We start in the Stony Brook valley and work our way uphill and through history to the top of Fort Hill, passing through Roxbury’s colonial town center at Eliot Square along the way. Learn how Roxbury went from early colonial settlement to strategic military location to bucolic suburb to immigration destination to one of Boston’s densest neighborhoods. See Roxbury Highlands continue to transform with ongoing restoration and new construction.
The Roxbury Highlands tour explores a remarkable neighborhood. Our tour travels through the center of colonial Roxbury: Eliot Square, where the First Church proudly stands as the oldest wooden church in Boston. The Highlands flourished in the mid-19th century as a garden suburb with many pear and apple orchards. There was even an apple named after the area – the Roxbury Russet. We will see wonderful Greek Revival and Victorian houses along our route and discuss some of the amazing individuals who called this area home including Edward Everett Hale – author of The Man Without a Country, and Louis Prang – who printed the first Christmas cards in America. Finally, we finish on top of the hill at the Roxbury Standpipe, in a lovely park which occupies the location of the Roxbury High Fort. Come explore with us!
On June 7th, I rode in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon for the third time. I seem to participate every other year, although it’s such a lovely event for a great cause that I need to commit to doing it annually. I was joined by children Kay, who rode in to co-pilot’s seat, and Peter, who pedaled his own bike for the ten-mile ride. The three of us were able to raise $615 which was part of the record $209,280 raised by a record 866 riders! Our donation page is still open to receive more contributions should you be so inclined
When we first arrived at the starting point near Stony Brook station, we saw lots of bikes with brooms sticking off the back. I thought maybe I’d missed out on a theme for the ride, but it turned out this was a fleet of bikes for a team called The Golden Sneetches. After checking-in and eating breakfast, we got on line to start the ride and found ourselves behind our nextdoor neighbors who were also festively attired. Note to self: wear a costume next time.
The Bikes Not Bombs staff introduced our ride, warning us that there were steep uphills early on as we headed away from Jamaica Plain, but we’d be rewarded with a nice long downhill after the rest area. The hills were tough for Peter who rides a single-gear Schwinn. He complained about having to go up so much and asked repeatedly when we’d get to the rest area, but persevered and kept on pedaling. Another wrench in the works was that near the halfway point of the ride, we ended up running into a charity 5K run! A person from that other event insisted that we bike down a side street meaning that myself and a number of Golden Sneetches had to navigate a new route on the fly.
At last we made it to the rest area in Brookline and refreshed by orange slices and Gatorade, were able to carry on with the rest of the ride. Not only was it mostly downhill, but Peter began to recognize the streets of Brookline as being close to home. We pedaled past Allandale Farm and the Arboretum and back into central Jamaica Plain to finish the ride. The kids received medals and we ate some lunch and played for a while before heading home for a much-needed. Well, the kids were still full of energy, so they played with Mom while I napped.
I’ve lived in metro-Boston for close to 17 years, 8 of those in Jamaica Plain, and I’d never taken the Samuel Adams Brewery Tour. I decided to address this omission on a recent Friday when I’d taken a day off from work. I don’t know what the brewery is like in the high season, but on a random Friday afternoon in snow-encrusted Boston, there were still more than 30 people in my tour group.
Those in the know that while Samuel Adams is advertised as a Boston beer, the majority of the beer is brewed at contract breweries out-of-state. The Jamaica Plain facility is primarily a research and development facility with small batches brewed for local clients (such as Doyle’s Cafe). Thus the brewery is pretty small and the tour rather short in distance. Our guide offered a wealth of knowledge on the brewing process, passing around hops to rub into our hands and samples of malts to chew on. We also saw the big tanks that the beer goes through in the brewing process.
Not much happening there, so we went to a tasting room to sample some fresh Samuel Adams beers. The beers on tap included the flagship Boston Lager, Cold Snap white ale, and Chocolate Bock. After generous samples, we were invited to visit the gift shop where more beer was on sale, including unique brews not available elsewhere. I will have to not wait so long for my next visit, or at least swing by the gift shop when looking for a special beer.
Entering beer nirvana.
A glimpse of wooden casks.
A basketful of hops.
The most action in the brewery was this man spraying foam under the tanks.
I don’t think this is how they put the head on the beer.
Beer is best enjoyed with a drinking buddy.
