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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Leader of the Band*

I just came home from my son's HS band concert.  I'm not going to spend time here critiquing the performance--Mr. Trujillo, the band's director, did a fine job with his assembled forces.  Rather, it was news that I received from a fellow band parent and Scouter--that Jeff Scott, longtime Troop committee chair, had passed away this morning.  I blush to confess that I don't know how he became wheelchair-bound; I can only talk about how he kept coming to parent/leader meetings and quietly taking charge until he simply couldn't any more.  He truly cared about the boys and about Scouting and I know he'll be missed.  As troop committee co-chair (and now chair) I have big shoes to fill, but I'll find my way.

"The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old, but his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul;
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man, I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band".

Onward. 

*--Dan Fogelberg, The Innocent Age, 1981.

No Man is an Island*

No Man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. 

          --John Donne, 1572-1631

I've been reflecting on the awful events of last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. So much has been said, by so many, in so many corners of the American consciousness, that I will no doubt end up parroting what has been stated by those more prominent or those closer to the situation who were thrust into prominence through no fault of their own. I thank God that while Nancy and I have had a couple of health scares with the kids, they've been safe and secure, and we haven't received that phone call.  I can't pretend to imagine how horrible that must be.  I'm not sure I'll ever have the words, if words are ever sufficient, other than to say that if the United States of America ever heard a conversion call  for individuals and families to embrace their Creator and follow Him more devotedly, this was it.  For those who would curse God  and ask, "Why did he allow this to happen?", I would offer that He gave us all free will and unfortunately some of us choose to abuse it. As a result, dozens of families and a community--indeed, our nation and the world--will never be the same.

Two issues at the heart of the issue have been mental illness and access to guns.  Again, a lot of people have weighed in on  many sides of the issue, and I am in agreement that mental illness is an issue that needs to be properly dealt with in this country.  I'm going to quote (in part) from a message board to which I contribute (I'm the writer):

"As a mental health patient (I'm bipolar), I can appreciate the need for access to quality mental health care.  Over the years, I've benefited from medication and talk therapy to the point where I can live a relatively normal life.  Is it easy? in a word, NO--but it beats the alternatives.  I'm better served when I'm honest with myself and others around me regarding my condition.  Does everyone with a mental health think as clearly? NO.  That is where family and friends need to step up and be persistent advocates and protectors of the person in need of help, that tenacious "bug in the ear" for that person. Does it always work? NO.  But that doesn't mean you quit trying. Ever. I've never been institutionalized, but there were times over the years when it would have been a viable alternative. Commitment isn't a decision made lightly or out of casual convenience. Further, the patient does have rights--and a whole system of legal advocacy of which they can take advantage.
"As for the gun issue--I imagine that there are those who read the third paragraph of this post and thought to themselves, "He doesn't get one".  Whatever.  I've never owned one; I'm not a hunter or law enforcement officer or competitive shooter so I don't really need one. Besides, I have Parkinson's and my aim is about as good as Gene Wilder's in "Blazing Saddles" ("See this hand?" "Steady as a rock" "Yeah, but I shoot with this one")" (The Trombone Forum, 15 December 2012). 

This isn't an easy issue for me (or anyone else for that matter), but I need to go further on the second issue--access to guns.  Many have directed hateful diatribes at the National Rifle Association.  Indeed, their decades-long pattern of lobbying and today's instant communication had me expecting a pre-packaged-sounding response from the group.

Five days and counting.  Nothing. Not a word, in the media or on their website.

This morning it was announced that the NRA would have a press conference on Friday.  Can't imagine how this will go, but I have a pretty good idea how it will be received.

*--Choral setting by Roy Ringwald [date unknown]. We sang it my freshman year in U-M Men's Glee Club.  A powerful bit of music, especially accompanied by organ.

Friday, December 14, 2012

For all the saints who from their labours rest*

A little under 24 hours ago I finished my Cataloging final.  Eight questions, just like the Management final.  Three of them were RDA-related (two of three right--missed the one on whether it was ever permissible to list both the copyright date AND the publication date for the same item).  One question on bibliographic relationships (MARC field 130 on a listing for a particular edition of the Latin Vulgate--switched two of the subfields, otherwise nailed it); two on personal name entries (nailed one, slightly missed the other), one involving a committee report (messy), and the big one (60 of the possible 100 points) on a book on the subject of (wait for it) Turkish pottery (perfecto!). Dr. Maccaferri does go blotto for the Ottoman Empire!

I consider it a badge of honor to have earned an 87.2% on this test; that score fell just above the class average of 86.  My current grade for the class stands at 86.27; it's  89.5 or better for an A.  We're all sweating out what he gives us for class participation and extra credit, because according to my arithmetic he has not factored those numbers in.  If I receive what I think I'm supposed to, I'll cross that 89.5 threshold, and there will be much rejoicing.

UPDATE:  I ended up with a 92.04 for the semester.  Not sure how, but I'll take the A.

I'm still awaiting the results of the Management final.  If word count were everything, I'd get an A+++.  As it is, I'll be happy with an 80--I'll still  get an A for the semester (actually, a 70 will do likewise, but I already have one 70 on my record in that class and I don't want another.  That seems to be the pattern for me in Dr. Harhai's classes--work like the devil and JUSSST make the grade.LOL.  In fairness, both classes have a LOT of material to cover, and as I've discovered in the online world, you fail to buckle down at your own peril.

UPDATE:  I ended up with a 92.94 for the semester.  My 4.0 is intact. YIPPPPEEEEE!!!!

