Last night I was up late listening to classical music on Internet radio (vpr.net), as I usually do. I was getting really sleepy when a recording of the Mendelssohn concerto came on, and it was so overwhelmingly sweet that I forced myself to stay awake until it ended so that I could find out who was playing. It was Gil Shaham. Today I got an email from the Kennedy Center telling me about their September concerts, and, as if by providence, Gil Shaham will be there playing the Brahms concerto. My good luck held up and I was able to buy a ticket for only $20. I will hear Gil Shaham on Sept. 22 and Joshua Bell on Sept. 24. Wow! What a weekend!
I just sent an email with attachment to the parents of my school-age students.
It's that time of year again. Time for renewing life. (See attachment). I've missed everyone who was away, even for a short time, this summer. School starts this week. As soon as you know your schedule, please contact me so that we can schedule lessons or confirm lesson times.
I keep thinking of that beautiful broken fiddle that was destroyed by years of neglect and abuse that I wrote about in my blog, August 4 and 6, 2006. I hope that never happens to my own beloved violin
Of all of Kiri Ito's joys, the thing she loved the best
Was to play her prized piano when the sun had gone to rest
I used to hear the notes drift down along the silent water
As Kiri played the notes and scales for her dear sons and daughters
Now me I played piano though not as good as Kiri
She went in for that long-haired stuff but my, she played it pretty
The old piano had a tone would set my heart to aching
It always sounded sweetest though when it was Kiri playing
James Keelaghan wrote this song, which is based on a true story about a Canadian woman of Japanese descent who was interned in a labor camp in Alberta, Canada during the Second World War. (http://mysongbook.de/msb/songs/k/kirispia.html)
I encountered some interesting beer bottles at a party earlier this summer. One of the women there pulled off some of the labels and gave them to people who were well suited to them, in her opinion. She gave me “Love Guru.” I like it because nothing could be farther from the truth. Does anyone see a label suitable for yourself or anyone you know?
I once read that dreams are like letters to ourselves, if we only know how to read them. This one isn’t hard.
I went to a job fair held at a local hotel to look for violin teacher positions. I visited the booth of a local folk music store which has studios for music teachers on its staff and also gives referrals to other teachers. I like teaching music in my own home, but I wanted to consider teaching at a store where students could come to me for a few hours once or twice a week. To my surprise, the set up was completely different from what I had expected. The store had many, many teachers on its staff, and all the orchestral instruments were included. Instrument instruction was given as one big course which was team taught by all the teachers, in a manner similar to survey courses such as Introduction to Biology at a university. I asked how many times a week I would have to come to the store to teach, and I was told “nine.” This did not sound appealing. One of the staff who knew me suggested that I apply for an administrative position instead. The work would be coordinating the music course and would include such tasks as making phone calls, photocopying, and compiling and distributing schedules. In the past I would have shunned this kind of dum-dum work, but I decided that it might be more fun than teaching, so I applied for the job.
I haven’t gone away for a vacation, so I’m going to post some photos of a local tourist attraction and pretend that I went there on vacation.
When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, my parents would bring me to Washington DC, about 40 miles away, to see the Smithsonian museum and the National Gallery of Art, and I thought of them as my local museums and art gallery. It was not until years later, when I grew up, that I learned that not every city has such gems.
The East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, a bright, airy building designed by I. M. Pei, houses art from the twentieth century and later. The outside is faced with marble and flanked with sculptures and fountains.
East Wing, National gallery of Art
Plaza between the East Wing and the West Wing. Bram, I hope you’re reading this. I photographed the hotchix with you in mind.
Bronze statue by Henry Moore
The interior of the East Wing is a fun space. The shape is unusual – triangular – and there is a lot of open space and light within. The light pours in through the glass prisms of the ceiling, and the gallery is sunny inside, even on a cloudy day. All these things contribute to a sense of movement in the East Wing. There is real movement, too, in the form of a huge mobile by Alexander Calder which is suspended from the ceiling. I like walking around on the floor of the atrium and the walkways of the upper floors to see the Calder mobile. It looks different from every vantage point. There is one place on one of the ramps where I always feel that the mobile is going to bump right into me, but it never does. Even the people inside the Gallery seem to be part of the design, and they move around, too.
