Summer Concerts 2018

For the past 25 years, I have performed in the pit orchestra for Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater.  It was time to take a year off (although I am keeping the streak alive by playing the Tribute to Bernstein concert with UFOMT this month).  This hiatus has allowed me to take other gigs that I wouldn’t normally get to play.  Summerfest isn’t one of them; Liz and I usually perform with this summer weekend festival every year.  Leaping Lulu performs as does Citrus and Sage Jazz Sextet.  The sax player and I formed Citrus and Sage about a dozen years ago and the group became the house band for Citrus and Sage Cafe.  Once the cafe closed, we kept the group together for occasional gigs such as Summerfest.





When given the opportunity, I play cajon with Leaping Lulu.  A pic from Summerfest:


I was conveniently left out of the picture but am sitting on the far right.  This summer, Leaping Lulu performed with dancers (think Riverdance style show) both at Summerfest and at the Utah Arts Festival in Salt lake City.  Here are a few photos from that performance.




Last weekend, we performed in Sun Valley, Idaho.  There is a beautiful outdoor amphitheater at the resort ala Saratoga Performing Arts Center or Tanglewood.  The stage and seating area are covered with grass seating behind the main theater.  This concert featured the Tony Award winning singers Sutton Foster and Brian Stokes Mitchell from Broadway in NYC.  They were at the top of their game.  I don’t have any shots of the actual performance but here are some pics from before the show:



Sound board pic for my sound engineer brother, Bruce.  Next, a nearby pond where we sat and had lunch:



Next up, Leaping Lulu performs for a wedding at Beaver Mountain and then on to Bountiful Handcart Days (don’t ask) in the Salt Lake City area.  The Bernstein concert follows late in the month.  We then head off to Esterhazy Palace (see the beginning of this blog back in 2016) in Eisenstadt and Vienna, Austria for performances of Haydn Creation and Beethoven Mass with the Classical Music Festival.  It has been a fab summer so far and we look forward to the rest of July and August.  More to come!



Okanagan: 2018

This blog site began in late April 2016.  My intention was to document our sabbatical year (2016/17) travels home and abroad.  As the sabbatical ended, I realized that I really enjoyed blogging and sharing our musical and wine experiences and decided to keep posting for another year.  Suddenly another year has passed and I am still at it!

I blogged about our Okanagan trip last year so I won’t bother to narrate.  Instead, enjoy the photos from this year’s sojourn:

She’s back!  Mother owl was back perched in the cliffs.  No babies this time.Unknown.jpeg

We didn’t see the eagles this year, however, a red tailed hawk decided to nest within eye shot (and camera shot) of the condo.  Thanks to Dad for this pic!


There is a kangaroo farm in Kelowna.  Liz and Kim visited while I met with my education counterparts at UBC-Okanagan.  The “rodent of unusual size” is a capybara and stands about knee high:


Of course there are kangaroos:


And baby ones:


This animal honked under a tree on a daily basis:


Sometimes the geese joined in (under the same tree):


Wineries were visited on a daily basis.  2.5 cases were smuggled over the border.  Here is a pic from one of our faves:


Family and friends gathered for the annual dinner at Backyard Farm, in Oliver.  Here are the sisters:


Sister and Brother-in-law:


Childhood/neighborhood friend (Vancouver, now living in the Okanagan), hubby and daughter:IMG_3272.jpg

Adopted family member, Mike:


Two courses from Chef Chris, at Backyard Farm:



Mingling before dinner:


And finally, the whole “Fam Damn-ly”:


Fun times!  Next up for us:  Summer music performances.  Will keep you “posted”!




Vaughn Williams…..

In 1914, British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams was 42 years old.  But he decided to enlist in WW I anyway, even though on average, he was twice the age of the regular soldiers.  He decided to enlist as a medic, though he had no training in medicine.  Soon, he was serving in France on the front lines, treating men injured in the fighting.  The horrors he saw were unbelievable, and he even lost a composer friend who was serving on the front line with him.  The memories of the war would haunt him for years to come but he put the experience to work in the massive oratorio Sancta Civitas, or Holy City, composed between 1923-25.  Although the title was in Latin, the entire text of this oratorio is in English.  It calls for full chorus, small a cappella choir, and children’s chorus along with full orchestra and solo singers.

WW I was supposed to be the “war that ended all wars” and as such, Vaughn Williams decided to depict this notion as the coming of the Holy City which would spread peace through out the earth.  The entire text of the piece is based on the book of Revelations, which is interesting since RVWilliams considered himself agnostic.  The piece, one of his favorites, is rarely performed and I believe we may have given it its Utah premier last weekend.

