A Valentine’s letter to my mother


Dearest Mom,

Happy Valentine's Day...

Happy Valentine’s Day… (Photo credit: Јerry)

I wish you were here. It’s almost Valentine’s day, and I still think about you. I thought you would live forever and you almost did. At ninety-one you finally gave in. I feel slightly guilty that I made you sign the paper giving the doctor permission to do that hip operation. I didn’t know you’d be signing your death certificate. I know you would never want me to blame myself. I do believe it was your “time to go.”

I figured you’d come through that like you did everything. You’d had a couple of  really bad breaks. You were a strong woman. You weren’t the type to feel sorry for yourself. Going blind at the end was very hard on you, but you “did the best you could.”

Things were starting to slip. Sometimes, you’d get things confused. One time, when we were listening to the radio, you asked me who was singing. It was Perry Como, your life-long crush.

[Portrait of Perry Como, New York, N.Y., ca. O...

[Portrait of Perry Como, New York, N.Y., ca. Oct. 1946] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

You didn’t remember much about my childhood. That you’d nursed me through a staff infection for two years, that when I broke my shoulder, you’d made slings out of Cleveland Indian scarves. You couldn’t remember our family trip to Washington D.C. when I was 12.  It was like that part of our lives together never happened.

You rarely talked about my father. Not unless I brought it up. Remembering him was just too painful. I know you were hoping to see him after you died. But being the practical person you were, you didn’t believe that was going to really happen. Even though I’m just as practical, I like to imagine that you are together.

When I came to visit, we stuck with the tasks at hand. Walking down to the dining hall, taking a walk outside, and listening to that old radio station where they played all your favorites: Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and all those singers from the 1940’s.

You still loved to go out to eat. It was almost like you were escaping from that independent living facility every time I came to visit. It was almost like we were partners in crime.

You loved to go to the beauty shop, and listen to the hair-stylists talk to their customers. It was the last place where you could feel like one of the girls.

In your old age you still cared more about me than you did yourself. You asked me if I wanted that extra dinner you’d ordered from the kitchen of the independent living facility where you lived. You asked me if I was comfortable sleeping on the couch overnight. You offered me sheets and a pillow. You tried your very best to be a good hostess.

You dearly loved all your grandchildren ( and great-grandchildren) and gave what you could to all of them. They were your hope for the future. Maybe your exterior seemed a little tough, but inside you were all mushy. You just didn’t let anyone know it.

When we went through your apartment, we found evidence of this secretive side: saved birthday cards, our old school report cards, photographs, engagement and wedding announcements and  programs from college graduations.

So, on Valentines Day I think of the one woman who loved me the most. When you died, you took my nickname with you. It isn’t the same if someone else calls me “Barbie.”  So, a part of me went with you. But, I’ll never forget you.

Happy Valentine’s Day mom.

Les Miserable : Review A+ The movie lives up to expectations


Sometimes, it’s really worth your time, money and energy to attend the movies. If you want to see something you’ll really enjoy, go see Les Miserable.

Although nothing can trump seeing the live musical, this comes close. Unlike the play, you can see some unbelievable  scenery and powerful  camera shots.   The costumes are realistic, and the makeup makes everyone look pretty miserable (the pathetic crowd).  Since the movie is so up close, you get a better idea of the characters and their relationships to each other. You get to see the nuances of expression, and  feel the characters emotions.  I could lose myself in this movie, and I was unaware of the time it took to watch. (It is over 2 hours).

There’s been much made out of the fact that the director made the actors actually sing their parts instead of using recorded soundtracks. He also uses a lot of closeups. . You can actually see every mark on their faces, and some of their neglected looking teeth. I liked the fact that they were really singing when it was filmed.

Anne Hathaway plays Fantine  to perfection, and her singing doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t take her long to turn into a prostitute. It’s almost painful to watch her go through her misery. Although she isn’t on screen that long, her part leaves a lasting impression.

Hugh Jackman  makes a good  Jean Valjean, our hero and makes  a good transformation from a convict (stealing bread) to a moral person. He certainly looks pathetic in the beginning of the movie, and looks like a dashing hero for the rest of it.  His voice is fairly strong, and his acting is excellent.  If he doesn’t deserve an Oscar, I don’t know who does.

Russell Crowe has the least powerful voice in the production, but I think it’s adequate.( It seems hard to believe the director couldn’t find someone with a bigger voice to play the role.)  He plays the villain, Javert convincingly I had heard he was inadequate in the part, so I was pleasantly surprised. I managed to hate him during the movie.

