Tag Archives: music

Friday Seven – October 23

— 1 —

Our reno is done and we’re really happy with it. New hardwood floors throughout the second floor and in the living-dining room meant that every item in those areas had to be removed to either boxes in the basement or to a temporary storage pod (mainly the furniture.) Now we’ve got to sort all the boxes in the basement and reorganize (or get rid of) a lot of stuff. It’s actually been a great exercise, to see how the house looks with quite minimalist decor. I am taking things slowly and making careful decisions about what to keep and where. One of the good decisions we made was to have cabinetry built in around our (new) gas fireplace so all our decorative items can be placed together, behind glass, and reduce the clutter on surfaces, one of our big issues.

— 2 —

The timer switch for our exterior lights on the front door quit, leaving the lights on all the time. I picked up a new timer and attempted to install it myself. I’ve done minor electrical work before with no problem but this was part of a three switch plate and the installation quickly proved beyond me, even after a lot of googling and referring to my trusty Reader’s Digest Complete Do-it-yourself Manual. So I left the circuit breaker in the off position and we have no lights in the powder room or at my favorite reading position in the kitchen. I tried to hire an electrician the normal way (Homestars) but the earliest i could get an appointment was in two weeks. I called my contractor for a name and he said he’ll get it done for me tomorrow or Monday at the latest. He’s the best!

— 3 —

I’ve been on the hunt for a daybed or sofa bed for my study. I had it painted in a lovely pale yellow, a good colour for creativity, and when I checked out a couple of shops in the nearby Castlefield Design DIstrict (Elte Mkt, Shelter) everything suitable was only available in a cool grey. By chance, Ethel 20th Century Living posted this gorgeousness on their Facebook Page yesterday afternoon and I’m heading there to check it out in person this afternoon. It’s in a warm grey (Pebble), five years old an in apparently fabulous condition. And at a great price.

BluDot One Night Stand sleeper.
BluDot One Night Stand sleeper.

— 4 —

I am almost finished an absolutely terrific novel by Ruth Ozeki called A Tale For The Time Being. It is hard to describe how much this book resonates with me. I’ve been listening to the audio version, read by the author. Watch the trailer.

— 5 —

Kotodama: the Japanese belief that mystical powers dwell in words and names; that ritual words can influence our environment, body, mind, and soul. It’s everywhere in Ozeki’s novel and i want to think about it some more.

— 6 —

If you have a chance to see Remember, the new film by Atom Egoyan starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, I highly recommend it. I saw a screening at TIFF this year and it was a highlight. While I don’t agree with this review (don’t leave early), I do agree that the rest of it is also very compelling.

— 7 —

Some Friday music humour.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Seven Quick Takes Friday – Alone but not lonesome edition

Seven Quick Takes Friday

How did I spend my week alone you ask?

    1. I finished a terrific book. My review (posted on Goodreads):Bee Season
      Bee Season
      by Myla Goldberg
      My rating: 5 of 5 stars
      An incredible feat of a first novel. Of a tenth novel for that matter.This is the story of a family and the secrets held by each of the members. Told over the arc of two seasons of spelling bees, the relationships between the various dyads are very finely drawn. Each family member is experiencing a kind of very personal suffering or angst, and the novel weaves their stories into a sort of coat of many colours.It is not a sad book per se, but we meet these characters as they struggle to be true to themselves with sometimes unexpected results.Highly recommended.  View all my reviews
    2. Many thanks to the Canadian Opera Company for sending out their usual pre-opera reminder with links to reading resources etc. Otherwise, I might not have realized that my second time round with Peter Grimes on Saturday starts at 4:30 pm and not 7:30. I saw it opening night when Ben Heppner was indisposed. This time, fingers crossed, he will be on stage. Seeing it with a friend who likes Heppner, but not so much Benjamin Britten. We’ll have a good discussion at dinner afterwards, regardless.
    3. It’s not all operas and orchestras around here. Sometimes what a gal needs is a few hours of concentrated lounging in front of the television. This week, as I struggled to kick this cold, I caught up on a few of my fave series and suddenly wondered “What is it that makes bad boys so attractive to women?” I mean, women who are otherwise not interested in the immoral or illicit. Even bad boys who (to me) are not that physically attractive? (Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire, played by Steve Buscemi) Or those that are? (Fitz in Call Me Fitz, played by Jason Priestly.) Okay, maybe the latter is a bit easier to understand, but he’s really a nasty piece of work on the show.
    4. Carter’s Baby Gowns

      What is the matter with all these people staring (and commenting) in wonderment at Prince George in a christening gown (or “dress” as they are wont to call it?) Have they no clue? Have they never seen old photos or footage of a traditional christening? In fact, babies of both genders have been clothed in gowns for centuries. When they were newborns in the 1990s, my boys wore long gown-like sleepers that my mother had set aside from when my sibs and I were babies. They were very practical, cozy, and cute.