Not two decades later, Nazism and Facism were on the rise and Vaughn Williams could not believe that once again, the world was headed toward war.  He embarked on another monumental work, Dona Nobis Pacem, which sounded the alarm of such horrific trends and the coming war. This piece too called for large chorus, orchestra and soloists.

Last weekend, American Festival Chorus and Orchestra performed these two Vaughn Williams’ works in Daines Hall at USU, and at The Cathedral of the Madeline in Salt Lake City.  I recommend pulling up a recording or Youtube,  and listening to these two pieces, each of which run about 35 minutes.  It is some of the best first half of the century British composing that you will hear.  Below are pictures of the event at the Cathedral in Salt Lake City:




In the pic above, the children’s chorus and Gabriel’s trumpet perform their part up high in the organ loft.  Co-ordinating the conducting from about 100 feet or more away was a challenge.


In the last pic, you can see Liz just to the left of center in the orchestra.  The brass:



And a shot in the Daines Concert Hall:


Next up:  A week in Sausalito and Cloverdale (April), so I hope to have some nice spring pictures to post; and our annual trip to Okanagan and Vancouver (May).  Musical blogs will include Summerfest in Logan, Utah (jazz and celtic), Salt Lake Arts Festival (celtic with dancers) (both in June), Sun Valley outdoor concert series in Idaho (same group as this blog)(July) and UFOMT Tribute to Bernstein (100th anniv. of his birth) Concert (July).  Our 7th Annual Backyard Bash (July) and finally, our trip to Classical Music Festival in Austria to perform Beethoven Mass in C and Haydn’s Creation (August) round out the summer.  Busy and fun times!  I will keep you “posted”!


Wine Bottling: Barbera!

You may recall that our annual wine bottling (October 2017) was canceled due to the fires in Sonoma County.  The bottling was rescheduled for President’s Day weekend 2018.  In 2016 we missed the annual bottling due to our sabbatical trip to Europe, so we were excited to get back to all things wine.  This is the 6th annual bottling; so far we have bottled 4 Malbecs, a red blend (our sabbatical year) and now this year a new varietal for us, Barbera.

We arrived in Sonoma County on Wednesday night and spent 2 days wine tasting and visiting with friends which included Clark from Sausalito and Todd and Susan, our hosts in Cloverdale.  We have been very fortunate to stay in the same “little house” that Todd and Susan have each of the past 3 years.  The wine event began on Saturday with blending.  Keep in mind that 100% anything, varietal wise, is not strictly 100%.  There is usually 5-20% of other varietals blended in to make a complete wine ie nose, front end, back end and  after you say “ah”.  In this case, we ended up blending in roughly equal percentages of Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Carignan.  The total blend came to 80% Barbera and 20% other (listed above).  We blended out on the crush pad with each member of the team waxing  eloquently about each blend that we tested.  First pic is of me and Mike, our fearless leader who started the Cache Valley Reserve team along with Jim Rickards of Rickards Winery.


Here is Jim Rickards measuring out each blend at the table.


And of course, folks testing out each blend.


Our very dear friends from Mountain Green, Utah were able to get in on the action this year:  Go Brett and Teri!


Bottling the final blend takes place on Sunday morning.  This is old school assembly line work.  Steps:  suck out the oxygen from the bottles, fill the bottles from the barrel, cork and wrap the top, clean and place label on straight (mostly) and finally into the cases they go.  One large barrel equals about 30 cases of wine.  Each member of the team takes home about 3 cases.  Of course there is overflow from the filling tube, which is drained into pitchers.  Even at 10am, one has to make sure quality is maintained, hence the wine glasses!




Brett and Teri posing with their bounty of 3 cases!


Jim Rickards looking on approvingly!

We have never been to Sonoma in the winter, only spring and fall.  We noticed flowers between all of the rows of vines.  Turns out that Mustard grows in abundance this time of year.  But they also plant many varieties of ground cover which is mulched in to the soil in the spring.  This adds much needed nutrients to an otherwise mono-culture crop.




More flowers found in Healdsburg.  Poppies and Daffodils anyone?



Flowering (non fruit bearing) plum trees along the driveway at Rickards Winery.


That vine you see on the right dates back to 1908, truly “old vine”!

So there you have it.  Wine bottling in Sonoma Valley, California.  This has turned out to be one of our favorite destinations and I am sure we will be back again and again.  Bottoms up!


Winter Fun!

The New Year has come and gone and we are on the verge of February 1!  Our Holiday season was as festive as ever, and we survived both the onslaught of relatives, and all the Xmas season performing gigs.

