SoCS: The Sound of Music

One of the first movies I can remember seeing in a theater was The Sound of Music. I was probably four or five at the time. The movie had an overture and an intermission. The intermission happened right after the wedding scene and my Dad thought the movie was over. Fortunately, there was music for the intermission and we did stay for the rest of the movie.

We had the cast album – on 33 1/3 rpm vinyl, of course – and could sing all the songs. When I was a senior in high school, our school play was The Sound of Music and I was Sister Sophia, one of the “Big 4” nuns who sings “How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?” I only had a couple of spoken lines, but we got to wear habits borrowed from a convent, which apparently had kept some of the pre-Vatican II habits around. Because I was Catholic, I also got to coach some of the chorus of nuns on things like how to cross yourself and genuflect. It was also interesting because we used the original Broadway script and score, so some of the songs were new to me. For instance, “Something Good” was written for the movie; I actually prefer “An Ordinary Couple” which was the Broadway song for that scene.

The sound of music is also pertinent to my own life. I have been singing since I was young. I am in my 34th season singing with the Binghamton University Chorus, which I joined after singing my way through elementary, high school, and college. I can’t imagine giving it up.

I also played piano from the time I was seven, then studied organ so that I could play at my tiny Catholic parish. I subbed for three years and then took over as organist when our prior organist went to college. My last three years of high school were spent playing organ every weekend at church, along with holidays and often a couple of weeknight masses.

I played organ and sang throughout college and worked in the church music field before my children were born, continuing on a volunteer basis as they got older. Unfortunately, an orthopedic problem intervened so I no longer play on a regular basis, but I do still sing.

It is odd, though, that I don’t like to have music playing in the background. I find it too distracting. If there is the sound of music, I want to be either making it or listening attentively.
Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays! The prompt this week was…ummm…complicated and involves using a movie title. You can read about it here:

SoCS badge 2015

This is also part of Linda’s Just Jot It January!

JJJ 2016

To find the rules for Just Jot It January, click here and join in today.

Star Wars – no spoilers

B and I with daughter T went to a Monday morning showing of the new Star Wars movie in the renovated Regal Theaters near us. Yay for new reclining seats – especially because my legs aren’t long enough to touch the floor! Not quite as posh as our Loew’s Cinema recliner loveseats, but still nice.

We went to a showing that was 2D, as all three of us have issues with vision, motion sickness, or both. And at the bargain price of $5 a ticket, what could possible go wrong?

Short answer – nothing went wrong. We all loved the movie and had a great time.

B and I saw the original Star Wars movie when we were in high school – and already a couple. A long time ago in this galaxy…  The original Star Wars was a great good guys vs bad guys story with young, engaging characters, older sages, technology, robots, and space travel. So much fun!

In Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we all loved the classic familiarity of the opening credits, location shooting, strong characters, action sequences with spacecraft and light sabers, and state of the art effects. State of the art now is more advanced than it was then, of course, but the “wow” feeling is the same.

We also loved that John Williams was back to do the music, which adds so much to the film. We were glad to see that he brought on a collaborator to help with orchestration and conducting. Given that he is 83, it seems a very sensible thing to do.

Our daughter E and her spouse L arrive tomorrow. They saw the movie over the weekend in Honolulu, where they live. We are all hoping to catch another showing together while they are here. I’m sure we’ll  enjoy it as much the second time around!

Lava and Inside Out

In keeping with family tradition, my daughter E and I went to the movies this morning to see the Pixar film Inside Out, which premiered yesterday.

One of the many things I love about Pixar films is that there is a short before the main feature. This one is called “Lava” and is a love story – with volcanoes. E and I, sitting here in Honolulu, with our spouses thousands of miles away, both got teary. It is beautifully rendered and so touching.

Inside Out is the story of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley as she moves to San Francisco from Minnesota and what is going on inside her head, as told through her emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. We also occasionally get glimpses into other characters’ emotion quintet, which is both enlightening and entertaining.

The best adjective I can come up with to describe the movie is poignant. Having once been eleven and having two daughters who were once eleven, I found myself empathizing with Riley as she tries to navigate a difficult situation. Yes, E and I did some more crying.