I think Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the slimy innkeepers steal the show when they’re on screen. They both have a lot of charisma that comes through even though their characters are unsympathetic.  All the children in the production also do a terrific job, especially the little boy who plays a rebel.

My favorite female in this production was Samantha Brooks as Eponine. When she sings “On My own” in the rain, I loved it. She’s beautiful and has the voice we’ve come to expect when we see a live production of this show.

Amanda Seyfried as the adult Cosette was very believable. She looks the part and her voice is sweet.

If you’re looking for the biggest voices you’ve  ever heard in this production, you might be disappointed, but the group choral numbers are quite strong, and Eddie Redmay as Marius lives up to expectations.   If you’re looking for a moving story, fantastic scenery, a great reprieve, and something that will bring a tear to your eye, go see this movie.

I would give this production an A!

Listen to Roma music and Arkadiy Gips: This gives me joy


Through my singing activities, I found an inspirational artist, Arkadiy Gips. He calls Columbus, Ohio, home. He originally came from the Ukraine and studied at all the prestigious universities in Russia. He was also well-known in Eastern Europe before he came to America seeking freedom.

He plays all types of music: classics, jazz, and he even toured with Madonna. (Yes, that Madonna.)

This is an example of a group he leads. They play Roma music. Although, you may not be familiar with it, listen. Watch this all the way to the end. You get a taste of something different. All of these artists are fantastic!

 

 

The Harmony Project Singing as One Voice


The Harmony Project.  We are singing Beth Neilson Chapman's "There is no darkness."  Photo by Paul Feeney

The Harmony Project. We are singing Beth Neilson Chapman’s
“There is no darkness.” Photo by Paul Feeney

I’ve been in choirs all my life. I remember how happy I was the first time I officially belonged to a choir. I was in the 5th grade at Rowland Elementary school. I even remember some of the songs we sang for our program.  Miss Titus, our devoted teacher, would probably be thrilled that I remember the words to “The Erie Canal.”

I’ve been in many choirs since then. Singing makes me feel good. I like the social aspects of it too. It’s just plain fun. The Harmony Project, one of the choirs I sing in,  is something special. It’s a philanthropic group that sings and shares. Good works have been done in Columbus, Ohio, under the banner of the “Harmony Project.” We raise money, and get to give concerts too.

Choir Directors always talk about “singing with one voice.”  That is a hard thing to achieve. Sometimes, you have some frustrated singers, with better than average voices, over-singing. At times, what you end up with is  different voices, not blending at all. Sometimes, it reminds me of a competition.  If you have a skillful musical director, they won’t allow this to happen.

Last night at the Harmony Project, everyone was singing enthusiastically while they followed Musical director,  David Brown. In the middle of it all, I said to myself. Wow, this is a once in a lifetime moment. Stay  in the present, listen, to your neighbor, blend in and forget yourself.

It was one of those magical moments. One I’ll always remember. We were all one voice.

Members of The Harmony Project singing with heart and soul!  From the Bill Pearsol album

Members of The Harmony Project singing with heart and soul! From the Bill Pearsol album

The Harmony Project Pays it Back Today : another Harmony Project Post


Teenagers sharing with People from the Unison Project and Harmony Project

Today the teenage group from South High School met with the Unison Project (people who live at the Commons of Buckingham) and the Harmony Project members.

I approached the building, and saw all the teenagers congregated outside. A Unison Project member was outside with them. “I wanted to feel all that energy,” she said. I know what she meant. If you haven’t been around kids for a while , it’s nice to feel their enthusiasm.

City Year, a college group that  works with the students, was in attendance.  They explained that they are assigned schools, and help out the kids with mentoring, tutoring, and all those good things.

David Brown, our director, ushered us inside where all the adults were congregated.The kids had a couple of pieces of Donato’s Pizza. (Some things never change, kids and pizza is one of them.) They came up in an orderly fashion, and were extremely polite.

The kids made a circle around us, and sang the song they are singing in our concerts December 19, and 20th. There is nothing like the sound of kids singing in harmony. Take my word for it, you won’t want to miss them at The Southern Theater. I think they are going to bring the house down.

A few of the kids explained what they were doing at South High School to prepare for the concert. The ones who spoke were very poised.  It includes singing and talking about the same things that Harmony Project talks about. Sharing with each other, and giving back  These might be old ideas, but they work.  David Brown, had them repeat “we’re paying back.”

