Click on any photo for the full version! Happy end of year!!
Greetings to friends and family around the world. I write on the day of the winter solstice, and note with sadness that this world seems particularly darker than it did a year ago. I pray for light and truth to again be kindled in the hearts of those who lead, and who alone can set to the tone for this world.
May it be so.
Even with the death of my father in the waning days of 2017, my own 2018 has been significantly brighter than national and international news might allow!
Winter. A solo cabaret act. Loads of teaching and concert-going and the robust time of the year at the office. A quiet winter without any significant travel except for a quick trip to Naples, Florida to see Spencer go on as Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I.
Spring. Begins with a trip to Moscow to discuss collaborations. Attend a concert in Tchaikowsky Hall. Tourist for full, long day in Moscow. Holy Week in London, with services at St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. My former student sings Gerontius at King’s College Cambridge. Wrap up the school year with a sizable graduating class. Pack up and finish work on my father’s estate. A week in NYC, and confirmation of a budding relationship. Solo/ensemble contest brings solid results. Senior recitals with three voice students. Attend the Tony Awards. Celebrated the completion of 10 years at Webster University.
Summer. Begins with a week in Lincoln at a conference. Then to Vienna on the Messing Faculty Award for three weeks of research and curriculum development. Side trips to Stockholm and Florence. Allergies abound in Vienna! Wept copious tears at the sight of Michelangelo’s David. Start the new school year with days of meetings, and a robust new-student class. Yufei visits Saint Louis. Start work with Variety Children’s Choruses as the new conductor. Celebrate my 57th birthday with a day of museum visits in Vienna, and a screening of The Third Man at a kino.
Autumn. Auggie turns 8. Sabbatical begins in mid-October. Accept a gig with Circus Harmony as composer and music director for the big January show. Start traveling immediately. Chicago with Yufei. Toronto and Niagara Falls with my nephew Luke. Washington, D.C. (pandas!!) and NYC with Yufei. Chicago again. And Christmas at home in Lee’s Summit with my sisters. Attend multiple Circus Harmony classes and practices. Conduct a holiday concert with the Variety Children’s Choruses. Attend Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Over the course of the year I’ve witnessed powerful live concert performances. Viewed some of the world’s greatest artworks. Learned more about cooking. Kept up the slow renovations on a 100+ year-old home. Enjoyed some stunning meals (Stockholm, Vienna, Chicago, NYC all were gastro-delight locations). Worshipped in grand and beautiful spaces. Composed some decent music. Shot loads and loads of photos (I’m starting to understand light much better). Whipped up homemade plum jam and blood orange marmalade. Taken various architectural tours. Read more books than the year before, and also a big chunk of the Bible. Extended my cufflink-buying spree with a dozen new pairs. Imparted lessons about singing, and about life, with students. Loved on my dog. Caught up with friends in far-flung places. Bought more new eyeglasses. Fallen in love.
Not a bad year indeed.
May 2019 bring us comfort and joy and challenges that we can together address.
I journal daily (sometimes almost hourly) when I travel abroad.
And reviewing my travel journals is a delightful way to recall experiences, feelings, observations from my travels over the last 24+ years to four different continents.
Here are some observations . . . .
My flat in Vienna has no garbage disposal. I’m having to recall what to do with dinner dandruff!
A very kind Swedish kid was watching videos all the way from Newark to Stockholm. He draped his hoodie across the side of his seat to that his video screen would not interfere with my fitful attempts at sleep.
How easily people switch between languages in Europe! So many people are multi-lingual!
In Stockholm, whilst watching FIFA World Cup soccer in the executive lounge at the Hilton: the lounge attendant keeps walking into the room, watching a minute of the game, throwing up his hands in disgust at failed goal approaches, and walking out with a sigh.
My schoolboy German is coming along, and apparently people think I’m local at times, so successful is the accent. But I’m finding English to be more prevalent than I remember from ten years ago.
The EU is fraying. Voices of illiberalism are gaining strength. Flames of fear are being fanned by right-wing demagogues who then propose they are the solution to the problem they maintain is present, even though emperical evidence does not support their claims. Even the young Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is calling for hardening of the open borders that have been a key element of the European experiment.
Policies of mistrust — panic, even — are replacing what has always been a rational, consensus-driven, lead-from-the-middle governing philosophy.
Angela Merkel almost lost her government this month. The Italians can’t pull anything together. Hungary is under the thumb of a right-wing heavy. Poland is verging on civil war. And America? My god . . . .
Cold cucumber soup is a delight!
Americans can be real shits when traveling abroad. (I suppose people from other countries can be as well.) Witness, in Florence last weekend:
“Is there a ladies nearby.” New Jersey accent. Repeated three times, at louder decibels. Met with a blank look from the Italian. Finally, “Oh god, I just need a toilet.” And there was the word that made sense.
Why don’t people learn to try different words? When I talk to people for whom English is not the first language, and I get a blank look, I always try to find another way of expressing the idea. This seems so basic!
And American and Japanese teenagers and college students: stop tapping on your damn smartphones, and start looking up while you walk! By the way, children, I learned years ago to look up above street level. In many cities, some of the greatest glories abound on the façades of the buildings!
My impression is that Italians are not as considerate as their northern neighbors. Not once did I see anyone at all –and certainly not the oblivious youngsters — give up a seat for a person with a cane, or an older person. Even tram seats marked as for the elderly or handicapped were taken instead by able-bodied folks, usually youngsters. In Vienna, half the tram jumps up to offer their seat. Even in NYC! But not in Italy, or at least not in Florence.
School email never ends.
I guess I just don’t get conceptual art. The Klimt Beethovenfries was glorious, but the current contemporary installation was lost on me as I visited the Secession on Saturday.
I met David on Tuesday. He towered over me, and didn’t flinch. In fact, he seemed carved from marble, so raw was his power and so perfect his form. And that gaze! This is one confident kid.
Michelangelo’s David was the one must-see on my trip to Florence. He did not disappoint. I expected to be moved, and I was. A few salty wetnesses escaped my eyes as I contemplated this masterpiece, when I stopped examining and reading and listening to the guide, and finally sat in a corner and had my pilgrimage moment of awe and wonder.
This is bravura sculpting, powerfully realized, and deeply moving.
A group of 23 gathered Monday for a tour through the Florence Central Market, and then around the corner to the cooking class location.
Martina and Mario taught us how to make, in order:
- Bolognese sauce
- tomato sauce for heavier pasta
- homemade pasta, which we turned into tagliatelle and ricotta ravioli
We all took turns with the tiramisu making. And we combined our pastas in one big pot for cooking.
And the results were glorious.
From Florence on a Sunday morning . . . .