      Prince George in reproduction Victorian christening gown.
    5. This is why your band needs to have a tubist, not a bass player (with apologies to Michael’s flat-mate, a bass player.)

    6. My (church) choir is putting on a concert to raise funds for the restoration of the organ. It’s Friday November 1st at 8 pm at Blessed Sacrament Parish (Yonge and Lawrence W, Toronto) and we’ll be joined by the marvellous Victoria Scholars and some special guest instrumentalists. More details to follow early next week after I actually make it to a rehearsal (*sniffle). Free to attend. Donations gratefully accepted.
    7. A big happy birthday to my sister Frances who turns 15 months younger than me today!  Here we are with our parents before the baby brother arrived.

      Berkman Family, early 60s.
      Berkman Family, lets just call it the 60s.

But what will he do when he’s finished university?

I get asked this question a lot recently.

Michael. TSYO, 2012.
Michael. TSYO, 2012.

My younger son Michael has started a music degree in performance at McGill. Neither my spouse or myself have professional artists in our lineage. It’s sort of “not on” to pursue a life in the arts, with all the uncertainties around earning a living wage.

I’ve always been a proponent of following your bliss. Both my husband and I followed our bliss into mathematics and ended up in satisfying careers, albeit not particularly mathematical. I was given various types of advice about “falling back on” accounting or teaching, but neither of these were what I wanted to do. My spouse felt a great deal of pressure to enter a profession such as engineering, and while he was pursuing graduate studies, to stop working and get a job.

Our older son did mathematics but really didn’t have much of a clue about what he wanted to do when he finished. Late in his undergraduate career, a new field of work opened up, one that was not really in his awareness when he started. He’s now pursuing graduate studies in that area and is excited about being able to pursue multiple interests in that field.

But music? Really? Orchestra jobs are so hard to get. How will he make a living? At least he’ll be able to teach. These are all comments that have been made about his dream.

Recently, one of his early tuba teachers celebrated a birthday and, in response to all the good wishes that poured in over Facebook, posted this:

31 years old. living my dreams, chasing others, and surrounded by people and music that i love dearly. life is good. I noticed a touch of grizzle in my whiskers, and i’m ok with that. in other news, i’m going to have a party in a few weeks when work calms down a bit. thanks everyone for the love!

Read his bio if you have a minute. Rob has been a mentor to Michael, and although he is eking out a living in this expensive city, he manages to travel and work doing what he loves.

His current teacher is one of the legion of hourly wage employees in university music departments. In fact, he teaches in two schools, in two cities 6 hours apart, and plays in an orchestra in the second city. It cannot be an easy life.  A friend of mine is in a similar position, commuting weekly between Toronto and London, Ontario to teach in two post-secondary institutions. But (presumably) they are following their bliss.

I am proud of what Michael is doing. He knows that life may not flow as easily when he finishes as some of his contemporaries. But when you look at employment data for young people these days, NO one is having an easy time. But at least he’ll be spending the next few years doing exactly what he wants to be doing, and for that (and so much more) I am happy.

If you need more convincing, consider this:

Perhaps my focus was misplaced….

Yuja Wang. (c) Christian Steiner, UC Berkeley
Yuja Wang. (c) Christian Steiner, UC Berkeley

Yuja Wang played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 last evening with brio. Enjoyable. Yet I spent the much of the piece marvelling at her outfit, worried that something would go horribly wrong.

Her dress was something like this except with a more fitted, v-shaped bodice:

On her feet she wore something like these:

 

She has an interesting bow when acknowledging applause. Very fast and deep. I kept expecting her to lose her balance and tumble forward.

After her performance, and surveying the audience for this late night performance, I imagined female Asian teenage pianists saying to their mothers “See! She wears micro-minis and stilettos, and Maestro Oundjian called her one of the best pianists on the planet! You gotta lighten up about my clothes, Mom….”

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The Jazz Ensemble

From the twitter stream:

Introducing the Band

Piano: Pianists are intellectuals and know-it-alls since they studied theory, harmony and composition in college. Most are riddled with self-doubt and are usually bald. They should have big hands, but often don’t. They were social rejects as adolescents. They go home after the gig and play with toy soldiers. Pianists have a special love-hate relationship with singers. If you talk to the piano player during a break, he will condescend.

Go to A Passion for Jazz to read the rest…

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Jazz.fm Youth Big Band at Jazz Lives 2012

Michael plays in the Jazz.fm Youth Big Band, an educational outreach program of Jazz.fm, the not-for-profit all-jazz station here in Toronto. A couple of weeks ago they played a set in the big annual fundraising drive, Jazz Lives, to a sold-out crowd Koerner Hall, the biggest venue they’ve ever played.

