Saturday, March 30, 2013

The winter has not broken up in me

"Though the frost is nearly out of the ground, the winter has not broken up in me. Perhaps we grow older and older till we no longer sympathize with the revolution of the seasons, and our winters never break up."
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862),
March 30, 1852.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Awake from their winter slumber

For the past two years, we’ve seen black bears in our yard. What a thrill to see these beautiful creatures up close, from the safety of my kitchen window.

Strixine References in Shakespeare

Speaking of owls, here is a list of strixine references in Shakespeare. This was posted to CT-BIRDS this evening.

Her young ones in her nest, against the owl (Macbeth)
I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry (Macbeth)
Then nightly sings the staring owl, to whit (Love's Labor Lost)
The time when screech-owls cry and ban-dogs howl, (King Henry VI)
The night to the owl and morn to the lark (Cymbeline)
Whilst the screech-owl, screeching loud, (A MidsummerNight's Dream)
We talk with goblins, owls and sprites (The Comedy of Errors)
Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at and kill'd. (Macbeth)
Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven (Titus Andronicus)
To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,(King Lear)
Thou ominous and fearful owl of death, (King Henry)
The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Rouse the night-owl in a catch that will draw three (Twelfth Night)
Out on you, owls! nothing but songs of death? (King Richard)
Our soldiers', like the night-owl's lazy flight,(King Henry)
Let him that will a screech-owlaye be call'd, (Troilus and Cressida)
Go home to bed, and like the owl by day, (King Henry VI)
Bring forth that fatal screech-owl to our house, (King Henry)
And boding screech-owls make the concert full! (King Henry VI)

Little owl high in the tree

How I envy the little owl that has taken up residence in our yard.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Another Red Herring

In today’s New York Times, Joe Nocera continues his series of essays on gun violence:

This sort of discussion infuriates me. Here’s the comment I posted (slightly edited):

Friday, March 22, 2013

If this doesn’t move you

Read this news story, about something that happened earlier today in Georgia:

Go and read it, then come back. I’ll wait.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review Redux: A Picture is Worth a Thousand GOOD Words

Yesterday I posted a review of a recent visit to the New Britain Museum of American Art. I later remembered that I had written a similar review in September 2009, in which I expressed some of the same concerns. Here it is, retrieved from the archives:

Review: The Hartford Symphony Orchestra celebrates “The Genius of Mozart”

On Saturday night, D and I enjoyed an all-Mozart concert given by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. HSO Concertmaster Leonid Sigal was violin soloist and conductor. 

The program included pairs of works drawn from the earliest and latest periods of Mozart’s career: the first and the last symphonies (No.1, K16, E-flat Major, 1764; and No.41, K551, C Major, 1788), and early and late concerti (Violin Concerto No.3, G Major, K216, 1775; and the Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K622, 1791). This nicely-balanced program afforded an opportunity to appreciate Mozart’s early talent and marvel at his mature works.

Here’s my review of the evening's performance.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: New Britain Museum of American Art

We love the New Britain Museum of American Art. We enjoy it so much that we have become members, and we visit there about once a month, sometimes more often. The collection is diverse, and is kept fresh and interesting with rotating exhibits, new acquisitions, and interesting special exhibits. The building itself, particularly the new addition, is a work of art in itself. It’s convenient, parking is easy, and we enjoy the jazz-infused First Friday events, sometimes with friends.


(You knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?)

Friday, March 15, 2013

I wish I could get out today

I wish I could get out today. The sun is bright in the air— The birds are in constant motion in the hedgerow— The light has changed from a wintry silver to the gold of spring—

(You do notice the change in the color of the light, do you not?)

I wish I could get out today. If I could, I might feel as Thoreau did, when he stepped out on this date in 1852:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

“The wind begins to play”

As I drove home from a meeting yesterday, of course I took a slightly scenic route, checking all the ponds and wet areas for migrating waterfowl. (I found a few, but nothing of note yet, except for two Common Loons on the big reservoir. I no longer have time or means to bird as much as I would like, and I’m sure I’m missing a lot.)