This morning's a very quiet Friday at the library.  I retrieved My Indian Kitchen by Hari Nayak (Tuttle, 2011) for an upcoming potluck dinner at my son's Scout troop. I'll be cooking three dishes:  corn and mushrooms in a spicy curry, stir-fried paneer cheese with peppers, and whole wheat flatbread (well, four, because I have to make the paneer cheese for the stir-fry, which isn't as hard as it sounds).

At home, between now and the 26th I can concentrate on cleaning the house, practicing for a Christmas Eve gig in Wayne, and getting ready for our trip to Michigan.  More immediately, my youngest daughter is performing in her schools improvisational comedy group, LOL, tonight at the school. Fun times!

St. Jerome, Pray for us!

*--opening line to Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1905 (text by William Walsham How, 1864).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All I care about is love*

Some random musings on the Grammys:

Well, the 2013 Grammy nominations are out. Yawn.

Kelly Clarkson seems to have done well; Taylor Swift, not as much.

Bruce Springsteen is still getting nominations in the Rock category? Impressive.

It's telling about our society when two of the "best" rap song nominees have to be referred to by more asterisks than letters.  Hmm. The industry won't print the titles but they have no problem producing the albums and making money off of it.

Why don't they just change the name "best spoken word album" to "best drooling liberal blather" and be done with it? It'd certainly be more honest. In case you think I've slipped off the rails on this one: Recent winners include Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.  This year's nominees? Michele Obama, Bill Clinton, Rachel Maddow, Ellen DeGeneres, and Janis Ian** (?).  Political nonsensibilities aside, they really need to get rid of this most self-indulgent of categories.  I checked out the entire list of winners in this category.  In the early days we saw luminaries like Helen Hayes, John Gielgud, Orson Welles, and William Warfield, not reciting their own writing but that of others (Performances of Copland's A Lincoln Portrait won twice, and even Leonard Bernstein won for an album entitled Humor in Music.) Great literature has been replaced by self-important political screeds in this category.  I'd probably feel the same way if they were conservative.  No, really.  Dump the category already, or at least present a nominees list that doesn't slant farther left than the post-iceberg Titanic.

I don't know why, but you have to go past "best album notes", producer of the year, and best long form music video (don't they call those MOVIES?) to get to what's left of the classical categories.  I have to say it's nice to see new nominees in those categories, though.  Now if they'd only include these performances on the broadcast.  Honest to God, the last classical performance I remember at the Grammys was Evgeny Kissgin (sp?), who played the snot out of a Chopin piece, followed by Whoopi Goldberg intoning "that was exquisite" with all the spirit of placing an order at the dry cleaners.

I had a couple of interruptions to completing my management final tonight--I had to go get a shirt for Daniel Jr. for his performance tomorrow, and I am about to return to hand-copying some music for a rehearsal tomorrow.  Orchestral management is going to get a separate post, post-concert and final exams.  It won't be pretty. 

Cheers.

*--John Kander and Fred Ebb, from the musical Chicago, 1975.
**no nasty letters please, I LOVE Ms. Ian's music as do you if you're considering hate mail.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

American Salute*

I played a concert with the Southeast Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra this past weekend.  The programming was notable, not because it was all American Music, but because it was not the usual bill of fare for such programs.  We opened with Barber's arguably most famous piece, the Adagio for Strings.

Next was a piece written for Benny Goodman, the Concerto for clarinet, piano and strings of Aaron Copland.  Beth Villsmaier, our principal clarinetist, gave a wonderful performance.  My own history of the piece includes listening to it first as a student at U-M, where then-graduate student Richard Shillea performed it for the annual concerto competition.

Later, when I started collecting music (thanks Columbia Record Club!), one of the first purchases I made was a recording of Benny Goodman (for whom the concerto was written) playing the Copland, and pieces by Bartok (Contrasts), Bernstein (Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs) and Gould (Derivations).

The second half opened with Symphony #3 (The Camp Meeting) of Charles Ives. Hard to listen to, harder to perform, but I thought it went well.

We closed with what this writer thinks should be Samuel Barber's most famous piece, his Knoxville: Summer of 1915. The text is taken from the prologue to a larger work by James Agee, A Death in the Family. It ambles, and reflects on a almost-forgotten, peaceable time in our past where life didn't rush and harrass and jostle.  I refer to the piece as 14 1/2 minutes of chamber music, because it never gets too loud or fast or boisterous, but depends on all its parts to produce one of America's crowning achievements in classical music--for that matter, in any music.Our soloist sang and told the story well, and did two of Aaron Copland's Old American Songs--"Long Time Ago" and "The Dodger" as encores.

Sorry I didn't get to this sooner.  It might have been even longer but I was going over recent stats in my blog and realized I hadn't finished this post.

*--Morton Gould, 1942, for performance on the Cresta Blanca Carnival radio show--speaking of times gone by.  The piece is 70 years old this year.

Celebration*

Nothing profound today--mostly musings of a procrastinational nature.

1)The country count for readers of this blog is up to nine with the addition of Hungary yesterday and France today.  Sure wish they'd leave comments, even if they don't think their English is up to snuff.  I'm always so excited to see new faces.  It'd be even MORE exciting to hear new voices, too!

2) That much closer to an A for the semester in Management class with grades in for my book review (The Accidental Library Manager by Rachel Singer Gordon) and webinar review (New Faces in Library Management).  Also completed Turning the Page, a PLA-sponsored webinar on advocacy.  Cataloging is another story.  More about that another time.  After all, this page is about CELBRATION!

3) My youngest daughter turned 13 today--three teenagers in the house now (BLECH!) but they're cool kids. 

4) Natalie has a concert with the Kennett Symphony Children's Chorus accompanied by--you guessed it--the Kennett Symphony Orchestra, Mary Woodmansee Green, music director and conductor.

Back to my Management final...Cheers.

*--Ronald Bell and Kool & the Gang, Celebrate!, 1980