Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Masterpiece Music: American Coastlines, A Five Part Concerto

This post is an update of my earlier review of my musician favorites. "American Coastlines: Concerto for Piano, Orchestra and Choir" would make beautiful background music for a movie. 

It is rare indeed to find such beautiful music born and bred the United States by an American composer.  Reminiscent of the music of some of the greatest and most ambitious American movies, past and present, these songs on the piano are clearly discernible and memorable. The added overlay of the orchestra adds fullness and richness of texture. The entire performance is marvelously imaginative and innovative, truly an American masterpiece of which to be proud.

Haunting and mellifluous melodies interweave with background music of an orchestra and choir composed and conducted by Tim Keyes, with piano music by Darlene Popkey. This stunning performance was recorded live at the Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, New Jersey in five parts:

1. Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey: July
2. Long Boat Key, Florida: October
3. Galveston Island, Texas: January
4. Big Sur, California: April
5. Hymn

Darlene Popkey has enjoyed numerous international  musical awards and honors. She has played with the Tim Keyes Consort such masterpieces as Dvorak's Symphony no. 9 (From the New World) and Saint Saens Symphony no. 3 as well as other new symphonic compositions. Her schedule continues with live virtuoso solo and orchestral musical performances.

Tim Keyes is a New-Jersey-based composer, conductor and director of his eponymous orchestra of instrumentalists from Central New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

It is really quite extraordinary and refreshingly reassuring to be able to hear soothing and majestic new American compositions.

It's wonderful to play as a DVD on the computer or in the car. This would also make wonderful music for ecclesiastical settings, school plays and a a terrific present to buy as a gift. Everyone would like it. It is available from Amazon.

Darlene Popkey has an audio CD called "Small Town" also available at Amazon. Piano and clarinet music combine to create lovely, classy music from these two award-winning musicians.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christians Celebrate Christmas Day at Washington National Cathedral

Christmas Day is one of the most holy in the Christian calendar. As we Christians celebrate the holy Day each December 25th, as I do, we do it in ways most appropriate to our religious views and life work. Christians find it important to continue with their life work through the holidays: nurses and doctors, flight attendants and pilots, as well as organists and church ministers.

The point is we all experience this great holiday, if we are Christians, in ways appropriate to our circumstances. And therewith we can find contentment and satisfaction, especially if we can take time to give God the space to enter our lives. There is not only one perfect way to spend Christmas. Life is a kaleidoscope and so is this special day.

Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC has online broadcasts of three Christmas services broadcast live, in color. Two were recorded on Christmas Eve and one just now on Christmas morning. The same Organist, choir and most of the same religious officials showed up again only a few hours later on Christmas morning.

All three worship services brought tears to my eyes; I wish I had been there in person. Just to be able to stop what one is doing and watch it online is priceless to me now.

The entire religious spectacle is one of the finest in all the world. The Organist, Scott Dettra, is surely one of the best in the world, if not the best.Wherever in the world you are, you can enjoy Christmas by taking the time to watch it online at Washington National Cathedral.

Please give generously to the National Cathedral. The church has wonderful services, and the institution supports many social services for those less fortunate - the homeless and hungry - and offers many affiliated social programs for education, with weekday classes and the Sunday Forums.  The Cathedral is a  tourist magnet, with many extra worship events to attend. Volunteers offer tours and a gift shop is now also online. The spectacular services, sermons and special events are accessible in archives at National Cathedral's website. The online  program of webcasts are significant in at least three ways:

1) They are useful for other houses of worship to follow as examples of fine practices.
2) They are available for all of us to enjoy, both live and recorded.
3) For the future, they will be historically significant recordings.

In full disclosure, this post was not in any way paid for by the National Cathedral or with any communication whatsoever.  

I watch (and write about) these recordings 250 miles away in New Jersey.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Humility Is Necessary To Civility

In a New York Times article about Diane von Furstenberg, the dress designer talks about her fashions in Beijing. Leaping from the article at me was not the content  -  about the expansion of her fashion company into China -- but how inclusive and friendly she appears to be. One can almost imagine knowing her already. Better, she could be one of your most likeable, best friends. This empathy must be a secret to her great success, apart from the actual product of clothing -- her DVF dress she is most known for.

The quality and viewpoint of any writing, as well as the content, to be sure, hook readers. The author of the DVF article could have turned against her with a different choice of words giving readers distinctly opposing impressions of the same person.

Journalistic stance saturates partisan politics; it goes with the territory. The truth gets slanted, warped and all but unrecognizable; aided and abetted with convenient deluges of statistics, many of which cannot be instantly verified in real time and then disputed, whether on television or in print. Politicians look weak if they do not have the numbers at their disposal. Even if numbers are wildly inaccurate, the fact they are said can make them believed. In the United States today, someone saying the most common place comments, whether they tell the truth or not, can bolster their comments with a few well-rehearsed statistics, and then turn into a brilliant celebrity.

