Regular readers may recall that when I started this blog, I was the choir director and organist at a small town Episcopal church in Upstate New York. I loved the creative work and the core singers whom I now consider some of my dearest friends.
But certain aspects of the job were tedious. I used to spend a fair amount of time cajoling volunteers into showing up for choir practice. Palestrina is sunk without participation, and you can’t pull off Mozart’s “Ave Verum” without at least a couple of basses and tenors. So I used to compose a weekly e-mail, such as:
When soprano Allyn Van Dusen walked into the Hochstein Performance Hall, I half-expected she’d be wearing a full-length antique wrap that had belonged to her grandmother. (She’d mentioned it when we'd talked about her appearance on WXXI's weekly live radio show, "Live from Hochstein.") Instead, she appeared in a metallic sleeveless top, a casual, fringed broomstick skirt, and jeweled sandals. Her appearance hinted at the exotic influences in the music: Ravel’s “Sheherazade,” for example, unfolds in tri-tones to evoke the sight of a bejeweled Persian queen.
As a parent, educator or anyone who is around kids, you've probably been subjected (willingly or reluctantly) to many hours of children's television and/or videos. Someone recently asked me, "What is your favorite children's show on WXXI?" and I honestly couldn't answer with just one show because I enjoy so many kid's shows that we air.
This question did get me thinking about my favorite PBS kids shows as well as why I enjoy the ones that I consider my favorites. So here is my personal top 5 list with why I enjoy each one (in no particular order):
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that came out of nowhere.
I was recently in Boston for a weekend with the family and a Monday morning meeting at WGBH. We were supposed to take the kids to the aquarium on Sunday. But then I heard about the whales.
An exceptionally large gathering of endangered right whales was apparently feasting on plankton in Cape Cod Bay. Despite my husband's objections - all valid and practical - I spent several hours on Saturday afternoon trying to find a way out on to the water. I was unsuccessful, but tenacious (a character trait valued by journalists, but not necessarily by husbands.) I woke up Sunday and called Captain John in Plymouth at 7:30 a.m. A woman answered the phone and told me to be at the dock by 11:30 a.m.
Ten random strangers are willing to judge you, based exclusively on your looks, when you upload your picture to Facestat.com. The site uses Amazon Mechanical Turk, an automated web service named after an 18th-century chess-playing mannequin, which turns artificial intelligence on its head by making requests of humans. On Facestat, people judge faces. Among other things, they’ll estimate your intelligence, relationship status, and whether or not you were drunk at the time the picture was taken.
Thelonious Monk, for example, has a way of turning a melody every which way, like he's figuring out a Rubik's Cube. The pace quickens and slows. You can feel him thinking. You can dart glimpses and see the colors of the song in new configurations.
Ani DiFranco can show you things, too. I've shot pool since I was a kid but never looked at a table like she did in Untouchable Face...
There's a changing constellation of balls as we are playing.
I see Orion and say nothing.
Seu Jorge is another one. His acoustic covers of Ziggy Stardust and Life on Mars, sung in Portuguese, impressed even David Bowie, who found his songs imbued with a new level of beauty.
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