, but she wouldn't take the bait.

The other day, Dylan lost a fight with Sadie. And then he went and beat up on Pookie! Kind of like the boss yells at you at work, and then you come home and kick the dog. So it goes in the animal kingdom.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:28 PM | Cats | Massachusetts

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Society"

September 28, 2008

Taxes and Evils


Although it has gotten VERY little publicity, Massachusetts has an initiative on the November ballot to repeal the state income tax. Yes - repeal the state income tax. Many peoples' gut reaction is bound to be -- wow, wouldn't that be great? More money in my pocket and less to evil government. An article in this morning's New York Times said that passage of this initiative would eliminate 45% of the state budget. It also said that some people are planning to vote "yes" just to express their dissatisfaction with government in general.

However, this kind of reasoning suggests to me that we need a major reframing of the meaning of taxes in this country. We need to help people understand what their taxes buy. Did you drive to work on a road? Did you, by any chance, cross over a bridge? Did you receive a payment from Social Security? the VA? Medicare? Did you (or your child, or your grandchild) attend a public school? Did the fire department come when your house was burning down?

Of course, there is waste in government -- and there may be government expenditures we object to (like that $12B/month item on the other side of the world) -- but we don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Now, of course, I may be a little sensitive to this issue since I am employed by a major state university, which gets some of its money from ... you guessed it, taxes. (State universities are now wont to call themselves "state-assisted" rather than "state-supported" for good reason - but that's a topic for another post.)

Where is our sense of the common good? Well - I guess that's the whole tension in the U.S. now between the lean-government-let-the-market-reign-conservatives and the government-as-provider-of-common-goods-liberals. it fascinates me that the country is split right down the middle over this meta-issue. My European friends just shake their heads. But of course, their governments aren't perfect either. We seem to move ahead by lurching from right to left and back again. Is that progress? At the moment, it doesn't seem that way to me.

For me, when I flinch at the bottom line on that tax return, I will try to remember that I have just bought a share of that road, that bridge, that VA payment, and yes, that major state university. And I will surely be voting in that November election and urging others to do so too.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:24 AM | Massachusetts | Society

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

October 12, 2008


In the midst of the political vile spewed forth last week, not to mention the free-fall of the world economy, an interlude of beauty is needed. Here are a few pictures taken outside our house yesterday.






It's time for peacemakers to emerge, from the international scene on down to the most local of interactions. All is NOT fair in politics, especially when it comes to stirring up wars along the lines of race, class, or sexual orientation. It must stop.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:42 AM | Life | Massachusetts

Category "Massachusetts"

January 29, 2009

Ice and Snow


icy branches.JPG

We had quite the winter storm on Wednesday. The university declared a snow day. Like Barack, I thought that was a pretty wimpy decision ... until the sleet came. After about 8 inches of snow, we had a few hours of sleet, which quickly placed a sheet of ice right over all that new snow. Truly treacherous. I went out this morning to uncover the car that won't fit in the garage. On the roof, I could get the broom handle to go underneath the layer of ice, leaving a huge, heavy ice sheet to pull off.

Today's morning sun made for some beautiful scenes. The first one above is in our back yard, and the second one is in front. The house on which we are making an offer has a LONG, sloping driveway. I'm counting on a good plow service out there.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:36 PM | Massachusetts

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

February 28, 2009

Whiff of Spring

February has been over the top -- conferences, committees, teaching, writing, admissions, faculty search --- not to mention buying a house. I have gotten almost no exercise, and I feel it. But this morning I took a walk in the neighborhood. It was about 35 and a bit windy -- but there was a decided whiff of spring in the air, for which I am grateful. We are under a winter storm watch for Sunday into Monday -- snow expected -- but the good thing about spring snow is that it melts sooner rather than later.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:55 PM | Life | Massachusetts

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

March 21, 2009

Magic Wings - Magical Day





It was a perfect first day of spring to visit Magic Wings in Deerfield with one of my oldest and best friends. Magic Wings is a butterfly conservatory, featuring 4000 free-flying butterflies from all over the world. You enter their habitat and walk among them for as long as you like. Peaceful and awe-some.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:30 AM | Life | Massachusetts

Category "Family"

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

March 31, 2009

Our New View - Signed, Sealed, & Delivered

View of Holyoke Range.JPG

Front porch.JPG


At our closing today, we learned about the meaning of "mortgage" from the French.
From Wikipedia: The term comes from the Old French "dead pledge," apparently meaning that the pledge ends (dies) either when the obligation is fulfilled or the property is taken through foreclosure.
"Dead pledge" sounds a bit ominous, don't you think??

Posted by hgroteva at 12:15 PM | Family | Life | Massachusetts

Category "Cats"

Category "Massachusetts"

April 22, 2009

Feline Advice Sought

My blogging frequency has slipped lately, as we prepare to move to our new house next week. Those of you who have followed this blog know the trials and tribulations we have had integrating our two tribes of Tonkinese (let's call them the NM and the MN tribes.) Sadie continues to be aggressive, but we are hoping that the move to a new house will break up current behavior patterns and press the proverbial reset button.

