New York City Blog Jan. 5 – Jan. 12
Welcome to a snowy day in NYC.
Two complicated men this week:
New York City Blog Dec. 15 – Dec. 21 :
At BAM on Dec. 19 to see “The Nutcracker” music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky and choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak were wonderful, BUT the set of the party in the mansion looks as if the owners were in bankruptcy and the lighting was too dim. What happened, Jennifer Tipton? Before the performance we had dinner at Junior’s. Such fun. It’s the Brooklyn of the 1940 -1960 era. Photos of movie stars of a certain age decorate the walls. My chicken pot pie could have fed a family of four …. buffalo. My friend’s intention of ordering a salad morphed into a Reuben sandwich. Who can blame him?
It’s a giddy time of year, isn’t it? Christmas and its contenders crowd the calendar with parties, concerts, sing alongs and … traffic. I had reserved a car from 777 to take me from Manhattan to Brooklyn and it was canceled twenty minutes before I was due to leave. The reason given? No cars. “No problem,” said the 777 rep as she hung up. What a way to run a business.
“All that Glitters” is one of the lovely Christmas events. It’s held at Judson Memorial Church. Stanford White’s building is decked out in Victorian lights that suit its late nineteenth century architecture. The West Village Chorale, led by Michael Conley and Elena Belli, outdid themselves. They shifted effortlessly (after a mere one million hours of rehearsal) from traditional carols to fourteenth century Irish music, to Benjamin Britten’s lovely Ceremony of Carols and then on to Hollywood numbers such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Director Conley excused himself for not including Hanukkah music by pointing out that most
contemporary Christmas carols were written by New York Jews i.e. “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas”.
“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits.” Who said this earlier this week? Pope Francis, that’s who. In his 2013 encyclical, Evangelii Gaudeum (Joy of the Gospel), he lambasts our obsession with wealth. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” He says that the death of an elderly woman from hunger isn’t news, but the drop of a few stock market points is. Way to go, Pope Francis. He’s one of the bad boys of Roman Catholicism, the Jesuits.Have you ever sat through a performance and felt that it was one of the most exciting experiences you have ever had? That’s what happened last Sunday at Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society (CMS) five p.m. concert. Pianist Alessio Bax sailed and thundered through Liszt’s “Après une lecture du Dante, fantasia quasi sonata”. More! More!Thanksgiving is such a piece of baggage. I got off easily this year, responsible for only two dishes: Citarella’s wonderful shrimp and my tried and true onion dish.Invited to a dear friend’s Brooklyn apartment, I met three of her four children. All of them have their mother’s wit which made for a very amusing time.
On Nov. 19th I met Colin Huggins at a trendy Starbucks lookalike on the Bowery. It’s across the street from the former CBGB. Maybe in homage, the music in the coffee place was almost as loud as the punk music club’s in its prime. Colin has labeled himself the crazy piano guy. He’s the one you see and hear playing his Yamaha baby grand in Washington Square Park. How did he get it there? He used to drag and pull one of his Craig’s List pianos on piano dollies. Now, he’s using one good piano and has a crew load it up from a nearby storage unit and then set it up in the park. I asked him if the Parks Department required a special license. It doesn’t as long as he uses no electricity. The hours are long. In summertime, Colin plays twelve hours on each of the weekend days. In fall and spring that’s reduced to eight hours and during the winter he signs off at 3:30. All that weather is bad for the piano, but as Colin said he could maintain the Yamaha inside, but then he’d make no money. I nosed around about his finances. He said most of what he earned went to rent. Colin, Georgia born, pointed to the cider and grilled cheese he’d just bought for $15, commenting on how expensive NYC is. His three CDs were labors of love. He said that anything can be downloaded and that cuts into sales. On his website he compares himself to Gollum from The Hobbit. I think there’s a Middle-earth quality to hearing Brahms and then discover a very serious young man playing a very serious piano near the Washington Square fountain.
. A Brooklyn mystery: On their walks around Brooklyn, a friend and her grandson keep finding the photos below. What do the symbols represent? Are they
surveyors’ marks? All suggestions are welcomed.
On Tuesday I went to Paul Taylor’s studio on Grand Street. Julia Foulkes, a New School history professor and Carolyn Adams, a principal dancer with the Taylor Company from 1965 -1982 discussed Taylor’s “From Sea to Shining Sea”, first danced in 1965. The room is a large space with wooden flooring, white walls, and a high ceiling. Circular windows look out onto Grand Street. The audience of about sixty people sat on a raised platform facing inward across the space toward a large screen. Professor Foulkes spoke about the political influences of the time: the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the Kennedys, King, Malcolm X, the riots and the Civil Rights Bill.Various clips of the piece were shown. The earliest was from German television, its grainy black and white quality added to the feeling that we were stepping into the 1960s. Taylor was quoted as describing the backdrop of “From Sea to Shining Sea” as patriotism past its prime. Carolyn Adams contrasted the dancer’s emphasis on getting the choreography right. She said, “The information is in the task.” Ms. Adams told an amusing story about auditioning for Taylor. She was still at school and went to the audition because he had a nice reputation. After a long day, she wanted to leave to finish a term paper, but Taylor stopped her. She told him she wouldn’t have come if she knew he was going to pick her.Pick her, he did and she’s now on the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation board. It was a delightful evening. Both speakers were articulate, amusing and listened to each other. Another plus: the talk was only one hour long. A lovely New York evening.
On Friday I went to a Sondheim/Marsalis evening at City Center. It went on forever. Does anyone else find Sondheim monotonous? There’s a little dark cloud that sits on top of his art. That sense of impending depression flattens his music for me.I am certainly in the minority. Spruced up City Center was packed with devotees, eager to clap and shout bravo.
On Sunday, Colin Huggins, the Washington Square pianist, had parked his piano near the fountain and was enthralling the public. Brahms thundered across the square.