The rest of us sang our song to them. They gave us a rousing reception.

David asked some of the members of the Unison Project to talk to the kids.One person told them not to give up, and that education is so important.  Another member told them not to let anyone tell them “they can’t do anything, and to reach for the stars.” Member of the Unison Project are people who have worked their way out of homelessness or very tough circumstances. That is a true testament of people who aren’t afraid to make new lives for themselves and want to pass on their knowledge to the younger
generation.

He had the kids come up to all of the adults, and introduce themselves. They all followed directions, and were so friendly and engaging.

All in all it was a very inspiring afternoon. Going and singing with the Unison Project is one of my favorite things to do.

All the adults left, and the kids went on to decorate Buckingham Commons, where a great Thanksgiving Celebration is going to take place on Thanksgiving Day. All the members of the Harmony Project want to help, and there will be no shortage of servers or guests.

Everyone starts feeling charitable this time of year. I am proud that The Harmony Project does it all year round.

You can still get tickets for our performance December 19 and 20. Don’t miss a great show! You can get tickets through Capa or me!

My Country Music Journey: From Intolerance to “I like some of it.”


Tonight, I ushered at a country music event. I do this to get free entertainment. After all the seating is finished, I get to sit (or stand) in the back of the theater and watch the show. My duties include seating people, and telling them where the bathroom is located. It’s one way to get out on a Saturday night.

Country Music wasn’t cool  in my neighborhood

When I grew up, country music wasn’t the kind of music I listened to; my contemporaries and I listened to pop hits.  Country stars, like Dolly Parton, wore hokey clothes, too much garish makeup , and her wigs were downright  strange. She used to do  TV laundry detergent commercials with another country star, Porter Wagner. They gave away towels with each detergent purchase. (She based her famous song, “I will Always Love you” on her parting of show biz ways with Wagner.)

My husband liked Country music  

I met my husband, a nice college guy, from Columbus, Ohio, back in the 70’s. He didn’t reveal to me that he liked country music. Every once in a while a country song would come on the radio and he knew every single word.  I soon realized he was a devoted country music fan.  At first, he didn’t want to share this with me  because he was afraid I’d look down on his musical tastes. I tried to be tolerant about the whole thing, but I should have tried harder. As time went on (15 years or so) I  started enjoying some of the music.

Country Music gained popularity.

After a few years, a lot of people who had snubbed this music started listening to it. I opened myself up a little more to this musical genre. (Obviously,  I am too influenced by what other people think.) Country songs do tell a story. The stories are mostly  about cheating,

Dolly Parton at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Dolly Parton at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

getting drunk, going to jail, bad relationships, identity,  love, jealousy and feeling unhappy.

I like the some of the newer stuff because it  sounds more like pop music. I own CD’s by :Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, and The Dixie Chicks.  Imagine my dismay when I realized a favorite Dixie Chicks song was entitled “White Trash Wedding.”

I still have times when I’m intolerant of country music. I can only take Satellite Radio country music so long. I have to be in the right mood. Early in the morning is not my favorite time to listen to “Willie’s Road House.” The DJ plays a lot of the classics, music I still don’t like that much. The steel guitars and twangy  voices still rub me the wrong way.

I knew some of the words.

Tonight, when I was standing at the back of the theater, I listened to the two opening acts. Surprisingly, the first two acts were pretty good. They were singing some of the classics. I realized I knew a lot of the lyrics, and found myself singing along.

The last act, Jamie Johnson, was a younger guy. He had a classic voice, and his guitar playing was fantastic. He had a terrific, big, back-up band. He had a huge beard and a big pony tail. His clothes weren’t fancy, but the huge bus he had parked by the stage door looked pretty extravagant.

I didn’t make it through the whole show, but I stuck around for most of it. Give me another 10 years or so.
My point: Be open to all forms of entertainment. It might just grow on you!

What’s your favorite kind of music? Have you ever changed your musical tastes?

What happens at a Harmony Project rehearsal? Another Harmony Project post


October 29
Tonight was another night with The Harmony Project It was also a night when storms were blowing a little stronger than usual, but nothing was going to stop me from going to that rehearsal. Good things transpire at Harmony Project Rehearsals.  I wasn’t going to miss out!