We will be moving the cats on the same day as we move our furniture. The moving company estimates that the process will take all day, so we will probably take the cats to the new house early in the morning. One of us will stay at the new house, and the other will supervise the move at the old house. Do any of you faithful readers have suggestions about how to introduce them to the new house? Turn them all loose at once, close the door, and let them sort it out??! Sequester the two tribes in separate rooms? The two NM cats have already visited the new house. Interestingly, Chloe was like Dora the Explorer - she quickly scooted throughout the house and claimed it as her own. Dylan huddled in a corner. The MN group won't visit until the day of the move. Suggestions?? Maybe we should tranquilize them? Or perhaps tranquilize ourselves? Stay tuned... Please leave comments!

Posted by hgroteva at 8:43 PM | Cats | Massachusetts

Category "Cats"

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Moving"

May 7, 2009

Quite the Week

We moved into our new house last Friday - a week ago. Although it went as smoothly as it could have gone, it has been exhausting. The movers came at 7:30 Friday morning and had everything out of the house by about 1:00; then they took a brief lunch break and started unloading at the new place. The unloading was finished around 7:30 pm. The following day we brought the cleaning crew into the old place, and it is now clean and empty with the exception of about 200 boxes, which I have advertised for free on Craigslist (come get 'em on Saturday). At the new house, we've dealt with the garbage service, propane delivery, recycling barrel delivery people, lawn folks, mail folks, builder, cable people, and others I'm forgetting at the moment.

One of the more painful glitches was that the washer and dryer didn't fit through the door to the laundry room, even with the door taken off. So the builder had to come and remove the trim, install the machines, and then put the trim back on. But it's in place now.

The cats (individually) have adapted well to the new house, but the MN and NM tribes are still not integrating. Sadly, we have decided to find a new home for Sadie. As much as I love Sadie, she has poor Dylan cowed into slinking around and hiding above cupboards that are 10 feet tall where she can't be seen from below. We need more peace in the kingdom. The cats have enjoyed venturing outside a bit (yes, even Pookie) - but our neighbor warned us not to let them out after dark. She mentioned sightings of deer, moose, coyotes, and bear. So we round 'em up at night.

Despite all this grousing, once the dust settles, I know I'm going to love it here. The view westward is magical and changes by the minute all day. I've been taking a series of pictures from the same vantage point and will post them as soon as I can get to it (after all those papers are graded).

Thanks to all who have sent good wishes for the move. They have been much appreciated! I told my colleagues that I hope they like me, because I'm not moving again!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:26 PM | Cats | Massachusetts | Moving

Category "Life"

Category "Massachusetts"

May 17, 2009

Many Moods

All these photos were taken off the deck of our new house within the space of the first two weeks living here. The view is of Mt. Holyoke Range State Park, due west. The moods of the terrain seem to change every 5 minutes - we have experienced dense fog, clouds, heavy rain, wild winds, and bright sun -- often all on the same day. What a privilege!











Posted by hgroteva at 8:20 PM | Life | Massachusetts

Category "Massachusetts"

May 30, 2009

We're Number 1

Amherst has just been named the Number 1 college town in the U.S., according to the article posted here. Here we are on the map.

Amherst map.jpeg

It looks like the ranking was due to a number of factors, including 5 colleges in the immediate area (UMass, Amherst College, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, and Hampshire); reasonable cost of living; access to cultural events; and good public transportation. The article forgot to mention the natural beauty of western Mass.

Amherst fall foliage.jpg

Posted by hgroteva at 9:21 PM | Massachusetts

Category "Cats"

Category "Massachusetts"

July 1, 2009

Wednesday Cat Blogging: Missing Dylan

I'm very sad to report that Dylan has been gone for almost 10 days. Even in New Mexico, his nickname was "The Escape Artist." He was never content to be an indoor cat, like some other Tonks we know. He would escape at every opportunity.

Out here, he loved being able to run out in the yard and in the wild area around the house. He had been going in and out for the better part of a month, but left one day and never returned.

Although I may be over-anthropomorphizing, I think it's really changed the dynamics within the tribe(s). First of all, Chloe misses her sleeping buddy. They have been bosom buddies since birth. (That's Dylan on the left.)

Chloe and Dylan together.JPG

Chloe's seemed lonely, and since she lost some air cover, she is being increasing ganged up on by Shadow and MacKenzie. And Pookie has been missing Sadie. Tonight, for the first time, Chloe and Pookie came within 3 inches of each other and sniffed - no growls, no chasing. Maybe they will be the next soulmates ... one can hope.

Every day I go outside, I hope that Dylan will come trotting down the hill, but I'm losing hope. Then I remember that I gave up on Shadow and he showed up 9 days later. Shadow has used at least 5 of his 9 lives. I think Dylan still has at least 8 left.

Posted by hgroteva at 8:55 PM | Cats | Massachusetts

Category "Massachusetts"

July 30, 2009

The Sky is Falling?

Living out in the country has brought some new realizations about vulnerabilities, but this is one I had never anticipated. From the July 30 "Sentinel" for our Belchertown:
"A Westover {AFB] C-5 on a local training mission dropped two tires from the aircraft in Belchertown late last week" ... from 4,000 feet. We are an hour from the nearest commercial airport, but about once a day we see a very low and slow-flying Air Force plane heading to or from Westover. It's kind of neat to see them up close and personal, but I think I'll be watching those tires a bit more closely...

Posted by hgroteva at 8:28 AM | Massachusetts

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Music - of all kinds"

August 9, 2009

Evocative Music Summer

I have absolutely no right to complain about missing music here. This summer has been a real treat. The special joy is that the pieces I hear evoke wonderful (usually) memories of ways I've interacted with them before.

I'll start with last night. We joined Chris at the Saratoga (NY) Performing Arts Center to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra. The first piece was Valses nobles et sentimentales by Ravel -- a real treat. I'm a sucker for Ravel, Debussy, and Impressionist art - so there. The second piece was Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto played by Joshua Bell. Serendipitously, he was interviewed on NPR during our drive to Saratoga - sounds like the kind of guy you'd enjoy meeting and having a casual conversation with. It was fascinating to hear him talk about his Stradivarius and how getting his new instrument a few years ago felt like divorcing one partner and taking on a new one with more vivid colors and life. As much as he loves the new instrument, he said he might replace it if just the perfect one came along. He is an amazing violinist. I had heard him a number of times with the SPCO and have several of his CDs. After watching calm violinists playing away in their orchestra seats, it's always such a contrast to see the physicality of a soloist like Bell. (He's also close to being a pro tennis player - it shows.)

Seeing performances like that always ramp up my dedication to whatever I have going on. ("Seeing" isn't the right word. Although I'm sitting in the audience, I'm much more engaged than "seeing" or "hearing" would imply. I wonder what the right word would be?) The final piece, Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 (from the New World) was a special treat. It brought me back to high school. I was participating in summer band camp at UT Austin and we performed the 4th movement in symphonic band. We worked very hard and pulled it off. It was especially challenging and fun, because we clarinets had all the great parts that the violins would otherwise have gotten. Anyway, the Phila Orch played with great passion and energy. I must say, the conductor drove me crazy. His beats (such as they were) were all over the place. As a seasoned orchestra would, they mainly ignored him and followed their collective internalized conductor, and it worked just fine. In person, I suspect he is as pretentions as his program notes made him sound. They stated, "Mr. X has traveled and visited ALL THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD." (caps mine) ... Really??!! C'mon! Give me a break. Anyway, it was a delightful evening.

Earlier visits to the Berkshire Choral Festival last weekend (for the Rachmaninoff Vespers) and Tanglewood (for Stravinsky's Rites of spring and the Brahms Violin Concerto) were equally enjoyable. Even though each of these venues is a 2-hour drive away, the countryside is beautiful and the journey makes it really feel like summer. Life is good.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:52 AM | Massachusetts | Music - of all kinds

Category "Massachusetts"

Category "Music - of all kinds"

October 24, 2009

Musical Encounter - All Kinds of Strings

We had an unplanned musical encounter last night at a place I've been wanting to visit for other reasons - but what fun! S saw an announcement about a concert being given at the Montague Book Mill, featuring the duo of Cheyenne Brown (on celtic harp) and Seylan Baxter (on cello and vocals). Seylan is from Scotland, and Cheyenne is originally from Alaska, but met Seylan in music school in Scotland. Anyway - cello and celtic harp is quite a felicitous combination. The Book Mill is in an old mill house, complete with creaky floors and doors and lots of atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed the cello-harp concert and look forward to listening to their new CD. Here is their website.

Following their set was Jozef van Wissem on baroque lute. A pretty interesting guy, but he never let fully loose with his playing. Most of his pieces sounded similar, more like etudes than the real thing. But the real treat came at the end, with 2 early 20-something guys who look like the most improbable duo you could find. There were only 2 of them, but in the course of their one (long) set, they played bass clarinet, violin, sleigh bells, other bells, a small keyboard powered by blowing, a gadget that looks like a castle with a keyboard, a small piano played by bellows, and I'm sure I'm forgetting at least 5 other things. The piece lasted about 30 minutes and was surely improv - but they made some interesting sounds and had some nice points of contact. And oh yes, they had 3 small casette tape recorders and did looping -- recorded snips and played against their recordings, becoming ever more complex. One of the guys told me they were from Brooklyn, but I didn't catch their names. They were in their own world, totally absorbed ... Flow personified.

The encounter was largely unplanned and unexpected - a welcome respite to a month that has been very highly structured with commitments and deadlines. Montague is 45 mins north of here, but there are lots of little places like it (well, not really like it) tucked away here in western MA. I look forward to exploring many of them!

Posted by hgroteva at 2:33 PM | Massachusetts | Music - of all kinds