Normal-ish: Proctors, ASO, choir

No buffoon bassoon

ProctorsIn the past month, I had several days that I considered normal-ish. Familiar, though with a twist.

Th, 12/9: I went to the Proctors Theatre in nearby Schenectady. I’ve been going there to see for years to see touring musicals. Often I’ve had season tickets for the Thursday matinee because it’s the least expensive option. Indeed, I made that choice way back in the spring of 2019 for the 2019-2020 run. I saw three shows. and then…

I don’t even remember when Summer: The Donna Summer Story was supposed to take place initially, but I think it was rescheduled at least twice because of COVID. FINALLY, I got to take the bus to the old vaudeville venue. First, I was asked for my vaccine card, which I had on my phone. Then I could pick up my ticket at the will call.

As for the show itself, there were actually three women playing the disco queen at various stages of her life. One also played Donna’s mother and another Donna’s daughter. Oddly enough, this was not confusing. And all of them were very good.

I wasn’t a huge disco fan. But as I wrote about her three years ago, I had a lot of respect for Donna Summer: her look and especially her voice.

On The Radio

But as this review in the Chicago Tribune noted of the tour: “It is a very rough book.” Yeah, that was it. The show “carelessly abandon[s] most of its scenes in mid-flow for self-serving monologues. The story veers “back and forth between the personal and the professional” in an uneasy manner. The reviewer thinks those “behind-the-music-with-the-guys-in-suits stuff… so rarely works in these kinds of shows.” I’ve seen some that do work – Beautiful, for one – but this was not one of them.

This I didn’t remember: “Summer, of course, upset a lot of her gay fans with a homophobic remark at a Cleveland concert, at the height of the AIDS crisis to boot.” The story monologue disowning her previous statement was astonishingly clunky.


Sa 12/11: Likewise, it was the first visit to the Albany Symphony Orchestra at the Palace Theatre, under the direction of David Alan Miller, since COVID. A church friend had tickets he could not use. Yes, proof of COVID vaccinations was needed.

The first piece was Don Juan by Richard Strauss. as the show notes suggest: Strauss “makes us see from the get-go the bravado of this libertine.”

The second and third pieces, one before the intermission and one after, were written by Christopher Rouse (1949-2019). The ASO, which Rouse visited frequently, was to record the compositions the following day.

From the composer’s notes about Heimdall’s Trumpet: his “blasts on his trumpet announce the onset of Ragnarok, the Norse equivalent of Armageddon.” He rightly notes “the title… refers properly to the finale… in a very short orchestral fortissimo outburst…” And it was so!  Eric Berlin was the fine soloist.

Rouse’s bassoon concerto, with the virtuoso Peter Kolkay was a lot more fun, with Kolkay sometimes fading out, yet the orchestra’s other bassoons filling in. It was not buffoonish, though. Comedy is difficult to explain.

Finally, excerpts from The Nutcracker, not just the suite but about a third of the whole ballet.


Su 12/12: Our choir has been rehearsing since October, with everyone with at least two shots. But the group, other than the section leaders, haven’t sung. That is until 11/27 when half the choir got to sing, masked. And no forte, because we’ve read that it is the volume of singing, or speaking, that has the greater chance to spread infection.

My half got to sing on 12/12. It was a little difficult because, being spread out, it was hard to hear the others in the bass section, let alone the other parts.

That said, it was GLORIOUS to be in the choir loft again. I’m not saying I got a little verklempt, but…

So normal-ish. Which is good enough for now.

Donna Summer would have been 70 (NYE)

Donna Summer claimed a top 40 hit every year between 1975 and 1984

Donna SummerThose of you too young to remember the days of disco may not understand how truly reviled it was. The teenage son of a friend of mine mocked the fact that I bought, owned and played the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

But not everyone thought disco sucked. Another friend bought me the Donna Summer album Live and More, a two-LP collection that featured, on side three, in order, live versions of Love to Love You Baby, I Feel Love, and Last Dance.

Then on side four, there was a 17-minute studio version of the MacArthur Park Suite, starting and ending with the Jimmy Webb song with One of a Kind and Heaven Knows mixed there.

The woman born LaDonna Adrian Gaines was one of the most significant artists in her time. “A five-time Grammy Award winner, Summer was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the United States Billboard 200 chart and charted four number-one singles in the US within a 12-month period.

