Borrowing a cup of sugar, and other November excitement

Was this some sociological experiment, a sorority hazing, or some reality show prank?

Stop_Take_a_Break2It was a REALLY busy month in November. Besides church on Sunday and daughter’s rehearsal on Monday nights for a production at church in March, and choir rehearsal on Thursday nights (except on Thanksgiving):

6th – The church choir sang, for First Friday, VESPERAE DE DOMINICA by Mozart, with a dress rehearsal on the 4th.
Earlier that day, I went to the urgent care place. Four days earlier, I had a standard #2 pencil in a pair of pants poke through my pants pocket, and I managed to jab my left index finger enough that it drew blood. I didn’t know until later that a piece of the point embedded in my fingertip. So the doctor “froze” my finger, and removed the piece of graphite.
7th – Albany Symphony Orchestra concert. Actually, I ended up not going, and The Wife went with a friend because we couldn’t get a babysitter child watcher for The Daughter.

8th – After church, I recorded a piece for possible inclusion on the church’s YouTube channel. It sounded OK, but there was too much light, and I ended up rerecording it the following Sunday.
9th – Saw my doctor for a follow-up visit after hernia surgery. Said I was good to go, but in a more poetic form that I wish I could replicate.
11th – I spent my Veterans Day working on some items for the Friends of the Albany Public Library. That evening, a group of dads from the church got together.
13th – Polina.
14th – In the morning, a meeting of Friends of various Friends of Library groups. Not incidentally, I’ve been asked to write an article about Friends groups for the New York Library Association journal, due at the end of the month; as of this date, I have written precisely nothing, in part because the Wife had this presentation at a conference which involved not only her use of the computer but extra watching of the Daughter.
I got a very necessary, actually overdue haircut, mostly for the beard, which I don’t get shaved clean because of the discoloration from the vitiligo on my lower face. That evening, the Albany Public Library Foundation gala.

15th – One of our choir members, Alex Rosa , is a senior at the College of Saint Rose, and he gave his senior recital, which was quite good. Afterward, his parents, who are lovely people, put out a nice spread of food to eat.
17th – The Laurie Anderson movie at the Spectrum.
18th – At work, I gave a talk to a Chinese delegation from one of the larger provinces. They primarily wanted me to talk about intellectual property – copyright, patent and trademark – but they were most attentive during the brief section about credit scores. Afterward, as is their custom, they gave me a gift, which looks like this:
Yes, it’s a wooden comb.
21st – We saw the Capitol Steps, an American political satire group that “put the MOCK in democracy” at The Egg, a performance venue at the Empire State Plaza. The group, which initially included Congressional staffers from both parties, “has been performing since 1981, and has released over forty albums consisting primarily of song parodies.” The Wife and I saw them several years ago at Proctor’s in Schenectady.

Among other things in their rapid-fire presentation, they addressed the Greek financial crisis with songs from the musical Grease. It ends with one male cast member reciting a talk in which he reverses some consonants regularly; Borge W. Gush, e.g. it’s not only funny, it’s difficult to do.

22nd – We traversed over an hour to some school in an out-of-the-way location in western Massachusetts to see the premiere performance for the season of the Albany Berkshire Ballet presentation of The Nutcracker. The Daughter had done this production thrice, always as an angel, but her friend and former classmate “Elsie” has been, over eight years, a clown, a party child, and finally, Clara. She was really good, always staying in character.
Then Elsie’s family, our family, and some other friends went out to a Friendly’s restaurant in East Greenbush, NY; all the Friendly’s in Albany County closed many months ago.

Our family told the story about how, shortly after the Wife had come home after dropping off the child sitter the previous night, some young woman rang our doorbell, after 10 pm. We’ve had such a rotation of students as neighbors that we didn’t recognize this one. She had some yellow makeup, or something, caked on her face. She wanted to borrow a cup of sugar for baking, which we gave her, after putting our watchcat in the basement.

The discussion at Friendly’s centered on whether this was some sociological experiment, a sorority hazing, or some reality show prank. Collectively, we thought the idea of “borrowing” a cup of sugar, from a stranger, a couple of hours before midnight, was bizarre, with the 24-hour Price Chopper only three blocks away.

Elsie’s older sister allowed that, when she was living in an apartment in New York City, she went to neighbors’ apartments, including ones she didn’t know, looking for a ladle for a punch bowl, because, as I said, pouring punch from a mere cup would have been SO declasse. If you had been there, this would have been a hilarious exchange.

26th – Movie (reviewed eventually)
27th – Travel to Oneonta, about 75 minutes away, for Thanksgiving, returning the next day.
28th – Movie (reviewed soon)
30th – Take off day to work on many items, including agenda for Friends of the APL meeting that night. That paper that hung over my head like Damocles’ sword was finished; whether it is any good remains to be seen.

Uncharacteristically, December should be less busy, after this week, with only a wedding and the usual Christmas church events on the agenda. I might even participate in Trouble with Comics again.

N is for Nutcracker

The NY Philharmonic plays a section from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker followed by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra playing the Ellington/Strayhorn arrangement of the same section.

You are almost certainly familiar with the music from The Nutcracker, a two-act ballet, with “a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The libretto is adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It was given its première at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on Sunday, 18 December 1892… Although the original production was not a success, the twenty-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was.” Jaquandor shared a link to all the music.

