Posts Tagged ‘Local’

Boston Marathon 2014

Fifteen years ago, I attended the Boston Marathon for the first time.  I knew about the race from an early age, because even in southwestern Connecticut where I grew up it is a big enough event to warrant lots of news coverage.  I also knew enough to be envious of Massachusetts’ schoolchildren that they got an extra holiday that fell on a lovely spring Monday.  But in 1998, I was skeptical that watching people run could be all that entertaining.

Still, I gave it a chance and rode my bike to Cleveland Circle to take in the race.  There was a thrill to seeing all the motorcycles, the press van, the time clock, and finally the small of elite runners zip by.  But what happened next it was really surprised me.  The ordinary runners, the people running to raise money for charities, or to prove something to themselves, or just because they love running began to arrive on the course, first in a trickle then in a big pack.  And the crowds of spectators grew and became louder and they cheered on EVERY. SINGLE. RUNNER.  I walked along the course, following the runners all the way down Beacon Street to Kenmore Square and then on to Boylston Street to the finish line.  Then I rode the green line back to Cleveland Circle along with proud finishers wearing mylar blankets, feeling like I was surrounded by large baked potatoes.

Boston is a town known for its reserve, something that to outsiders may appear aloof or rude.  But on this day, Patriots Day, there’s a near Bacchinalian explosion of good feeling as every spectator expresses their love and support of other people, the majority of whom are complete strangers.  I read stories of experience marathon runners who describe Boston as unlike any other race as the entire course tends to be lined with people offering constant support.  In fact, these runners say that they can’t even leave the race, because the spectators push them back onto the course, which is borderline aggressive, but done with the best intentions.

Last year, this celebration of the best of Boston humanity was marred by the two explosions near the finish line that killed three spectators and wounded hundreds more.  And yet, that Boston spirit was still there as people – both medical professionals and amateurs – rushed to the injured.  There quick action and selflessness save many lives and has been encapsulated in the idea of Boston Strong.  In the wake of the bombings, Bostonians were frightened and saddened, yet also calm and determined.  People I know from far away seemed more freaked out, wondering if anyone would want to run the marathon in the future, perhaps even canceling it entire.  President Obama got it right when he said “Next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it.”

Since that first marathon in 1998, I’ve tried to watch it every year when I can get off work.  I’ve also gone to the battle reenactment and parade in Concord and a baseball game at Fenway Park (attending the dawn reenactment at Lexington and riding in the Midnight Madness bike marathon are still on my to-do list).  Last year, I did have the day off from work but was unable to convince my children that they would want to go watch people run and cheer for them.  We went to the playground instead.  In retrospect, ambulance that passed us by at incredible speeds as we were on our way to the playground were certainly responding to the bombings. I learned of the bombings from checking my smartphone while watching my children play.

I knew that I would have to watch the 2014 marathon no matter what. Luckily, the kids were agreeable, and my whole  family watched the marathon today.  We returned to my favorite spot at Cleveland Circle.  Conveniently, there is a playground tucked behind the buildings on Beacon Street, so the kids could take a break.  My daughter Kay peeked through the fence and shook some noisemakers while cheering on the runners.  My son Peter was more intent on watching the race and spotting some friends of ours among the pack.  He gave high five to runners and one woman stopped and talked to him about her stomach cramps. It was a gorgeous day, a great marathon, and really everything that Patriots Day in Boston is supposed to be.

 

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The 43rd Annual Christmas Revels

This afternoon, my wife, son, and good family friend Craig took in the  performance of The Christmas Revels at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge. The annual pageant of music, dance, storytelling, and drama focused this year on the pilgrimage along the Camino de Compostela in the Spanish region of Galicia.  As a Celtic culture, the Galicians have their own version of the bagpipe called the gaita which featured prominently. Any piece featuring gaita and drums was a highlight for me.  The largest drum resonated throughout the house.

The story of this Revels follows Everyman (portrayed by Jay O’Callahan) on his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella and onwards to the End of the Earth in Finisterre.  Elements of Don Quixote are woven into the story as Everyman is knighted and joined on his journey by squire Sancho (Billy Meleady, who starred in last year’s show) and the tavern keeper Angélica (the delightful Angélica Aragón).

Usually the theme of a Revels’ performance is an excuse to tie together song and dance numbers, but this story of a pilgrimage actually maintains a pretty continuous narrative built around set pieces along the Camino, in a tavern, at a monastery, at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and finally at Finisterre.  The sets and lighting are really remarkable in adapting the stage for the different places along the journey.