“Summer earned a total of 42 hit singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 in her lifetime, with 14 of those reaching the top-ten. She claimed a top 40 hit every year between 1975 and 1984, and from her first top-ten hit in 1976, to the end of 1982, she had 12 top-ten hits (10 were top-five hits), more than any other act during that time period.”

Donna Summer had “nineteen Number One dance hits between 1975 and 2008 (second only to Madonna).” Her “success continued throughout the Eighties and into the Nineties. In 1992 Summer was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”

In 2013, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, described as the Queen of Disco and the Mother of Modern Dance Music. Unfortunately, it was the year after she died of lung cancer in May of 2012.

Listen to multiple versions of Donna Summer songs, shortest take first

@Love to Love You Baby – #2 pop for two weeks, #3 R&B in 1976 – here or here

@I Feel Love – #6 pop, #9 R&B in 1977 here or here or here

Last Dance – #3 for two weeks pop, #5 R&B in 1978 here or here

MacArthur Park – #1 pop for three weeks, #8 R&B in 1978 here or here

Hot Stuff – #1 for three weeks pop, #3 for three weeks in 1979; here; it also won her a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, the first time the category was included.

@Bad Girls – #1 for five weeks pop, #1 R&B in 1979 here or here

No More Tears (Enough is Enough) – with Barbra Streisand – #1 for two weeks pop, #20 R&B in 1979; here or here; four Number One pop hits in a little over a year.

@She Works Hard for the Money – #3 for three weeks pop, #1 for three weeks R&B in 1983 here or here

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

@ co-written by Donna Summer

Donna Summer would have been 70 on New Year’s Eve.

May Rambling: Stolen Scream and lots of music

THE QUID IS A COOL ROCK BAND that gained some success during the Garage Band era in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


The Stolen Scream (via Steve Bissette’s Facebook page). Creative theft is a global phenomenon. “The Stolen Scream” is a snapshot of just one such phenomenal, almost spontaneous international appropriation of an artist’s (in this case, a photographer’s) work.

A death that was also a birth. “As a midwife, I’ve spent the last 30 years taking care of women in pregnancy. But nothing prepared me for this.”

It’s a horrible cycle I’m quite familiar with and occasionally adore. After all, anxiety is king, and I am its lowly peasant. Going into public, whether a store, the movies, a restaurant or a family function, is exhausting. (New blogger, a friend of a friend.)

Another Supermarket Interlude.

James Lipton gives Mitt Romney advice on how to come across as a more “authentic” human being. Of course, while some cannot forgive his economic policies, Willard being the Demon Barber of Wall Street and/or a flip-flopper, there are others who want to forget every mean word they’ve ever said about him.

Will the leaning tower of Pisa fall over?

7-UP: a Branding Revolution

It’s the second half of Mark Evanier’s story about his high school yearbook that’s really entertaining. He also writes about The $10,000 Pyramid, one of my three favorite game shows ever, and shares someone’s story about Dick Cavett, who I used to watch religiously on late night TV.

Upfronts: 2012–Video Trailers. Clips of the various new shows from the networks.

Steve Bissette has me wanting to see the new Dark Shadows movie, which I had previously dismissed. A Pac-Man movie and Movies With Matching Titles.

A Yank’s Humble Guide To Kiwi Music (Part II)

The Music of Nick McKaig, performing the Star Wars Theme (which Jaquandor linked to), some Christmas songs, plus TV themes such as The Simpsons, The Muppets, Friends, The Office, Mission: Impossible, and more.

A week’s worth of Na

Pictures at an Exhibition – especially check out the guy playing it on solo acoustic guitar.

THE QUID IS A COOL ROCK BAND that gained some success during the Garage Band era in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, from the POV of the wife of a former band member.

The obligatory Muppets segment: Racialious crushes Kevin Clash and Harry Belafonte; the latter has a song that shows up on SamuraiFrog’s 50 Favorite Muppet Songs. Do I want GPS via Sesame Street?

Brothers In Arms, the Dire Straits album, covered. Also, Coverville 867: The Beastie Boys Cover Story (and Adam Yauch tribute), and Coverville 871: The Donna Summer Cover Story, and Coverville 872: The Robin Gibb/Bee Gees Cover Story III.