The Nutcracker Suite is also “an album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington recorded… in 1960 featuring jazz interpretations of ‘The Nutcracker’ by Tchaikovsky, arranged by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.”

Toot Toot Tootie Toot (Dance of the Reed-Pipes)
Peanut Brittle Brigade (March)
Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy)
The Volga Vouty (Russian Dance)
Chinoiserie (Chinese Dance)
Dance of the Floreadores (Waltz of the Flowers)
Arabesque Cookie (Arabian Dance)

I discovered on YouTube a “Live From Lincoln Center special called ‘Nutcracker Swing’ featuring both the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis that originally aired on PBS in December 2001.” The compiler said: “As far as I know this special never aired again, nor has it ever been made available to purchase anywhere…The way it works is that the NY Philharmonic plays a section from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker followed by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra playing the Ellington/Strayhorn arrangement of the same section.

“The special starts with four sections from Wynton Marsalis’ “All Rise,” [parts 2-5], introduced here by Leonard Slatkin [part 1].

There are several other iterations of The Nutcracker, but I’ll deal with just one more. Nutrocker, a rock version of The Nutcracker March, was recorded by B. Bumble & The Stingers, released in February 1962, and went to # 23 in the US and # 1 in the UK. Emerson Lake and Palmer performed it live about a decade later.

These variations show how rich the original music is.

Of course, “the complete Nutcracker has enjoyed enormous popularity since the late 1960s and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in the U.S.” In the Albany, NY area alone, there were at least six different companies performing it in December 2012. On December 16, I watched the Albany Berkshire Ballet performance at both 2:30 (so my daughter could see it) and 6:30 (the performance my daughter was in, as an angel). THAT was a lot of Nutcracker for one day!
American Ballet Theatre’s Paloma Herrera in the Nutcracker with Gennadi Saveliev

ABC Wednesday – Round 12

Treadmill of my own design


I mentioned recently that I performed in a concert on Sunday, November 18, singing with my church choir a bunch of songs about St. Cecilia. Then a concert on Sunday, November 25, with people who had sung with organist Don Ingram in the past, singing the Christmas section of Handel’s Messiah in honor of Don’s 80th birthday, a benefit for his church’s organ fund.

So the logical thing to do on Sunday, December 2 would have been to do nothing. Instead, I ATTENDED TWO concerts. The first was actually An Advent Processional with Lessons and Carols at the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, from 2:30-4:05 with The Wife; we saw a number of people I knew.

Then we rush back, and while my wife is taking the child sitter home, I call the College of St. Rose’s box office to see if there are more tickets for the 5 p.m. performance of “It’s a Jazzy Christmas” at the Massry Center, but all I got was a recording. So we hightail it to CSR, and not only are there more tickets to go with the two comps, we can get one that’s right next to ours.

The show featured a great jazz trio in the tradition of Vince Guaraldi’s groups, playing some Charlie Brown Christmas tunes and other holiday favorites. It was regularly interrupted by this story about a character, shown on a video screen, trying to steal Christmas, which was all quite goofy. There were puzzles for kids to solve, but 1) not enough time/light for most to solve them and 2) no incentive for them to do so. Our sense was that it was enjoyable enough, but if we had spent $50, rather than just the $10 for the Daughter’s ticket, we would have enjoyed it far less. Still, the guest vocalist who sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was excellent, and there were milk and Freihoffer’s chocolate chip cookies before the show.

Next milestone: the Daughter’s performance in the Nutcracker on Sunday, December 16. Yesterday was another practice, and tomorrow is the dress rehearsal.

Then some major holiday the week after that.

Oh, and I’ve been going to rehearsals for some church play in March, but more on that down the road.

The only time I get to go grocery shopping is late at night (no longer my strength) or early in the morning. I like going to the 24-hour store at 5 a.m., when the staff is stocking the shelves. They play music that one doesn’t hear during the day; the last time I left humming Lola by the Kinks.

The Lydster, Part 103: In as a clown, out as an angel

She’ll be performing on Saturday, December 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Egg.

What a strange weekend we had in the middle of last month.

On Saturday, I took the Daughter to play her first soccer match. She had gone to the practice on the previous Monday night and been assigned to a team in the U8 (under eight) division. But when we got there for her 11:10 a.m. match, we found that she had been moved to the U10 division, and thus on another team. Worse, because the opposing team in their 12:20 p.m. match was initially shorthanded, she was temporarily traded to the other side. She was more disappointed than unhappy by all of this, but she particularly enjoyed being back on her U10 team when more kids arrived. She was a little bored on defense; her teammates kept the ball at the other end of the field most of the time. But she liked being on offense. And we got to see a bald eagle flying overhead.

On Sunday, the Daughter tried out for the Albany Berkshire Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker. Based on her age, she was supposed to be trying out to be a clown. But based on her height, she was asked to wait around so she could try out as an angel, which tended to be a role that slightly older girls get. At the end of it all, she got the role of an angel. She’ll be performing on Saturday, December 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Egg, a local performing arts venue.

The commonality of these two events was that it took a bit longer than we had anticipated, but ended up with a good outcome.

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