Sunday, November 9, 2008

Oh, Happy Day ...

We popped the first bottle of Veuve Clicquot as President-Elect Barack Obama strode upon the platform in Chicago last night with his beautiful wife and daughters. We cried as so many in the huge throng did, including Oprah Winfrey and Jesse Jackson. And we toasted and drank and wept and danced and cried some more.

Our polling place is the Town Hall which faces the Common and the tall, white spire of the Congregationalist Church, a scene so typically New England. Weather was spring-like, sunny skies, most of the trees still bearing leaves of crimson, amber and gold. We had chosen an ideal arrival time (11:30 AM), and encountered no delays. Found out later that lines began to form at midday and remained thick until the polls closed at 8PM.

I began to fill my ballot from the back, starting with three initiatives Massachusetts voters were asked to decide:

Question 1: The reckless idea to eliminate the state income tax. Defeated.

Question 2: The proposal to decriminalize possession of marijuana. Carried.

Question 3: The proposal to ban dog racing in Massachusetts. Carried.

Then I voted for various candidates for state offices, and finally, indicated my choice for the national Democratic ticket. We spent a total of approximately fifteen minutes completing our civic responsibility otherwise known as this overwhelmingly precious freedom to choose our political leaders. We walked through the Common to our favorite restaurant and enjoyed an Italian lunch while talking of everything BUT the election.

Buck and I always hoped we'd one day be able to vote for and then rejoice in the election of an African-American President. It is truly awe-inspiring to awake this day and find the dream come true. What a great accomplishment for us and all the world.

Although George Bush and his pals will walk away from the miasmic conditions they created, one can only hope and pray that the slender but strong shoulders of Barack Obama will find the strength and wisdom to forge a clearing in the jungle. We believe he will prevail, even triumph.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eagle Hill School

Saturday, October 25, 2008:
Parents' Weekend

Eagle Hill School
Hardwick, Massachusetts

My husband and I are associated with this unique learning facility which provides a caring, nurturing environment for its 150 teen-age student body. Eagle Hill School is a private co-educational college preparatory boarding school for students with learning disabilities in grades 8-12. Specific learning differences include: Dyslexia, Language Based Learning Disability, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Nonverbal Learning Disability. Eagle Hill School also offers a five week academic and recreational summer camp for students ages 10-18 who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. Eagle Hill School is the preeminent private high school for students with learning disabilities and ADHD who demonstrate average to above average cognitive ability.

Additional information about Eagle Hill can be found here.

Students and faculty are justifiably proud of their glittering, brand new Performing Arts Center which opened with the scintillatingly talented pianist/singer Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano who performed music from The Great American Songbook for the citizens and civic leaders of Hardwick and adjacent communities. Eric and Barbara were ably supported by the superb bass player Marshall Wood. The evening was a great success, establishing the tone and essence of forthcoming attractions. Visit Eric's web site here.

On Saturday, October 25: The impressive, swinging New Life Jazz Orchestra led by Kendrick Oliver performed a rollicking set to which the audience consisting of parents, faculty and students responded with high-powered enthusiasm. Mr. Oliver invited Nicole Nelson, a powerful singer possessing impeccable blues credentials, to perform several stirring songs with the band and thrilled the audience. Standing ovations.

My husband and I heard about a young student named Jason months ago when we enjoyed our first hard-hat tour of the PAC. Jason is very popular on campus, and although his first love is opera, he is also an avid Frank Sinatra fan. Jason was given the opportunity to sing with the big band and he was admittedly a little nervous about it. But he stood firm and tall, singing "Fly Me To The Moon" with grace and style. Bravo Jason!

I sang three favorite Duke Ellington melodies and enjoyed myself enormously. Two cheerful and efficient young people named Brad and Sarah were close at hand to provide any last minute items I might have needed. Thank you both for being so helpful.

The Official Opening Night Gala on Saturday, November 1st will feature the popular young jazz vocalist Jane Monheit and her band. Anticipation of this event is running high among the students and faculty.

Buck and I want to thank everyone at Eagle Hill School for the opportunity to contribute to this exceptional institution and its new Performing Arts Center. Long may ye reign!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

R.I.P. Dave McKenna

He was one of the most popular jazz piano players of his generation. A low-keyed kind of man who loved to string medleys of songs with the same word in the title, always surprising and delightful to hear his imagination at work.

A small series of Sunday afternoon solo piano concerts were held in a Providence hotel ballroom in the 1980's. Buck and I took My Mother The Jazz Fan (80-years old at the time) to hear Dave. Choice seats, mere inches away from Dave's right hand. She was in heaven. The following Sunday we again attended the series which that afternoon featured a pianist renowned for his flawless technique and remarkable agility. We managed to secure the same seats. I watched my mother's genuine amazement and appreciation of this exceptional musician. On the way home, she casually offered this comment: "I liked [...] very much, but I think Dave McKenna swings more."

Here in Boston, he played regularly in the Oak Bar of the Copley Plaza hotel. It was a sizeable room filled with comfortable furniture strewn about the place in an effort to create a feeling of warmth and coziness. In this endeavor, it succeeded with customary Copley Plaza elegance, patrons settling into the cocktail hour or the night-cap after dinner and the theatre, and mostly focused on their libations and sparkling companions. At times, the gentle hum of conversation seemed to overwhelm the artistry of the pianist on the small stage in the corner. This atmosphere suited Dave perfectly. He knew which patrons had dropped in expressly to hear him, for they were loyalty personified and always made certain they were seated as close to him as possible.

I especially recall with great fondness his habit of placing a tiny Sony transistor radio (remember them?) into his jacket pocket, trailing a thin wire attached to an earplug firmly planted in his left ear. Since his right hand was toward the house, no one ever seemed to notice. But you could get an accurate pitch count if you asked politely and extended him the courtesy of waiting until he'd finished playing the tune.

I met Dave in New York shortly after I arrived there myself in the early 1960's. We found ourselves featured players on various concert stages throughout the years, and I once recorded with him, but only once, at a performance recorded for the Concord Jazz Label. A concert held in the ballroom of the Cape Cod Plaza Hotel on May 3, 1992, featured Dave, Scott Hamilton on tenor, Gray Sargent on guitar, Marshall Wood on bass and Chuck Riggs on drums. The cd is available at Amazon and probably at other outlets. It's "Concord All-Stars on Cape Cod", CCD 4530. I managed to call the wrong key for the song "Time After Time" but of course, that was no problem for Dave. He could play in any key. Unfortunately, I wound up sounding like a cross between Elaine Stritch and Billy Ecksine.

Dave and I didn't see much of each other in these last years since he became rather reclusive living on the Cape. However, I know he faithfully followed every movement of the Boston Red Sox. He held season tickets to games at Fenway Park for many years, and once graciously gave the precious seats to me and my husband because Dave was going to be out of town on game day. Third base line, just slightly off to the left of the visiting dugout. Wish I could remember who the Sox beat that day.

There is an extensive obit in today's Boston Globe which mentions a tribute concert to be held at some future date. Watch this Blog for specifics.