January brought two concerts, a 25 year celebration of the re-furbishing of the Ellen Eccles Theater in downtown Logan (and 25 completed seasons of the summer opera, Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater) and the CD release concert of the Utah State University Faculty Jazz Ensemble known as AMP (Aggie Music Project).  AMP has only been around for about 6 years, and each year we take on a “project” for the band.  Over the past two years, the project consisted of writing original tunes for the band, and cutting a CD of said tunes.  Here is a shot of the nonet, but unfortunately, not all are in the picture (keyboard is missing).


We had a huge turn out and sold several discs.  Much fun was had by all.

For the past 7 years (approximately), Liz and her Mom have skied the Canadian Rockies.  This is a week long trip to the Campbell Ice Fields, about a 20 minute helicopter ride from Golden, BC (which is a 9 hour drive from Vancouver). The adventure consists of AT, cross country, and telemark skiing in some of the most beautiful country BC has to offer.  It is self catered (take it all in, take it all out) and about 16 people of various age and background make the annual sojourn.  This trip is certainly a highlight of the year for both Liz and her Mom, and provides the opportunity for them to spend time together doing something they both love.  The rest of the blog consists of pictures taken from this year’s trip.  As always, the pictures that come back each year are breathtaking.  Enjoy!unnamed-3.jpg








The resident “Marty” that comes for leftovers several times a day.




As mentioned in a previous blog, we will blending and bottling wine at Rickards in Sonoma Valley in February.  March brings St. Patrick’s Day celebration with Leaping Lulu performing a Riverdance style show in Ogden, Utah.  We will also perform on the Heber Creeper as part of Heber City’s St. Paddy’s day events (third year in a row).  The month rounds out with the ballet Sleeping Beauty (Tchaikovsky).  After 10 successful seasons of Nutcracker with Cache Civic Ballet, they have decided to hire our orchestra for their Spring  production.  Fun!

I will blog again when we finish the Rickards bottling in about 3 weeks.  C U then!

‘Tis the Season…… for Concerts

I saw a meme the other day.  A man asks a child, “Are you ready for Christmas?”  The child replies, “No, my parents are musicians!”  Well, that pretty much sums up the holiday season for musicians.

I last posted from California; our annual wine bottling endeavor.  Recall that it was canceled due to the massive fires in Sonoma County.  Fortunately our bottling trip has been rescheduled for the second weekend in February.  So, it looks like we will get to bottle Barbera after all.

Since October, Liz and I have been concertizing….a lot.  After finishing the run of Fiddler on the Roof, we performed a 10 day or so run of Nutcracker.  Our very own Eccles Theater in Logan seats about 1,050 and every show was sold out.  This is our 11th year of doing Nutcracker, and it is safe to say that it has become a local favorite.  (The ballet is doing so well, they have secured funding for the orchestra to join them for their annual production of  Sleeping Beauty in March.)  We weren’t able to get any pictures, being in the pit and all, but we did decide to get to tickets to the Ballet West production of Nutcracker in Salt Lake City a week or so ago.  I have played Nutcracker live more times than I can count, but strangely enough, have never seen it from the audience.  We enjoyed their rendition (and costumes) of Nutcracker:



Also in November, Leaping Lulu performed at a quaint concert venue just over the Wellsville Mountains in Brigham City.  I was lucky enough to play cajon and percussion with them, which was great fun (and a supreme challenge with my bandaged up hand).  No pictures from this gig either, but here’s the poster the venue plastered all over the internet (Facebook) and around town:


In early December, we perform an annual Xmas concert with American Festival Chorus and Orchestra (our 10th season).  This group performs 4-6 master choral/orchestra works each year, again, right in Logan, Utah.  The Xmas concert is traditional Christmas music, usually with a guest artist or group.  This year’s guest was Gentlemen’s Trio, better known as GENTRI.  They hail from Utah, but have been gaining notoriety and performing all around the country.  We performed 4 sold out shows on campus (1700 seats) in our newly renovated Daines Concert Hall, and one sold out show (2500 seats) at the less than a year old Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City.  Here are two pictures that include members of GENTRI, first our brush up rehearsal and sound check, and then concert lighting right before the doors opened.



I have one last gig right around New Year’s:  Harry James Orchestra.  Harry James has been dead for quite some time, but like Glen Miller and Woody Herman, the bands live on in ghost incarnations.  Usually one of the players, often one of the original members, takes over for Glen, Harry or Woody as the front man.  As time goes by, the band morphs into new members performing all of the music from back in the day.  I got the call to sit in on 3rd bone for the concert in Idaho.  Sight reading the book is always nerve-racking, but comes with the territory of that professional musician thing.