Related Posts (Samuel Adams beer reviews over time):
The Christmas Revels at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge are annual family tradition. My first Revels experience was in Washington in 1996. After moving to the Boston area, the Cambridge Revels were an annual event from 2001-2006. We missed the show in 2007 due to a newborn, and in 2008 due to a blizzard, but have been regular attendees since 2009 (that same year I actually sang in the chorus!). So, I calculate that I’ve seen 13 different Christmas Revels performances. Each year is delightful and surprising in its own way.*
This year’s Revels is set in Victorian England, with music halls and the Crystal Palace playing center stage. The first act shows two teams of buskers competing on the streets of a Northern England town as the Crystal Palace manager Harry Colcord and composer Arthur Sullivan seek an alternate performer after a cancellation. In the usual Revels’ way, everything comes together as the buskers join forces to create a performance of music, tricks, and a “panto” of Cinderella. The second act is treated as a command performance at the Crystal Palace (complete with life-size wooden cutouts of the royal family in the mezzanine).
Highlights of the show:
comic busking performances by Marge Dunn, Billy Meleady, Mark Jaster, and Sabrina Selma Mandell
singing a round of “Row the Boat, Whittington”
David Coffin’s solos on “It Was My Father’s Custom” and on the melodic “Christmas Bells at Sea”
the sing-a-long and acting out of “When Father Papered the Parlour”
the “Panto” of Cinderella, which while not a true Panto (oh no it isn’t!), we did get to shout “Don’t touch Billy’s eggs” several times
And of course, the Revels traditions of “Lord of the Dance” (and dancing out into the lobby), “Dona Nobis Pacem,” “The Shortest Day,” and “Sussex Mummers’ Carol.” Unfortunately, the “Abbots Bromley Horn Dance” was conspicuously absence in this year’s performance.
There are five more performances from December 26-28, so if you’re in or near Cambridge, get a ticket and go!
If you love Boston, and wish to learn more about it’s history and architecture, check out the following three Boston By Foot walking tours lead by yours truly in October.
2 October 2014, 6 pm at Atlantic Wharf (290 Congress St at Fort Point Channel) – The Tipsy Tour – This tour is not a pub crawl – it’s an exploration of Boston’s boozy past!
4 October 2014, 2 pm at Dartmouth Street opposite Back Bay Station – South End – Explore one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Boston!
16 October 2014, 6 pm at Massachusetts Avenue in front of The First Church of Christ, Scientist – Avenue of the Arts – Along Huntington Avenue stands a dense concentration of Boston’s most venerable cultural institutions. From McKim, Mead & White’s Symphony Hall to Guy Lowell’s Museum of Fine Arts this tour will showcase the establishments dedicated to the fine arts, music, theater, education, religion, and sports.
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 1999, 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. Their quick action and selflessness saved 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 entirely. 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 1999, 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, an ambulance that passed us by at incredible speeds as we were on our way to the playground was 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
In the coming months I will be singing thrice weekly with a variety of organizations. It looks like it will be a lot of fun, although maybe a challenge for time commitments as well with rehearsals starting this week.
For the first time, I will be singing with the Mystic Chorale. The fall concert Pastures of Plenty – Woody Guthrie at 100 will take place Saturday, Nov 17, 8:00pm and (my birthday!) Sunday, Nov 18, 3:30pm at Tremont Temple in Boston. I’m looking forward to singing songs written and inspired by one of my all-time favorite persons.
My son and I will also once again be performing with SingPositive, JP. This multi-generational, family chorus will be making our sophomore outing with a concert themed on Optimism in Hard Times on Sunday, December 16th, 4pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain. If you are looking for a musical, community experience, I definitely recommend looking into SingPositive which is branching out into other communities in the Boston area.
Finally, my daughter and I will be attending regular classes of Music Together at the Children’s Music Center of Jamaica Plain. There’s no performance with this one but it may be the most fun. I enjoyed singing with my son when he was little and look forward to repeating the experience and introducing my baby girl to music and rhythm.
This post is partially shameless self-promotion to get you to come out to my performances, but I also hope that anyone looking for opportunities to sing and perform music in the Boston area (with or without children) will see this post. I highly recommend all of these organizations and suggest you check them out and get involved if you’re interested. If you know of any good singing and music activities in the Boston area, let me know in the comments.