Highlights of the show include:

  • the talent and hard work of the Revels’ children whose performance more than ever is fully-integrated into the show.
  • the charming line dance when the pilgrims are greeted by the monks to the tune of “Alborada de Ourense.”
  • O’Callahan telling the story of “The Singing Sack.”
  • sing-a-long with choreography to “Fum, Fum, Fum.”
  • puppetry and lights to enact the Galacian version of the posadas ritual.
  • an amazing bit of stagecraft where a giant censer is swung like a pendulum over the performers on the stage (based on the Botafumeiro at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
  • Jaime Jaffe’s solo performance of “Ondas Do Mar De Vigo.”
  • a mummers play featuring a mustachioed dragon who performed the hammiest death throes.

There were some disappointments.  Jay O’Callahan was hard to understand and I’m not sure if he was mumbling or mic’ed improperly.  Sitting in balcony center meant it took a long time to get downstairs to participate in “The Lord of the Dance.”  It ended just as we reached the lobby.  While I would not rank this among my all time favorite Revels’ performances, it was still delightful and I recommend seeing it if you have the chance. There are four more performances before the show closes on December 27th, so get your tickets now!

The Boston Globe has a more-detailed review for your perusal.

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Photopost: Wachusett Meadow

For Father’s Day this year, we once again visited one of the most beautiful places on earth, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, MA.  I guess it’s a tradition now.

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Frog on a log. Far fewer than we saw last year.

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We had no idea what these red bumps were so we showed this picture to the naturalist. He believes it’s the remains of a slime mold.

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Looking out over the Beaver Pond.

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Daisy in the meadow.

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The Meadow changes with every step as the contours shift with a new perspective.

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Purple flowers (I’m an archivist, not a botanist, all right!)

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More wildflowers.

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The stone wall, a New England tradition.

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Frog on a lily pad.

Previously: Photopost: Wachusett Meadow (2012)

Support Bikes Not Bombs!

This weekend I will be riding in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon with my 18-month daughter Kay as my co-pilot.

Bikes Not Bombs is one of my favorite charitable  social justice organization because it uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change. This includes shipping restored bikes to International Programs in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean where sustainable transportation is vital for economic development. Closer to home, Youth Programs in the Boston area teach bicycle safety and mechanical skills to local teens building self-confidence and personal responsibility. Please make a donation to help the world-changing activities of Bikes Not Bombs. Better yet, come join us for the ride and/or for the post-ride festival at Stony Brook.

SingPositive, JP Spring Concert on Sunday, May 19 at 4 pm

Awake My Soul

Join SingPositive, JP! for our Spring Concert!
Sunday, May 19th, 4pm @ St. John’s Episcopal Church (1 Roanoke Ave.)

“Awake, My Soul” – celebrating spring, change, growth, and rebirth
with JP’s biggest intergenerational chorus and band

Songs from Mumford & Sons, Michael Jackson, The Muppets,
James Taylor, “Hair,” Peter, Paul and Mary, and more

Tickets available at the door or by emailing us:
$10/adults, $5/kids ages 2-16.

“Join” our Facebook event and invite your friends!

Photopost: Wake Up The Earth 2013

Spring descended on Jamaica Plain this past weekend with the annual Wake Up the Earth Festival presented by Spontaneous Celebrations. This was the 35th annual festival, an event that grew out of the “highway revolt” of the 1960s & 70s when local activists opposed the construction of highway infrastructure in Jamaica Plain & Roxbury, leading to the creation of the Southwest Corridor as a system of train lines, bike paths, and parks that we enjoy today. Ironically, some people who want to create new prioritized highway infrastructure for cars marched in this year’s parade which I guess shows that this festival takes all kinds.  The festival itself was home to many tents of activists of many causes, food, games, and musical performances.  My family and I sang a few songs with the intergenerational chorus SingPositive, JP in preparation for our concert on May 19th.  We also danced to Maaak Pelletier’s jam band the Mystical Misfits as they played Grateful Dead classics.  Finally, the potato sack slide down the hillside was great fun for everyone.

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A peace sign and yin yang grow out of the hillside at Jamaica Pond’s Sugar Bowl.

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Peace and flowers!

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The Brendan Behan quote seems appropriate to the occassion.

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Spanish banner for the festival.

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Here comes the parade.

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The stilt walkers always impress.

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I’m pretty sure this woman participates every year.

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The theme of the year is snakes and these folks won the Best Family Costume award.

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Hula hooping is another big highlight of the festival.

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Mobile percussion unit.

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The wolf and the lamb dance in the street.

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A rocking marching band and dancing stilt walker.

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Scholars from my son’s school march.

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Getting brassy.

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The Mystical Misfits lead the dance.

More photos from the parade and festival on Universal Hub and JP Patch.

Previously:

Songs of the Week: Beck’s Song Reader Performed Live

The songs in my head this week, of course, are the songs I’m rehearsing for a concert called Beck’s Song Reader Performed Live.  The show is next Thursday, February 28, 2013 at Somerville Theatre in Davis Square (on the Red Line) at 8:00.  Beck released his 2012 album Song Reader entirely as sheet music, and 150 of Boston’s best musicians, dancers, and performance artists will be presenting their interpretations of all 20 songs.  My choir will perform an arrangement of one song a capella and provide accompaniment to four other songs.