At the end of the credits, the filmmakers dedicate the movie to their children, asking them not to grow up, but, as E and I discussed later, that wasn’t really the point. Growing up is complicated and necessary and one’s own work and responsibility. E and I talked over lunch about how undesirable/impossible it is for parents or anyone else to make someone happy – or even to be happy a lot of the time. We were both glad that the emotion is named Joy rather than Happiness.  Joy is deeper and more able to integrate with the other emotions than happiness could ever be.

Wishing you all as much Joy as possible,

May Day – of Ultron?

Today is May first. May Day in the Northern Hemisphere is often celebrated as a spring festival and later came to be a day to celebrate labor.  It’s not a holiday from work in the United States, but my husband B decided to take it off this year because he is working in conjunction with colleagues in India and Germany who do observe May Day as a holiday and because it is his anniversary of beginning work with his current employer. Twenty-six years – but who’s counting?

It is also the opening day for the newest Avengers movie – Age of Ultron.  I asked if he would like to go to the movies this morning, so we went to the 2D showing at 9:45 this morning.  Neither of us are fans of 3D movies, which tend to cause unpleasant side effects, such as nausea.

I am not going to attempt a review. I am neither a comic book person nor an action movie fan, although B gave me enough of a primer to understand the set-up for the movie. I have also seen snatches of various Marvel movies and television shows – I swear Captain America’s origin story movie has been on television a dozen times lately – which I only vaguely pay attention to while I’m working or playing on my Chromebook.

So, yes, the movie has lots of flying, throwing things, and battling. Fortunately, fantasy violence doesn’t disturb me in the way that realistic violence does and the rating was only PG-13, so not too much carnage.

The important thing was that I got to be there with B in the posh reclining love-seats at the theater, holding hands.

theater organ

I just saw a piece on the Today Show about the only remaining theater organ in Seattle, which in the 1920s had fifty in silent film and stage theaters. The organ in the piece was a Wurlitzer, which was one of the most common manufacturers of the day.

It reminded me of the Roberson Museum in Binghamton, New York, which housed a Link theater organ, built by the firm of a local family. Edwin Link went on to found Link Flight Simulation, which used the technology of the organ business to craft the first mass-produced flight simulators, the Blue Boxes that trained many pilots in World War II.

When we moved here in the 1980s, I studied organ with M. Searle Wright, who was an enormously talented classical organist, teacher, and composer, and, at an age when most people are retired, then the Link Organ Professor at the State University of New York-Binghamton. He also was one of the few remaining masters of theater organ, able to sit at the console and accompany silent films, bringing to life the sounds of the world and the moods of the characters.  It was an amazing experience to hear him accompany a film!  Talented younger organists would travel up from New York CIty to study theater organ techniques from him.

We more often heard Searle’s theater organ talents when he played a 45 minute prelude of classic American songbook and Broadway tunes before each Binghamton Pops concert on the Morton theater organ at the Forum. On the music stand, he would have only a list of the pieces (perhaps with the key structure, he planned to include that day and would weave those songs together, showing off the fun aspects of theater organs, the literal bells and whistles.

A magical art, which is, thankfully, still being kept alive by those to whom an older generation of organist like Searle Wright passed on to them.

Lessons from Selma, Ferguson, and Seneca Lake

This morning I watched coverage on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the first attempt at the voting rights march in Selma, Alabama. I am re-blogging my post from January after I saw the film “Selma” which draws together the story of the march with recent events.
– JC

Top of JC's Mind

When the events depicted in the film Selma occurred, I was a four-year-old girl in rural New England.  I do remember seeing Dr. King on the news when I was a bit older and definitely remember his assassination in 1968 in the midst of the Memphis strike by black public works employees who were facing discrimination.  It was incomprehensible – then and now – that a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of such an important social movement could have been only 39 when he died. Because he was such a force and martyred so young, his legacy became a legend, masking his complexity as a human being. While the public life of some of those around King, such as Ambassador Andrew Young and Rep. John Lewis, was decades long and vital to keeping the civil rights movement going forward while remembered its momentous, if painful, past, King’s life has…