Atrium of East Wing
The best part of my vacation is that I can go back almost any time.
Joshua Bell is giving a concert in Washington DC on Sept. 24, as I mentioned earlier (see comment on Sydney Menees blog, 8/11/06). He will perform the Tchaikovsky Concerto for the season opening of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. As if his performance won’t be enough, the entire program will be music by Tchaik, including Slavonic March, excerpts from Eugene Onegin sung by soloists from the Kirov Opera, Romeo and Juliet, and the 1812 Overture, and a ball will follow. Wow!! If anyone from v.com would like to attend, please let me know. This would be a great way to meet each other. Sydney has organized a similar get-together for a concert by Anne-Sophie Mutter in Chicago, and I’m following her lead. (Thanks, Sydney.) I can’t guarantee that we can go backstage and meet JB, but if anyone wants to try
I told a friend recently that I was feeling depressed, and he asked why. I said, “Nothing new, just old issues being recycled. It’s as if the skeletons have come out of the closet in my mind, and now they’re dancing.” “In that case,” he replied, “take out your fiddle and play for them.”
I love it.
See dancing skeleton
Years ago, when I was seeing a counselor to help me recover from my divorce, I complained that it was hard to find suitable bachelors. He said, “Maybe you’re being too selective. What are your criteria?” I told him that the hardest qualities to find in men are intellect and culture. He replied, “You’re down to 2% of the population.” “But this is the Washington DC metropolitan area,” I protested. “People here are supposed to be affluent and educated.” “OK. 4% of the population,” he said. I’m not sure whether his numbers were right, but sometimes I feel like I’m living in a cultural wasteland.
Getting Joshua Bell on Oprah’s show might help, but one appearance would not be enough.
One of my students, age 6 ½ years, is wise beyond his age. He told me that a long time ago, before there were machines, people made things by hand. They really cared about what they made, so their things were of very high quality. I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the beautiful, century old violin, battered and cracked in many places and almost beyond repair. The violin, aside from its severe damage, looks very pretty and sounds sweet and beautiful.
The neck had come apart from the body, and the violin had been very sloppily glued together. The button is severely cracked, and the ribs are separating from the body. There is a long crack under the tailpiece, and the bottom of the violin is coming apart. The bridge was really strange looking. I have seen warped bridges, but this one has a sharp angle bend in it. It rises perpendicular from the violin, as it should, and then takes a 45 degree turn. Under one foot of the bridge, on the side near the soundpost, is another long crack. The bridge is imprinted with the name of a good violin store near here, so it was not poorly made or poorly fitted. It’s not as if the violin fell on the floor once but was treated with care and respect the rest of the time. It is a matter of chronic abuse and/or neglect. I still can not comprehend how people can be so uncaring. I asked my luthier, who is well respected and honest, how much it would cost to repair the violin. He said, “About $1500,” and I felt very sick. I had my next series of questions prepared in advance. I asked what could be done to make it playable, how much it would cost, and how long it might last. The bottom line was that it could be made playable for about $170, and it might last for a few years.
How can one express the value of a violin? Certainly, it’s not about dollars. It’s about love, a very personal love. If the violin were mine, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend $170 on it. Even if I only had one year to play it, it would be well worth $170 to me. The violin belongs to a friend of mine who is not a musician. How can I explain it to him? I thought about the things that $170 could buy or not buy and did a few rough calculations. Here is what I came up with.
I can’t explain it. I can’t explain beauty and love.
It looks like v.com is experiencing an epidemic of broken fiddles. I’m grieving for the old specimen I fell in love with earlier this week. The violin isn’t even mine, but I feel broken hearted.