Youth_big_band_-_jazz_lives_2012

Michael is the bass trombone, far right of middle row.

Here’s a 12-minute video describing the goals and accomplishments of this wonderful ensemble of young musicians.

Jazz FM 91.1 is my go-to radio station in the car, which is pretty much the only time I have the radio on. They broadcast in the GTA and northern New York, and stream online around the world. Their fundraising drive is almost over, and while I miss the music, it’s fantastic to hear where people are calling in from. Jazz stations are slowly disappearing…there’s no all-jazz format in London (UK), Chicago or Philadelphia. Today there was a caller from Israel donating in the name of her father. This station is accessible to anyone with an internet connection and brings jazz lovers from all over the world together, and showcases a ton of Toronto and Canadian talent. Their educational outreach is the way they hope to build the audience of the future.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

7_quick_takes

  1. It’s been a tough week. I surrendered our dog, Wilson, to Toronto Animal Services yesterday after a biting incident earlier this summer. He’s a terrier mix, with a lot of Jack Russell in him, and he charged and bit a letter carrier after he got off-leash. It was a horrible accident (although the bite was a minor injury), but I realized that his behaviour was too unpredictable for us to manage. Every visitor to our house was a stress. We have no yard at our current home, unlike when we adopted him in Georgia, and even with 3-4 walks a day, we were unable to provide him with sufficient opportunities to burn off energy. I’ve been weepy all week, and broke down at the shelter when I took him in. My greatest hope is that they can find a home for him where he will be able to be the dog that he is. I can’t really say any more.
  2. I got my hair cut after my trip to Animal Services yesterday. It felt kind of like mourning, but at the same time a fresh start. It’s shoulder length and layered a bit. And I feel so silly writing about it now.
  3. Last night, we attended the Season Opener for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a wonderful program including Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, and a commission from Toronto Composer Larysa Kezmenko called Behold the Night, based on a Midsummer’s Night Dream. The second half was William Walton’s Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario featuring actor Christopher Plummer (who also arranged this work) reciting parts of the play from memory. Walton scored Larurence Olivier’s film Henry V, from which this work is derived. It was spectacular, and great finish to what had been a very sad day. The evening was capped by the TSO’s after party featuring the Heavyweights Brass Band in the lobby of Roy Thomson Hall.
  4. Z and I head to Orlando on Sunday where he is attending a conference and I will take five days to relax in the sun. I was able to score a very cheap flight and there’s no upcharge for me to stay at the (very nice) hotel hosting the conference.
  5. Michael auditioned for and was accepted into the Hannaford Youth Band and Jazz.fm Youth Big Band, both of which he played in last year. These ensembles are wonderful ways for him to get experience performing repertoire on both the tube (Hannaford) and bass trombone (Jazz.fm) and I’m pleased that he’ll be playing with them again this year.
  6. While we were downtown yesterday, we picked up tickets for Noel Coward’s Private Lives, now in previews at the Royal Alexandra. Starring Paul Gross and Kim Cattrall, it’s been getting a lot of positive buzz. Mirvish is also bringing War Horse to Toronto in the new year and I’m looking forward to that as well. 
  7. Friends from our parish were featured on the front page of the Star this week. John and Kathleen Rudolph are both professional musicians.  John is Principal Percussionist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Kathleen teaches flute at the Glenn Gould School and University of Western Ontario. Kathleen and I are altos in the parish choir, and Kathleen often fills in on the organ. Their daughter, Theresa, was just hired by the TSO, their first parent-child pair. The piece in The Star is lovely and worth a read.

More Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary.

My father and the Ozark Rambler

I’ve been browsing through a box of old photos from my father’s mother. I’ve been through them many times before, but these caught my eye and I’m trying to follow up on them.

The first is of my father, Franklin Berkman, who would have been six years old.  

Franklin_and_ozark_rambler

The second has some writing on it.  It says “Bunny’s girl Gloria Jane and the Ozark Rambler of KMBC Radio on the roof of Pickwick Nov 8/30.” Bunny was the name that my grandmother called my father all his life. I have no idea who Gloria Jane is.

Ozark_rambler_and_gloria_jane

I did some online searching and determined that KMBC (now KMBZ) joined CBS in 1928 and moved to the 11th floor of Kansas City, Missouri’s Pickwick Hotel in 1930 (Reference)

Union Bus Terminal and Pickwick Hotel Kansas City Missouri

[Image courtesy of CardCow.com.]