View original post 746 more words

Lessons from Selma, Ferguson, and Seneca Lake

When the events depicted in the film Selma occurred, I was a four-year-old girl in rural New England.  I do remember seeing Dr. King on the news when I was a bit older and definitely remember his assassination in 1968 in the midst of the Memphis strike by black public works employees who were facing discrimination.  It was incomprehensible – then and now – that a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of such an important social movement could have been only 39 when he died. Because he was such a force and martyred so young, his legacy became a legend, masking his complexity as a human being. While the public life of some of those around King, such as Ambassador Andrew Young and Rep. John Lewis, was decades long and vital to keeping the civil rights movement going forward while remembered its momentous, if painful, past, King’s life has been shown on film only as a secondary character until the release of Selma a few weeks ago.  The film shows how complicated things were for Dr. King during the 1965 voting rights struggle that led to the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Daniel Oyelowo portrays the complexity of Dr. King, trying to balance political, religious, tactical, family, personal, and interpersonal forces in situations where even the best possible course risked injury and death. Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King underscores the precariousness of their family’s life and the strength of will that it took for her to keep the family together in the face of betrayal, wiretapping, and threats against all the family members, including their four children. Although based on actual events, the film is not a documentary and the script does not include King’s own public speeches, because his sons would not give the filmmakers permission to use them. Despite that, the speeches in the film sound like those of Dr. King and Oyelowo delivers them with passion.

Throughout the film, I was reminded of how far we have come as a nation – and how many challenges or even regressions are still to be rectified. While I am grateful that voter registration forms no longer ask for an applicant’s race, we have recently seen some of the protections of the Voting Rights Act scaled back and the advent of new voter ID laws  and changes in polling hours and places that make it difficult for older voters, people of color, and those in low-income communities to vote as they are entitled to as US citizens.

In Selma, we see police arrest, beat, and use teargas against peaceful protestors. We sometimes see this happen now, too, in Ferguson, MO and other cities protesting against racial problems with policing. We saw police use similar tactics during the breakup of the Occupy movement. It’s sad that I have cause to worry more about my nephews who are of color being stopped or profiled by police than I do about my nephew who is white.  In the fifty years since the march from Selma to Montgomery, we should have progressed more than we have.

Near the beginning of the film, a number of protestors, including Dr. King, are jailed for trying to enter the courthouse through the front door. I immediately thought of the members of We Are Seneca Lake and their supporters, who have been barred from entering the court room and the town hall in Reading, forced to stand out in the frigid cold, not even able to wait in heated cars because the police have banned parking near the court. Non-violent civil disobedience to keep Crestwood from expanding fossil fuel storage in the salt caverns near the drinking water supply of 100,000 people has turned into over 180 arrests with hearings by a judge who refuses to recuse himself despite industry ties and who is violating the legal rights of the defendants.

There are many tactical/political conflicts in the film. What should be handled by federal, state, or local governments? When is the right time for a march or civil disobedience or legislation? When is the right time to bring in allies? What is the relationship between faith values and government? Who makes the final decision on strategy?  These factors and others have been playing out for me over the last several years in our fight against high volume hydrofracking in New York State.  While I am not in a leadership position, I have interacted with many different organizations and leaders with differing opinions on the right way to proceed. Should we work for a continued delay or a ban? Legislative action or executive/regulatory action? Work on local bans or just on the state level?  Argue on scientific grounds, environmental grounds, economic grounds, or moral grounds? I admit that my own approach was to throw everything I could at the problem, changing tack depending on the circumstance.

While we were thrilled but stunned by the Dec. 17 announcement of an impending state-wide ban , we still have a lot of work to do on infrastructure and waste disposal projects in the state, continuing work to keep the ban in place, accelerating our roll-out of renewable energy and efficiency projects, and helping our allies to stop unconventional fossil fuel production in their states, too.

As in Selma, any victory is only partial and leads to more work.  Keep on keeping on.


This morning, I went to see Annie. I had hoped to see it with T before she headed back to school, but the holiday period didn’t go according to plan, so I went today before the movie leaves the theater tomorrow.

I was a bit leery about going as I am not often a fan of updating older work. Annie appeared on Broadway in 1977. We had the cast album at home and I knew all the songs. We sang some arrangements from the show at my high school. I can still remember some of the choreography for “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” Over the years, I’ve seen some live performances and was annoyed with the 1982 movie version for changing the time frame to July because then you didn’t get to have “A New Deal for Christmas.” I also come from a classical/church music/classic American songbook sort of background and tend to be pretty clueless on the popular music side.