It also happens with real estate. Agents can turn against other agents, houses, buyers. Attitudes are formed by knowledge, sometimes misinformation.

Sadly, people can misuse the natural tendency of others to believe and exploit that quality. We must be educated to be skeptical and question. We aren't always perfectly correct, but then neither is anyone else, as far as the truth is concerned. We all make mistakes when we try to master a new concept, a skill, a challenge. Often, we need to heed warnings. At the same time, just as we know we cannot be completely correct, neither is anyone else. The humility to understand that idea is a foundation stone of civility.

I see arrogance all over the place, and have to consciously calm myself often to remain civil. Have you had kind thoughts about someone until something makes you question that person's psychological stability, and maybe disappoint you? What methods do you use to remain civil, polite and well-liked when someone says something a bit, well, crazy?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dinner and a Movie: Americans Try Dine-In Movie Theaters

AMC Dine-In Theaters

A Dine-In AMC Theater is an innovative way to see a movie and eat a relaxing meal at the same time.  Leather recliners at the Bridgewater Theater offer waiter/bar service at the press of a button along with very generous seat width and leg-room. Where else can one see a movie while being served, if so desired, a glass of wine and a salad, or a menu of heartier dishes and desserts?
Business people  and restaurant owners from around the world should visit these theaters for the new experience. It's surprisingly relaxing to have wait service and enjoy a movie at the same time. If it sounds too good to be true, please visit one -- this website  has further details. I really liked this new idea: a hotel/restaurant/shopping center combo with a dine-in theater. I don't know what, besides this competition, except litigation or tax incentives, could force traditional  movie theaters to offer better than the standard fare of over-priced soda/popcorn/nachos (which I have encouraged already). 

You probably know a few movie snobs. They won't go to movie theaters  because they can see everything at home with better privacy, cleanliness and food. But they have a new choice; not many home media rooms have the full package of services these theaters provide. They are exactly the audience now testing the Bridgewater Mall Dine-In Movie Theater, newly renovated and re-opened in December, 2010. With seven theaters, the entire cinema now has 684 seats. Aisles are wide enough to pass out food, and wait staff dressed in black are trained to speak quietly. Composite plateware with fork-friendly food together with movable tray tables and individual lighting make this experience resemble, even surpass, first class plane travel. The costs of seeing a movie quickly add up, and the varied menu and generous seating make this place actually a bargain. Seats can and no doubt will be reserved ahead.

It's great new way to see a movie with a few significant others, especially couples and lucky teenagers. We saw an excellent movie very conducive to watching while dining. Any movie would be great here, purely from the perspective of the best seats, where each one has a great view and lots of space, and the healthier food. "How Do You Know" is a sophisticated romantic comedy, dear to my heart, that announces heart-throb Paul Rudd, also in "The Cider House Rules" and "Knocked Up" in a major role, starring already huge Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson

A list of current Dine-In Theaters:

AMC Fork & Screen Buckhead 6
AMC Grapevine Mills 30 *NOW OPEN*
Kansas City
AMC Studio 30AMC Mainstreet 6
New Jersey
AMC Essex Green 9 *NOW OPEN*
AMC Bridgewater Commons 7 *NOW OPEN* 

AMC Menlo Park 12 *COMING SOON*
opening 12/15/2010

(full disclosure: no sponsorship by AMC)

Personally, I can't watch 3D movies without feeling extremely nauseated; "Avatar" sent me to a doctor worried I had to sit out most of it. In gratitude, this was a completely different experience. It won't be long before we go back for another "dinner and a movie." Enjoy a Dine-In Theater near you if you can.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Are Your Three Dream Wishes For The Holidays?

Here is a good topic of conversation for anyone fortunate enough to have precious time with friends and family:

If you could, who and what causes would you help first, second and third?

That's assuming you set aside all your desires for more and better clothes, surroundings, and so on, and supposing you had unlimited amounts of money, more than the richest person in the world. It's beneficial, you are sure to count your blessings and think of those less fortunate than yourself.

It's a great question to ask almost anyone, even close friends, because you will find out aspects of others you probably didn't imagine exist. It's a quick way to find out what your significant others care about deeply. For example, my friend wants to help someone with a prosthetic leg who needs a better one. Another would like to build a new barn for a horse rescue non-profit.

I hope during the upcoming holidays, you have time to think of some of the blessings you are grateful for, and can give generously, as much as you are able, to those in need of your kindness.