The Harmony Project is a volunteer choir that sings and shares.  Sharing is simple. You just do a volunteer project. It doesn’t require a lot of time.  At the end of a “semester,” you get to appear in a show at a great venue  in the downtown Columbus, Ohio, area.  Another bonus of being in this choir is appearing with a first class professional band with great musicians

Members of the choir love doing those shows!   It’s usually a love fest between the choir and the audience. Everyone seems to have a good time.

Tonight’s Rehearsal
I was really feeling down in the dumps when I walked in the door tonight.  I was going to sit in the back of the room. After I walked in, someone I barely knew invited me to sit down next to them.  Right away, I started feeling a little bit better.  The Idea about sitting in the back of the room was gone.  (After the rehearsal starts, we usually introduce ourselves to three people we don’t know. It takes time to know 200 people. ) After I did that, I was feeling even more upbeat.

We all started singing our first song. By the time I was done singing that song, I felt downright happy. Singing is good for the soul. There’s nothing better than singing the same words with over 200 people.

The Pied Piper of the Harmony Project
I guess you could say another one of the reasons the Harmony Project is such a success  is the Musical Director, David Brown. He is energetic and  knows how to make rehearsing fun,  and sometimes inspiring.

Tonight, one highlight was when we sang a Beth Neilson Chapman song we’re going to sing in the December show. It’s all about finding the light. The lights went out, and I thought the high winds had knocked out the power, but it was David trying to get us to concentrate on the meaning of the song.  Not only that, he pulled a member of the choir out front to share a personal experience about what it means to really see the light. She is blind, so she talked about what it means to see with your heart.

A little boy inspires me

Next thing I knew, one of the members of the choir asked, “ Is there an age limit on who can sing in the choir? We’ve got someone giving it all they got.”   I looked up and saw the most adorable little boy sitting  in an area that is above our rehearsal room.   As I watched him, I noticed how enthusiastically he was singing along. I knew he must be a choir member’s child .

Finally, the rehearsal was over. I saw the little boy out in the lobby with his mom and sister.  “How do you know all the words?” I asked.  He broke out in the biggest smile, dimples and all. “We practice the CD  in the car,” he said.  I told him he inspired me, and it was the honest truth.

All of this transpired in an hour and a half. It was worth the trip!

See the Harmony Project perform on December 19 or December 20th at The Southern Theater! Get tickets through CAPA

A few members of The Harmony Project 200 member choir.

Come and see Arkadiy Gips Perform in Columbus on Nov 11


Arkadiy Gips, a well-known violinist plays all over the world. Go see him November 11 at the JCC in Columbus, Ohio

Join Arkadiy Gips and friends for an evening of popular music spanning genres of different cultures and countries. “ Once a year I do an annual performance in Columbus, Ohio, which I now consider my home town,” said Gips. He makes sure each concert Is new and different.

The November 11th concert is called “ Encores”. “It will feature just what the name suggests, songs we beg to listen to over and over again, even when the show is over,” said Gips.

Gips, originally from Kiev, Ukraine, became a well-known violinist in Eastern Europe where he played with a variety of orchestras. In the United States, Gips has performed with many noted musicians and entertainers, including Madonna. During the Madonna tour, he played to a collective audience of 3.5 million people.

Last summer Gips performed 12 concerts in Israel. “They were all packed houses. We received standing ovations, and wonderful reviews,” said Gips.

“Encores” is going to be jam-packed with international music including: Klezmer, Israeli, Classical, Jazz, Ladino, Spanish, Italian and American. Gips will perform his own arrangement of a Gershwin tune. “Arkadiy not only plays, but conducts, arranges and composes music,” said Mira Axelrod, chairperson of the upcoming event.

Gip’s musical guests will not disappoint. Lucy Smirnoff, a gifted vocalist, will be accompanied by Tim Dvorkin, a  young, talented pianist.  Zoica Tovar and Andres Estevez, two sensational premier members of Balletmet Columbus will grace the stage with special choreographed dance numbers. The delightful Columbus International Children’s Choir will be singing a Yiddish song,” Chiri Bim, Chiri Bom.”

Gips will honor the late Mikhail Popov by playing several songs from their two CD’s: “Dialogue” and “Yidishe Soul.”

If you’re interested in being one of the sponsors of this concert, contact Mira Axelrod at 614-352-8897.

The concert will be at the JCC Roth/Resler Theatre, 1125 College Avenue, Columbus, Ohio, 43209.  Pre-sale tickets are $25.00, and at the door they will be $30.00.  You can purchase tickets online at http://bit.ly/arkadiyencores