Since my last blog, we have added solar panels to our Park City place.  Start to finish takes about 2 months, and our net meter (thing that allows us to run the panels and get our energy from them) was installed today.   Last step is to turn the system on, i.e. throw the switch.  By the time you read this, we should be up and running with the sun.  Here’s a shot of the panels up on the roof:


We took this shot a couple of weeks ago and it was snowing.

Finally, I really enjoy posting pictures that my father-in-law shoots from various locations around British Columbia.  The following pics are Snow Geese from the Richmond area, out by the Vancouver airport.






Family will be showing up for the holidays over the next week or so.  After the Harry James concert, January and February bring concerts/shows including Scarlet Pimpernel and the 25th anniversary concert of the Ellen Eccles Theater in Logan, not to mention the Sonoma wine bottling fiesta.  In other words, more blogs to follow!  Happy Holidays!



Revisit: California!

Every Fall, the Cache Valley Bottling Team invades JRickards Winery in Sonoma County.  This Fall was to be no different except for one thing:  FIRE!  With no containment in sight, all wine festivities were canceled.  However, by the time the weekend rolled around, the fires were mostly contained and folks were being allowed back in the region.  In fact, the County and cities were asking that tourists return.  By the time we arrived, one wouldn’t have known that a fire had so threatened most of the region, and devastated areas of Napa Valley and Santa Rosa.  Comparatively speaking, the area we were in was untouched.  Santa Rosa is visible via 101, and we did catch a glimpse of some of the devastation from the car.



Over in the Cloverdale area, the threat was floating/flying embers igniting brush and trees. Our favorite walk from last spring was the Russian River walk; a 4 mile walk along the Russian River in Alexander Valley.  The following is an example of an ember fire which was quickly extinguished.  The closest fire, Pocket Fire, was just up on the hillside above the Russian River.


Along this same walk, were huge turkey vultures sunning themselves in trees along the river:



The spread out wings is not take off.  They camp out on the branches “spread eagle”.  It looked very cool.  I am convinced that these birds have no idea just how huge they are.

We spent one afternoon with Jim Rickards at his winery.  Another wine maker was visiting the winery and Jim invited Liz and I to join them for a vertical tasting of Zinfandel from 2008-2014.  After that, we went in the tasting room and tasted his regular current line up (You’ll have to visit us in Utah if you want to taste them!).  Then we went outside and barrel tasted two Rose wines.  What an afternoon! ZZZZZZzzzzzzzz……..


Jim decided that he wanted to reschedule the bottling so it looks like we will get to blend a bottle a Barbera after all!  We had dinner with our very dear friends and airbnb hosts Todd and Susan at Diavola, our fave restaurant in Sonoma Valley.  We also visited and bought wine at White Oak Winery.  Clark came to visit and since he is in the wine business, I wanted him to taste the wines and tell me that I was right; these are damn good wines.  Clark agreed!  Of course we bought a case.

On Sunday, we drove to Sausalito to visit Clark, Paul (on the house boat) and Mark (SF retired principle trombonist).  We stayed at the Acqua Inn, the same place we stayed last spring.  It is a wonderful hotel.  Here is a shot of the two of us along the water right outside our room:


That picture was right side up when I copy/pasted it.  Bah.

Clark took us on a walk to Cascade Falls which is in the Mill Valley, the town where he resides.  This little canyon is full of redwood trees, a stream (this time of year) that runs down through it, private homes and public spaces.  Here are some pics of this wonderful 2 hour walk, starting with a photo looking straight up between the trees:








Finally, we went to see Eric, our band director friend at UOP in Stockton.  Klinkerbrick Winery has a fabulous Albarino and we wanted to be sure to pick up a few.  Since they are releasing their 2016 Albarino in a couple of weeks, they were selling the $15 2015 vintage for half price!  Sign me up!  We bought 2 cases.  Down the street was another winery that was built around an organ.  The organ is from San Francisco and performances are given each month at the winery.  All performances are digitally recorded, so we listened to the recording of Toccata and Fugue by Bach, performed in 1991.  The pipes are built in to the walls of the tasting room.  The wines?  Well, they had a really good Port.  Eric bought a bottle.


Notice that some of the pipes were obtained from an organ in Provo, no less.



Tuesday, we made the 11 hour trek back to Logan.  All in all, a fab trip.  It was really nice visiting or should I say, re-visiting, all of our haunts from our 5 week residency in California last spring.

Ok, one more shot of trees, and then a road named after me near Santa Rosa on 101.



Next up:  Nutcracker ballet performances over US Thanksgiving weekend.  If anything else happens between now and then, I will blog once more!