Get your tickets now for $25/seat as this show is sure to sell out!

The choral centerpiece is a song called “The Wolf is on the Hill.”  In this video, you may hear us rehearsing a couple of weeks ago.  We sound even better now.  At the end of this clip you can also hear a small portion of “Title of the Song” which is the grand finale of the concert.

The choir is also accompanying Sarah Ribdau and Peter Moore on their rendition of “Please Leave the Light On When You Go” and Peter Moore’s take of “Heaven’s Ladder”:

The choir is participating on a fifth song as well, “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard” by Molly Zenobia.  This may be my favorite of all the songs I’ve heard, but you’ll have to take my word for it and come to the concert to hear it, because there is no demo.

Some other songs you will hear at the concert include:

  • “Why Did You Make Me Care” by Mary Bichner:

  • “Now That Your Dollar Bills Have Sprouted Wings” by The Highland Drifters
  • “Sorry” by Endation
  • “Old Shanghai” by Mary Bichner

This barely scratches the surface, as there will be a dozen more songs plus choreographed dance performances for each number.

So buy your tickets now!!!

Beck’s Song Reader Concert

Next week, I will singing in a 50-person kick-ass choir as part of a concert called Beck’s Song Reader Performed Live.  The show is next Thursday, February 28, 2013 at Somerville Theatre in Davis Square (on the Red Line) at 8:00.  Beck released his 2012 album Song Reader entirely as sheet music, and 150 of Boston’s best musicians, dancers, and performance artists will be presenting their interpretations of all 20 songs.  My choir will perform an arrangement of one song a capella and provide accompaniment to four other songs.  Get your tickets now for $25/seat as this show is sure to sell out!

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The 42nd Annual Christmas Revels

It would not be Christmas without the Christmas Revels at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge.  This year my wife, son and I joined by our friends Abby, Kim, & Sid took in the Winter Solstice performance on the evening of December 21st.  The show was delightful as always with the subject being near and dear to my heart, the music of Irish emigrants as they sail the new world.

The show was a more restrained and simple performance than a typical Revels keeping to the theme of the cast being impoverished immigrants aboard a ship and not having much to celebrate with.  After the opening number, lines and gangways were removed from the sides of the stage and notably no cast members went down the steps into “the ocean” except during a storytelling sequence.  These restraints did nothing to detract from the beauty of the song, dance, and stories performed.

Highlights of the show for me included:

  • Bill Meleady’s colorful telling of The Soul Cages, the exception to the restraint on the performance where the visuals of the story come to life in vivid detail.  I enjoyed the dancing crustaceans especially as well as Steve Barkhimer’s portrayal of the merrow Coomara.
  • “The Wexford Lullaby” gorgeously performed by Mary Casey along with Jamie Jaffe as a duet and later as a quartet.
  • The dramatic “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” swelling as the audience joins the chorus.
  • “The Lord of the Dance” is always a highlight and was cleverly worked into the show as being the English ship crews’ contribution to the shipboard celebration.
  • The show had several sets of traditional Irish music by The Rattling Brogues and step dance by O’Shea-Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance that livened up the proceedings greatly.
  • If there was one minor disappointment is that the show ends with the immigrants seeing The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.  The show is set aboard the Cunard steamship RMS Carpathia and since Cunard had a western terminus in Boston (there’s still an office building marked “CUNARD” on State Street) it would have been a nice local connection to have the ship dock here instead of New York.

A traditional element of the Revels – “The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance” – was not included in the program but as this was the Winter Solstice, the audience was treated to a special rendition of Abbots Bromley after the curtain call.  I’d actually guessed that Abbots Bromley was the surprise we’d been promised before the show, but it was still a thrill when the first haunting notes of the recorder came out and the audience reacted with joy.

This was another great Revels and I believe all the shows were sold out.  If you missed this year’s Revels, make sure to get your tickets early for next year’s show which I promise will be just as great.

Related posts:

SingPositive, JP Winter Concert on Sunday, December 16 at 4pm

If you’ll allow a moment of self-publicity, my son & I will be singing with the SingPositive, JP family chorus in our Winter Concert on Sunday, December 16 at 4 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church (1 Roanoke Av) in Jamaica Plain.  If you live in or near Boston, please consider this your invitation to join us of songs of “Hope & Healing” - celebrating optimism and the relationships that pull us through.  Tickets are $10/adults and $5/kids ages 2-16.

If you’d like to learn more about Sing Positive, JP and sing with us in the future, like the SingPositive Facebook page.  There’s also an invitation to the concert on Facebook.

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