Dustbury: “It bothers me a great deal that we’re now down to one Bee Gee. And I think it’s because it’s Barry, the oldest of the brothers, who’s still with us;” he speaks from experience. Arthur’s complicated feelings about the BeeGees, and especially Donna Summer. And here is Donna Summer’s MacArthur Park Suite (Extended Version), all 17+ minutes of it, the way I remembered it.

The New York Times obit of Doc Watson, legendary guitarist and folk singer.

The True Story Of The Traveling Wilburys


What happens to your online content when you die?

Dumb and dumber?: Study finds level of Congressional speech in decline


On April 24th Joe Sampson performed a ten-song set with some of his friends joining him onstage. Nathaniel Rateliff, Roger Green & Esme Patterson joined him on stage and together they performed songs from Joe’s latest album.

But the club’s move to appoint Avery, alongside Roger Green, has been one of the masterstrokes of Sticker’s recent history.

Ike, the plan, and how it applies to me

“Dwight D. Eisenhower…once opined that plans aren’t worth a damn, but planning is essential.”


Did you ever take those standardized career tests that ask, “What will you be doing in five years?” I have, several times. Looking back, there has never been a correlation between what the projection and the reality looked like.

Heck, lately, even planning ahead a few days hasn’t worked out.

When our library staff planned our presentation for staff training, the highlight was supposed to be the premiere of this video our intern Sam put together of the librarians. It was working fine in the dry run. But the day of the presentation, the disc simply would not work. After about five minutes of futile fussing, our director said, “Hey, we can’t get this to work. So we’ll start the rest of the presentation; Roger will start.” Bam! I’m on! That was disconcerting.

At the end of the month, I have a much more extensive presentation at a conference. I was going to work on it earlier this week. But then my wife injured her foot Monday morning; while it turned out not to be as serious as we feared, the initial amount of blood made the bathroom look like a crime scene. I took a half-day, going with her to urgent care.

Then Tuesday, the Daughter was having a moderate asthma attack and I took her to the emergency room, which took most of the morning. The funniest part of the day is, though I gave them her name, the system defaulted to Baby Girl Green, her name eight years earlier when she was born there; they had to fix the record before they could proceed with services, and this was after we’d been there over an hour. I stayed home with her in the afternoon. I was going to get check some e-mail while she rested, except that somehow, I touched the F2 button on my Dell laptop and disconnected the wireless function, and it took me a precious while to figure out the problem.

By the time I get to work on Wednesday, I’m buried with more immediate work to do. Oy.

I was struck, though, by this story about newspaper writer Julia Keller discussing her award-winning reporting about a tornado. Her essay, “Lessons Learned”, seems to apply to much of life:

Allow me to quote that well-known prose stylist Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once opined that plans aren’t worth a damn, but planning is essential.

Much of the information gathered for a long series won’t ever be used. Many of our most treasured insights will be revised, then revised again, and finally abandoned. The majority of our felicitous phrases — the kind that makes us pause just after we come up with them and smile secretly to ourselves — will be relegated to the writer’s version of the cutting-room floor: the “delete” key…

Then, when it came time to actually write the damn thing, I had frustration — because, despite the story’s length, a great deal of my reporting had to go.

Yet I could not have produced the series without having first produced the pile of material that wasn’t ultimately used. My plans may have been shot to hell, but the act of planning was crucial.

Eisenhower’s aphorism, then, is terribly apt — or at least it was for me — as I worked for seven months on this three-part series…

So, even though the plan doesn’t always work out, the process of making the plan still has value. I believe this has been applicable in my life, even when those five-year plans have no apparent validity.
Are lots of folks I know of dying this month or am I just getting old? (Rhetorical question: DO NOT ANSWER.)

Donald “Duck” Dunn died May 13. Though best known as the bassist for the group Booker T. & the MG’s, or probably, for a certain demographic, the Blues Brothers band, he played on lots of songs for Stax and Atlantic artists such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, the Staples Singers, and Sam & Dave, plus many more. Here is Booker T. & the MG’s-Time Is Tight.

An ex-girlfriend bought me Donna Summer’s Live and More for my 27th birthday. Didn’t think it was my thing, but I ended up playing it constantly, especially Side 4, that 18-minute MacArthur Park suite that, I just discovered, is missing from the CD re-release – here’s a live, 6-minute version of the song. Arthur and Jaquandor have interesting takes on her passing this week.

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