The neck and the body separated and were glued together sloppily. If wood isn’t aligned properly, it develops stresses when pressure is applied, i.e., when it is played. The button, where the neck connects to the body on the back, is battered. The ribs have come apart from the body of the violin. The fingerboard is separating from the neck. There is a long crack under the tailpiece and another crack under one foot of the bridge. To repair it properly would cost about $1500 now, and that just isn't practical. It’s analogous to seismic activity along the San Andreas Fault. There is one big difference, though. Humans can’t repair cracks in the earth, but they can repair cracks in a violin, if they care to.
How can anyone be so sloppy and uncaring about an instrument? This was a fine fiddle when it was made, about a hundred years ago, and probably for many years afterwards. It was repaired sloppily and developed more and more cracks and separations of wooden parts from each other over the years. It must have taken quite a while for it to get this bad. Think about all the people who have owned it and played it during the last century. Didn’t they notice that it was falling apart? If they did, they didn’t care enough to fix it properly. Its health has deteriorated almost beyond repair now. It still has a beautiful sound. Can’t anyone tell? Doesn’t anyone care? You can buy a fiddle for $50 or less on ebay. Why pay attention to quality? We live in a throw-away society. Things aren’t repaired, just replaced. (I believe that this attitude carries over into personal relationships.)
I feel sick.
I never outgrew dolls. I still have about a dozen of them. One of my friends noticed some of them in my home and invited me to go with him to see a fabulous collection of dolls.
He described the doll collection with superlatives, but he did not prepare me for the wonders I saw. This is a multimillion dollar collection of tens of thousands of dolls, the nucleus of a doll museum, hidden away in an unobtrusive looking row house in Washington DC. The owners, Sunny and Louis Reyes, have been collecting antique dolls for 28 years, and they are delighted when someone comes to see their collection. They encourage all their visitors to tell their friends about their collection, and that’s what I’m doing.
I saw and photographed just a tiny fraction of the dolls, and the experience was overwhelming.
When you enter the house, you are greeted by several life size dolls near the door, including one striking Native American doll. (Sunny refers to some of them as Louis’s girlfriends.) Louis is a Native American, and he is partial to Native American dolls. He makes traditional costumes for them, including beads, headdresses, and fringed leather garments, by hand.
Many of their dolls were made in the Victorian era, although some of them date back to the 1500s. Most of the dolls are dressed in elaborate costumes.
The faces and eyes of the dolls are beautiful, too. They have real personality.
The Reyes have a wonderful collection of wedding dolls, including both human and nonhumans.
A large glass case holds wedding attendant dolls. When Sunny learned that I play the violin, she unlocked the case and got out a doll playing a violin for a wedding. This doll is in a glass bell jar about 6 inches tall. Her violin looks OK, but her bow needs rehairing.
Sunny and Louis are getting on in years, and, since they have no children, they want to donate their doll collection to a suitable museum. They have several offers including one from the Smithsonian. However, the Smithsonian keeps over 99% of their holdings in storage, and the Reyes want all of their dolls kept where they can be seen. They have another offer from someone in Australia, but they want their dolls to be exhibited in the capitol city of our country. They are looking for a suitable, good home for their dolls. Any good leads would be appreciated. Just let me know, and I’ll pass the information
The Hot 8 Brass band
I had so much fun listening to the Hot 8 Brass Band, from New Orleans, when they played at the Smithsonian Folk Festival earlier this summer. They are hot! I heard them first onstage and later at a nighttime jam party. I got to listen to them, photograph them, and dance to their music twice. At the jam party, I even had a chance to talk to them. When I feel PO’d about doing volunteer work at the nighttime party, I just remind myself of these things.
The sousaphone particularly interested me. It is a huge instrument, exactly like the tuba except that its long tube is configured differently. In the tuba, the tubing is coiled into a relatively compact shape, but in the sousaphone, the tubing wraps around the body of its player, giving the impression of a giant serpent ensnaring its human prey. It weighs about 40 lb, so the player must be sturdy, especially if he is marching while “wearing” it.