But, I really enjoyed this version of Annie with Quvenzhané Wallis.  Wallis is amazingly talented. She doesn’t seem as though she is acting, even when that involves breaking into song and dancing on a regular basis. Her charm and energy really carry the movie.

I thought that the transformation to the present day worked well, with foster kids replacing the original orphanage of the 1930’s NYC.  I did miss the song “NYC” although its replacement “The City’s Yours” worked in the context of the film. I was particularly moved by the addition of literacy as a plot point. Dyslexia runs in my family and I was pleased to see literacy embraced as a cause here.

Review: Into the Woods

When our daughters were children, one of their favorite videos to watch was the the Great Performance’s recording of the original Broadway cast of Into the Woods. For a while when T was very young, we only let her watch the first act, deeming the second act, which goes into the aftermath of “happily ever after,” too dark for her – until her four-year-older-and-wiser sister filled her in on the rest of the play and we let her watch the whole performance.  All of which gives you insights into the kind of family we are…

At any rate, long before the current spate of fractured fairy tale mash-ups, there was the brilliance of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical Into the Woods.  Besides uncounted viewings of the original Broadway cast, my daughters got to see the 2002 Broadway revival with Vanessa Williams, for which we also owned the CDs, for singing along on long car rides. We have also seen local productions, most recently at the CIder Mill.  So, I had high hopes and a few misgivings about the new movie version of our family favorite.

Fortunately, I enjoyed the movie very much. While there had to be some cuts to shorten the length from the original theatrical production, they were made very judiciously, with only a few song/dialogue cuts that we missed. We had to admit that, while we enjoy the reprise of the Princes’ “Agony,” it was better for the flow of the movie to have cut it, especially when the first act version of it is so charmingly (over)played as it is in the film.

There are a number of songs performed by an ensemble of characters and I thought that the filming of these, moving among the characters in their different settings was very effective, especially the opening version of “Into the Woods.”  I also thought it was a great choice to use the sung finale music over the first part of the credits.

My favorite performers were the three main female characters. Meryl Streep made a very convincing witch, aided by cinematic effects that let her appear and disappear in a swirl. Working for a camera instead of a large theater, she was able to show more subtlety than she would have been able to in a theater. Anna Kendrick made a wonderful CInderella. We especially liked that “On the Steps of the Palace” took place on the steps of the palace, rather than in the woods, giving her the chance to sing about her decision as it was happening, rather than reflecting on it later, as she does in the stage version.  Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife carries a lot of the heart and lesson-learning of the film. One hopes that this role, which won a Tony for Joanna Gleason in the original Broadway cast, will win some awards for Ms. Blunt.

The real star of the movie for me is Stephen Sondheim, whose clever and sophisticated lyrics and music make the whole production lively and touching, ably assisted by James Lapine, who wrote the book/screenplay. Because I know the show well, the clever lines were familiar to me. I was sitting next to someone in the theater who did not know the musical at all. It was fun listening to him react to the wordplay.

I’m hoping to be able to see the movie again while it is in the theaters and will definitely want to add it to my DVD collection when it becomes available. I hope other people will enjoy it as much as I did.

Everything is awesome!

I have a confession to make.  I really like The Lego Movie!  I realize as a 50-something-year-old woman, I am not the demographic group that was targeted, but every time we saw a preview for it, B and I were always laughing, so we went to see it when it was in theaters and both enjoyed it.

I have been known to break into a chorus of “Everything Is Awesome” now and then.

I admit that I felt a bit sheepish being so drawn in by a (non-Pixar) children’s movie, but that was cured by reading Richard Corliss’s “Best of Culture 2014:  Movies” wrap up in the Dec.22/29 “Person of the Year” edition of Time magazine, which listed The Lego Movie third of the ten films mentioned.  That means I have some sense of taste/style, right?

In my haphazard approach to Christmas gifts this year, one thing I did manage to buy for our family was the DVD of The Lego Movie, which we watched this afternoon. And it still makes me laugh, which is great because this hasn’t been the jolliest holiday season ever.

We will probably watch some of the special features this evening. There is a sing-along version of “Everything Is Awesome!”  Singing such a bouncy, optimistic song can only help…