All I’ve been able to find out about the Ozark Rambler is from some photos on the site of the Kansas City Public Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections. I haven’t received permission to reproduce images here, but you can go to the links to check them out.

Ozark Rambler (second from left) with touring cast of Happy Hollow Gang outside Pickwick Hotel. The Happy Hollow gang performed a radio show that was a precursor to the Beverly Hillbillies. 

Informal group portrait of “Ozark Rambler” (left), Brookings Montgomery, and others.on roof of Pickwick Hotel.

I’m not sure what my father was doing in Kansas City. He was born in Regina Saskatchewan in 1924 and by 1934 he was living in Ottawa. His father David had a fur shop in Regina until 1930 and then owned dress and hat shops in Ottawa where his mother Vera worked. His parents eventually divorced and I never met David, but Vera married Maurice Winer and they were known as Grandma and Grandpa Winer.

[Update Aug 18: A check of my family history records reminded me that one of Vera’s younger sisters, Lally, had married a KC man named Conrad Orloff in1929 and so Vera was very likely visiting her.]

Anyway, I’d love to hear from anyone who knows anything about the Ozark Rambler in 1930s Missouri. Or recognizes Gloria Jane.

 

Seven Quick Takes Friday

7_quick_takes

  1. The boys are both away from home this week and it’s been nice, in a wierd kind of way. Alex is up at the cottage witih his girlfriend and they’re due back sometime today. Michael is working at the Toronto District School Board’s Music by the Lake camp for elementary school students. He’s a junior staff assistant, asked to work sort of last-minute-ish as they needed a trombone player. From the few texts we’ve received, it sounds like he’s having a good time. We’ll pick him up tomorrow around noon and then he needs to study for his exams next week.
  2. Saw the absolutely thrilling production of Alice in Wonderland last night at the National Ballet of Canada. I’m not a big ballet afficianado…I’ve only ever been to The Nutcracker (multiple times, from childhood) but this got such raves that I thought it was worth checking out.  I’m a convert! Originally a production of the Royal Ballet, it’s full of surprises with stunning sets, props, and effects, and the score by Joby Talbot is terrific.
    Red_queen

    <Image courtesy of National Ballet>

  3. Saw an old friend from high school on Wednesday evening. It’s been years, yet we fell into conversation as if it had been a few days. Isn’t it wonderful how that happens?  I’ll see her again tonight as we’re both attending Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, courtesy of Opera By Request, in which a mutual friend (also from high school) is singing.
  4. The annual Luminato Festival starts this weekend and we’ve actually lined up tickets to some events this year! On our calendar:
    – One Thousand and One Nights, a new theatrical production of these Arabic folktales. It’s actually being staged in two three-hour segments, but we’ll see one of them.
    – We tried to get tickets to hear Lebanese author and creator of the script for 1001 Nights Hanan al-Shayk, but they were sold out. I’m hoping maybe they’ll repeat the event. 
    – Next weekend, we’ll see “a raw and shocking re-imagination of Racine’s classic play [Andromache] from provocative Scottish director Graham McLaren.” Z studied the play in school, but I am completely ignorant, so I should probably do a little reading about it … 
    – I’m keen to take in the free installation by architect Philip Beesley called Sargasso. It was at the Vienna Biennale. There’s a little promo video about it at the link that’s well worth a watch.
    – Next Friday is a free outdoor concert in David Pecaut square featuring kd lang. Yay! 
    Can you see why I love Toronto?! 
  5. Next Thursday, I’m heading to Stratford with two gal pals to see Seana McKenna in Richard III. As Richard III. The play did NOT get great reviews, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.
    Mckenna

    <Image courtesy Stratford Shakespeare Festival>

  6.  Our garden is actually looking somewhat acceptable this summer. There is still a whole section to tidy up, but I’ve started putting mulch down after I pull weeds, and the grass seed I picked up at Costco on the spur of the moment is doing really well in filling in some of the patchiness of the lawn. Being on a corner lot, everuthing is basically exposed, so it’s been kind of embarrassing to have this wild and wooly thing happening on our property.  
  7. Just finished a terrific book, Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin. It’s the story of a young Irish woman in the 50s who emigrates to Brooklyn and finds herself stuck between her old and new lives.  It’s a compelling portrait of that time, relations between Irish, Italians, Jews, and African-Americans in this bustling city of immigrants. As a genealogist, it gave me some insight into what it must have been like for single women to come to the “new world” for a better life, without family, having to make new friends and find their way on their own (or, as in this case, with help from her parish priest.)  I highly recommend this quick read.
  8. Bonus: I am desperately trying to break my habit of putting two spaces after a period. There has been so much mockery of old-school people like me who were taught that in the last century, and it’s terribly ingrained. But I’m trying.

Visit Jennifer over at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!