As winter melts into spring, I never fail to experience a frisson of anticipation at the sight of the ice “going out” from the ponds and lakes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Scales and Arpeggios

Scales and arpeggios are a critical part of my vocal warm-up routine, which I suspect is unusual among singers. Perhaps it's a remnant of my initial training as an instrumentalist. I do have a reputation as a singer with a very flexible voice, and I'm good with roulades, arpeggios, and trills. Other singers have asked me, “How do you do that?” and I answer “Practice! Every day!” It's too bad that singers generally do not receive this sort of training, which is so basic to instrumental musicians.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

“Indomitable spirit”

I love this quote about one of my favorite birds, the chickadee:

Pope Opera

Frank Bruni’s column in today’s New York Times (The Papal Conclave's Fixed Ways) generated some interesting comments, including this one: “Why is the choosing of a new pope at the top of the news on all our media?”

I posted this comment in reply (edited slightly):

Monday, March 11, 2013

“Any time not spent on love …”

“Any time not spent on love ...

“Intellectual luxuries”

On this date in 1856, Henry David Thoreau recorded an interesting thought in his journal:

“I fear the dissipation that traveling, going into society, even the best, the enjoyment of intellectual luxuries, imply. If Paris is much in your mind, if it is more and more to you, Concord is less and less, and yet it would be a wretched bargain to accept the proudest Paris in exchange for my native village. At best, Paris could only be a school in which to learn to live here, a stepping-stone to Concord, as school in which to fit for this university. I wish so to live ever as to derive my satisfactions and inspirations from the commonest events, every-day phenomena, so that my senses hourly perceive, my daily walk, the conversation of my neighbors, may inspire me, and I may dream of no heaven but that which lies about me. A man may acquire a taste for wine or brandy, and so lose his love for water, but should we not pity him?”
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau, March 11, 1856.

  What a sad, limited outlook! Of course, one can travel and appreciate other cities, and people, and ways of life, without losing love for one’s native place. I love traveling as much as possible, seeing new places and perspectives. But it doesn’t change the way I feel about my own town, and yard, and home, and my friends and activities in my little corner of the world.

Does Thoreau’s entry reek of sour grapes?

Who put that junk food in my grocery basket?

I guess I did.

A few weeks ago, I heard on an NPR program that “processed foods account for roughly 70 percent of our nation's calories.”

While I purchase and consume as little processed food as possible, the report did prompt me to think a little more about what goes into my shopping cart and on to our table. Thinking it might be interesting to study this more closely, I saved the receipts from two recent grocery runs so I could compile a list of the food items I purchased.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cream Biscuits

Flaky, golden biscuits, hot from the oven, split and spread with butter...Mmmm.

This is my favorite biscuit recipe, and the easiest. The result is always light and flaky, even though the recipe does not call for the traditional “cutting in” of shortening or butter. You can have these in the oven in five minutes and onto the table ten minutes later.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Glimmers of Gold

We’ve enjoyed watching goldfinches at our bird feeders all winter. They are a common species, but very pretty, with an engaging song and interesting behavior.

As winter wanes, they are beginning to show

“He who dares not grasp the thorn”

This quote from Anne Brontë  ...

He who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.
—Anne Brontë (1820-1849), British novelist and poet, from The Narrow Way
... reminded me of some roses we had seen at the Abbaye de Fontevraud in France:

“Infinity on High”

A lovely quote and image from Vincent van Gogh:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

“The Habit of Reading”

The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade.

—Anthony Trollope, English author (1815-1882)

“String Quartet”


String Quartet
by Carl Dennis

Monday, March 4, 2013

Thoughts upon arriving home after a choral rehearsal

I admit to being a True Chorister. A choral geek. A person who would rather be singing. In a chorus. I’m there. I’m a choral junkie.

I admit this as a means of acknowledging that I can’t be objective about any of what follows.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

“Their last rustle before the spring”

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from Thoreau’s 1838 Journal, wherein he remarked on how we anticipate spring long before it is due to arrive. His entry from this date, 21 years later, reflects the same longing, and the same caution:

Friday, March 1, 2013

We Need Not Believe

Last week, in response to an inquiry from a friend and colleague, I posted a list of atheist and agnostic composers of sacred music:

This morning I came across a little essay I had posted to ChoralNet a few years ago; it seems worth resurrecting [!] here, edited and expanded, as a complement to that list.

“When winter comes it is not annihilated”

Today is the first day of March. Though the vernal equinox won't occur for another three weeks, still, when we turn the calendar today we think of spring, though snow still lies thick upon the ground. Thoreau recorded much the same sentiment on this day in 1838: