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Dr. Jeffrey Carter

Dr. Jeffrey Carter

It is the eve before Dr. Jeffrey Carter‘s 51st anniversary of his birth.

I met Jeff in 2005 when he was director of The Ball State University Singers, and living in Muncie, Indiana.  In June 2008, Jeff moved to St. Louis, Missouri to begin his tenure as the director of Webster University’s School of Music.  Jeff grew up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and this move was a super fit.

Aside from being a wonderful friend, and one of the most knowledgeable, and incredibly talented men I know, Jeffrey holds an even dearer place in the Jolliffe-Haas family, lovingly serving as one of several on the Godparent Team for my sons. 

In honor of Jeffrey Richard Carter’s natalis dies, I am posting two special selections.

The first is based on a poem by Charles Dickens.  Jeff programmed this piece on a Ball State University Singers’ concert, and it has been one of my favorites, since.

THINGS THAT NEVER DIE

Charles Dickens

The pure, the bright, the beautiful
that stirred our hearts in youth,
The impulses to wordless prayer,
The streams of love and truth,
The longing after something lost,
The spirit’s longing cry,
The striving after better hopes –
These thing can never die.

The timid hand stretched forth to aid
A brother in his need;
A kindly  word in grief’s dark hour
That proves a friend indeed;
The plea for mercy softly breathed,
When justice threatens high,
The sorrow of a contrite heart-
These things shall never die.

Let nothing pass, for every hand
Must find some work to do,
Lose not a chance to waken love –
Be fire and just and true.
So shall a light that cannot fade
Beam on thee from on high,
And angel voices say to thee –
“These things shall never die.”

The second selection, “The Awakening” by Joseph M. Martin, is more personal, as it is my favorite choral piece.  The final chorus: “Let music never die in me, forever let my spirit sing…” is one of the most powerful messages to each and every one of us.  I selected this particular performance because it features the SWACDA Collegiate Honor Choir and the Lee’s Summit Symphony Orchestra from Jeff’s hometown. The conductor is Eph Ehly.

THE AWAKENING

Joseph M. Martin

“I dreamed a dream, a silent dream of a land not far away where no bird sang, no steeples rang, and teardrops fell like rain. I dreamed a dream; a silent dream. I dreamed a dream of a land so filled with pride that every song, both weak and strong, withered and died. I dreamed a dream No hallelujah; not one hosanna! No song of love, no lullaby. And no choir sang to change the world. No pipers played, no dancers twirled. I dreamed a dream; a silent dream. Awake, awake! Soli deo gloria! Awake, Awake! Awake my soul and sing, the time for praise has come. The silence of the night has passed, a new day has begun! Let music never die in me; forever let my spirit sing! Wherever emptiness is found let there be joy and glorious sound. Let music never die in me; forever let my spirit sing! Let all our voices join as one to praise the giver of the sun! Awake, awake! Let music live!”

Thank you, Jeffrey Carter, for being a wonderful friend, mentor, and inspiration to myself, and to my sons.

The Haasienda sends you much, much love!

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This morning, my brother, Destin, and I received an email from Mother: As of February 3rd, I am retired from the Elwood Police Department.

Despite the fact Mother had expressed some consideration along this topic, we were not aware that she was actually setting the process into motion, and so abruptly.  The new administrative changes throughout the city’s leadership were becoming quite stressful, and the air of low-morale, and consistent uncertainty were affecting Mother’s health.  When she initially broached the subject over Christmas, I thought it a bit premature since the elected-changes had not yet occurred.  However, as she began experiencing the health issues, I was somewhat relieved, yet still surprised, by her announcement.

I was sixteen, and a sophomore in high school, when we became a part of the police family.  I suddenly had about 15 police-uncles, several police-aunts, and a ton of police-cousins.  I knew that I always had folks looking after my family.  This was especially comforting when I left for college.

The police department was like any other family – the good times, the not-so-good times, celebrations of weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, births, graduations, and successes.  The family came together at those less celebratory moments, especially when death shrouded a family unit.  The worst was the loss of officers’ children who were teenagers with me.

For the past thirty-one years, I’ve seen Mother joyfully embrace her work with the Band of Blue, and even during the more stressful moments, I never knew her to waiver in her dedication.  Mother was often a big sister, a confidant, a friend, and whether appreciated, or not, always honest with requested advice.  One of her most incredible talents is her ability to organize, and produce.  I am so grateful I received this genetic component from Mother!

I am proud to be the son of this woman who gave so much of her self to her career.  I am relieved that her retirement from the police department is not a retirement from being Mother/Mama to my self, and Destin. The retirement from the EPD will allow her more time for her Grandma-responsibilities!

My grandfather, Leroy ‘Red’ Barmes, joined the department in 1952.  Sixty years later, our immediate family’s connection to the Elwood Police Department has finally come to a close.  I must admit, it is a tad bittersweet.

Mother: Congratulations on 31 years of such fine service to the department, and the community; and, congratulations on your well-deserved retirement.  I am so grateful for, and proud of your career, and so happy (and a little tearful) to know this chapter has now moved on to the next.

Know you are loved…

The weekend was a delightful world-wind of activity, all centered around music and friends!

Friday evening after teaching, Quintin and I headed for Beavercreek High School where I served as a judge for the show choir’s invitational.  Friday was middle school show choir night.  Five competing show choirs and two exhibition show choirs from Beavercreek.

Saturday morning at 8:30am I was heading back to Beavercreek High School where I spent sixteen hours judging soloists, judging show choirs, eating a delicious lunch and supper, and catching up with colleagues, fellow judges, show choir parents, and friends.  I always enjoy Beavercreek’s weekend, but this seemed to be an exceptionally fun year.

Sunday morning was filled with house-activity of playing catch-up with items.  At 12:10pm we were out the door to UNO’s pizza downtown before heading next door to The Victoria Theatre to see Muse Machine’s production, THE WIZARD OF OZ.

I was seated next to three adorable elderly sisters who could easily have been USO girls during The War Between The States – they had me howling!  As I nestled into my seat I looked at my neighbor, and said, “I can tell you are gonna be trouble the whole time.”  She slapped her knee, and said to her companions, “He’s already got my number!”  The one sister had brought her fellow octogenarians to see her granddaughter perform, and each time the young performer was located in the mass of young folks on stage, they pointed, and without whispering, loudly exclaimed, and explained to one another where the girl was.  At one point, the lady next to me (who was slightly deaf) asked, “Are you enjoying this?”  I smiled, nodded.  She responded to my silent response with, “I am, too.  I saw the movie as a girl.”  She then turned to her sisters, and loudly said, “He likes the show, too,” accompanied by more verbal interaction.

Normally, I am usually irritated by loud talking during a show, but these ladies were so adorable that I did not mind.

After the show, we burst through the crowd to hurry home for three evening lessons – just making it in time.

Quintin and I closed out the weekend with a meal at Taco Bell, and spent a good 45 minutes chatting about life.

Back at home, I finished up some items and was sound asleep by 10:00pm.

A wonderful, wonderful weekend!

Since childhood I have always sensed energizing, protective, and unseen guiding presences in my life.  For several years a lovely lady visited me regularly during my sleep – or at least, what I thought was my sleep.  Today, at age forty-seven, I can still vividly recall this kindly woman’s moments shared with me from the age of four years until I was nearing junior high.  Often, these meetings included singing without any concern for waking my parents.  Other times, stories were told, Bible stories about the heroes were read, poems recited, or general small talk shared.  It was a year or so into junior high school that I realized the sweet lady had not paid a visit.  It seemed, however, she had been replaced by other motivators in my life, mainly music.

One day, perhaps around my sophomore or junior year of high school, my grandmother pulled out old family photos.  Many, many Sundays were spent going through the treasure trove of our family’s history told through photographs, but this particular Sunday, there was a different box, one I didn’t recognize.  Grandma Donna handed me some photos and after thumbing through several I recognized the sweet lady who visited me as a child.  It was my great-grandmother, Thelma Daugherty Barmes.

Sadly, seven years before my birth, Grandma Thelma was involved in a fatal automobile-train accident, expiring the following evening, January 16th, 1957, at 5:05pm.

Grandma Thelma was a wonderful musician; a pianist and vocalist.  One of my first vocal lessons came from my Grandpa Leroy as he relayed watching his mother teach a voice lesson when he was a small boy – Grandma Thelma instructed the student to keep the tongue down, and to sing towards the teeth.

In college, I became fascinated with the possibility of angels.  Several professor friends recounted personal anecdotes related to angelic activities in their own lives, prompting me to wonder if the visits from great-grandmother were – well, angelic visitations.

There are so many arenas dedicated to the study of angels.  I’ve scoured the topics, the varying beliefs, and the Biblical history of angelic beings, and I finally decided that since there will never be one consistent consensus on the topic, it would be my choice to accept the fact angels exist, knowing they had personally appeared throughout my life.  Today, I still believe I have an angel team that assists me in a variety of activities throughout my life-journey.  I have no idea who they are, or whether or not the same ones continually accompany me. Quite simply, I do not doubt their presence, and I trust them.

Over the past twenty years, or so, I have also come to recognize that fellow humans also serve a similar purpose just as the unseen-beings on my “angel team.”  I have countless experiences of brief encounters where someone, or some unexplained incident, has briefly, even momentarily, appeared alongside me on my life-journey to offer guidance, encouragement, or specific information I needed at that moment.

Coincidence?  Perhaps.

God acting anonymously?  Perhaps.

I do believe these positive beings are off-shoots, working on behalf of The Great Spirit.

Regardless who they are, what they are, from where they came, whether they are winged or wear halos, they simply exist in my life.  And how damned lucky I am for these special moments!

Last summer I was terribly ill, and it took me through mid-Autumn to fully recover my strength, and stamina.  My spirits sagged because I just did not have the mind-effort to write on the Wright Brothers musical.  I would open the file.  I would look at the words that suddenly appeared foreign and click shut the file.  It seemed as though my great-passion for this particular craft had died a sudden, unexplainable death.  I began searching for answers to the questions I proposed:

Does this musical suck? (Considering the combined talents of my wonderful, patient co-writers, Gail & Leslie, I knew the lyrics and music elevated my work)

Am I suppose to even be doing this?

Is something trying to tell me I should do something else?

It was a frustrating Autumn, and early Winter.  The most infuriating thing is that I have the ideal life as a writer, something not often afforded my friends and acquaintances who have been published, or produced.  I have my mornings and early afternoons free, and teach private lessons from approximately 3:00pm until 8:00pm.  One day a week I am at a middle school.  Since my sons have always been involved in extra-curricular music activities that often keeps them busy on Saturdays – another full, free day of writing.

My life is ideally set to fully, and passionately embrace this craft.  However, from the end of July, before I discovered my illness, to early winter, I felt absolutely dead inside.  I coasted through the holidays, and my post-Christmas vacation still found me emotionally uninvested, and dealing with the same illness, again.

This past Saturday morning I was reminded by my calendar text that there was a Writing Workshop set for Sunday at 2:30pm.  The workshop was geared for middle grade/young adult audiences, nothing actually to do with playwrighting.  I dismissed it.

Sunday morning something caught my eye while scrolling down Facebook. A terrific author, and inspiring personality, Katrina Kittle posted:

“Dayton Area Writers – TODAY (Sunday) at Books & Co from 2-3:30pm, hosting a free mini-writers’ workshop, taught by myself and the lovely Kristina McBride. The topic: Writing for Middle Grade and Young Adult Audiences.”

Meh.

I sort of dismissed it.

The sun, despite doing its thing on the opposite side of my house, was filling my bed/sitting room with a glowing radiance.  It seemed to beckon me for a hike with my teenage son and the three dogs. For several days I’d been dealing with a nasty situation involving an individual who felt compelled to self-appoint a mythical reign over a project for which I was serving as coordinator. That morning, after two nights of minimal sleep, pulsating pressure in the head, and the inability to fix the situation, I stepped back and handed over the reins.

Freedom.

A renewed energy quickly flooded my brain, my entire being.

Katrina Kittle’s reminder of the writer’s workshop reappeared on a later Facebook scroll.  For the first time in over six months I actually felt life creeping back into my soul.  I remember how invigorated I was when I heard Katrina speak about her novel, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, during one of our ACTION Adoption Service training sessions.  I had also attended several theatrical performances where Katrina played a psychologist assisting a patient through the horrors experienced both during the London Blitz of WWII, and years later on 9/11.  Katrina’s voice is captivating, and her spirit is invigorating, and infectious.

At this point I knew that my angel team was kicking in a God-wink.  Quintin and I discovered a movie he wanted to see (I did not) was at the same time, so we killed two birds with one stone. He hit the cinema, and I hit Books & Company.

As I grabbed my keys, preparing to leave the house, a song – one of my favorite songs – on Spotify began playing.  I sat down, and absorbed the message.

When a thing is wick, it has a life about it.
Now, maybe not a life like you and me.
But somewhere there’s a single streak of green inside it.
Come, and let me show you what I mean.

When a think is wick, it has a light around it.
Maybe not a light that you can see.
But hiding down below a spark’s asleep inside it,
Waiting for the right time to be seen.

You clear away the dead parts,
So the tender buds can form,
Loosen up the earth and
Let the roots get warm,
Let the roots get warm.

~ ~ ~

And all through the darkest nighttime,
It’s waiting for the right time.
When a thing is wick, it will grow!

The words to “Wick,” from THE SECRET GARDEN, was another God-wink for the day.

The workshop, led by Katrina Kittle and Kristina McBride, was my final remedy.  Within minutes of the workshop beginning, I realized the dead parts encasing my spirit were breaking through the earth.  That spark, as lyricist Marsha Norman explained in THE SECRET GARDEN, had been hiding down below, sleeping within… It was the right time.

After a meeting with a good friend I respect and admire, and another fun dinner with Quintin, I quickly returned home with the joy of the workshop’s reassurance beating within.  I opened my laptop, clicked on the file titled THE BIRD LET LOOSE, and opened the script.  Everything was familiar once again. There seemed to be a chorus of voices calling out from the pages, thrilled that I had returned. A reunion began.

It seems my angel team had led me, at the right time, to Sunday, January 8th, 2012.  Were Katrina and Kristina serving as angels?

Who can say.

For whatever reason, these two lovely ladies, as countless others throughout my life, were a piece of the puzzle that has continually courted me on this wonderful journey.  Perhaps some people, much like my family and teachers have always been, are the golden bricks that pave my own personal yellow bricked-road.

The passion is restored.  I am acknowledging, appreciating, and adoring my apprenticeship once again.

Can I say life is wonderful, and that I am so blessed?

You betcha!

‘1776’ – John Adams: “One useless man is called a disgrace; two are called a law firm; and three or more become a Congress.”

This afternoon, my 16 year old son, Quintin, and I drove 35 miles to Wilmington, Ohio to see Wilmington College Community Summer Theatre‘s production of  ‘1776.’  One of my Ball State University friends, Timothy Larrick, was to perform as Roger Sherman – “the simple cobbler from Connecticut.”

I was slightly hesitant when I read it would be a concert version, that several women would portray the delegates, andthat the director was also performing the role of John Adams.  I am always slightly leery of productions where directors involve themselves in the actual production.  Actually, I find it a tad bit on the tacky side.  Either direct the production, or perform in the production – do not attempt to do both as it seldom works, nor plays well.

The concert version was outstanding!   The focus was on the delightful script and music!  It was refreshing, to say the least.  I did not miss the costuming, the lighting, the scenic designs, etc..  The limited staging was most effective, and kept the show moving.

And the women?  Fantastic!  They blended in with the male ensemble, and carried their male-roles very well.  Stephen Hopkins, portrayed by Claudia Fowler, was not less funny, or growling.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with Steven Haines’ performance, and directing of this production which I found to be even more powerful, and poignant in the staged-concert setting.  Mr. Haines never once let me down for a second in his portrayal of one of my favorite presidents, and musical theatre roles.  As for directors performing in their own productions on purpose, Mr. Haines is a rare exception.

There were so many memorable performances…

Timothy Larrick as Roger Sherman…  Tim Brausch as Benjamin Franklin…  Wayne Dunn as John Dickinson…  Dean Feldmeyer as Richard Henry Lee…  J. Wynn Alexander as Thomas Jefferson…  Jack Filkins as Charles Thomson, secretary…

Bryan S. Wallingford mastered the role of South Carolina’s, Edward Rutlegde, so well, that I was actually despising the character as he attempted to squelch the movement.

Tricia Heys gave Abigail Adams an incredible multi-dimensional quality, and by the time we arrived as “Yours, Yours, Yours,” I was a tad damp around the eyes.  Her voice was lovely, and powerful to match John Adams’ mainstay, and her acting and beauty pulled you even closer to the patriotic-duo that helped lay the foundation of this country.

The last two-quarters of Scene Seven – the ending of the show – were incredible.  When the delegates had abandoned John Adams at the eleventh hour, I was on the edge of my seat with my stomach in a knot.

This is damned good theatre!  It was like seeing TITANIC… I know how the story ends, but if the production does what it should, I am pulled into their moment on the stage while abandoning any knowledge of history.  ‘1776’ certainly did the job!

As we were leaving, I told one of my friends, Aaron Jacobs, that this production had given me a fine dose of Vitamin-T (theatre) that I’d sorely been missing.  I felt rejuvenated, fulfilled, appreciative of the creators, appreciate of the WCCST, and most certainly, grateful for those true founding parents who stepped into treasonous roles knowingly fully well they were merely experimenting with a belief that they could succeed.

Ironically, I recognized a number of similarities between the portrayed Continental Congress, and our current Congress.  Nothing is ever accomplished quickly, and without agendas.

I wish there was a second weekend of WCCST’s “1776” as I would be shooing folks from The Miami Valley down to Wilmington this coming weekend.  And I would be returning, myself, to enjoy this production – again!

The company is listed as a community theatre; however, they were quite a notch above typical community theatre.   This was not community theatre.

This was DAMNED GOOD THEATRE!

Please be sure to check out Wilmington College Theatre Department and WCCST on Facebook.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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As TOY STORY 3 neared its premiere, I chuckled at the Facebook group, started by older teens, “get out of my way little kids… I’ve waited 11 years to see this movie.”

The first two movies were incredible, and I could watch them over and over. I remember taking children of friends to see the movie a number of times so that I could see each release repeatedly. The animation was incredible, and the story plots were entertaining, and captivating – even to a grown kid.

I have to admit that I was ager to see this movie, as well. I grew up in an era where imagination still ruled our play time, and the main toy-technology seemed to be our race car tracks, train tracks, and my portable Snoopy record player. Or was it Pluto?

My favorite toys were King Arthur’s Castle (a huge monstrosity), Johnny West Best of The West dolls (the cowboy version of GI Joe), my Magic Disney Castle (complete with a magnitude of hand-painted characters), my North & South Civil War set, and The White House – a plastic molded structure with 37 statues of presidents (Nixon was president). They required no batteries, no electricity, no television… just my imagination.

The TOY STORY series always delighted me because the main character, the boy Andy, had these incredible toys that were so much like mine… OK, so he did not have the nerdy Civil War or White House sets, but he had the toys that required imagination!

Jose and I went to see TOY STORY 3 Friday afternoon, and I was thoroughly delighted, and moved. Hearing actors Tim Allen and Tom Hanks reunited as Woody and Buzz was music to my ears, as were the talents of Don Rickles, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Estelle Harris, Laurie Metcalf, Timothy Dalton, and Bonnie Hunt.

The end of the movie is Andy leaving for college. I must admit, I was slightly choked up as mother and son had a few moments together. I remember how difficult it was for my mother when I, the eldest child, left home for Ball State University, and I was always contemplating next June when Jose graduates and leaves for basic training. I soon realized that I was one of the few in the crowded theater not sniffling, blowing his nose, or crying.

As we crossed the parking lot, Jose said, “I am not gonna lie; I was kind of choked up at the end of the movie thinking about having to say ‘good bye’ to you next summer when I leave for training.

Friday morning at 9:30am, Jose, Flyer and I left Kettering, and aimed westward for Indiana. We took the scenic route, and enjoyed it so much more. Jose and I had the best conversations on the way, and I was so glad that a teenager opted to share a lengthy conversation rather than plug his ears with his favorite tunes.

My cousin, Dana, and her family lives near Lynn, Indiana, and for some reason, I thought it was south of Richmond, Indiana. To my surprise, it is approximately ten miles north of Richmond. Nice little community – as well all those lovely towns along Highways 27, 1, 32 and 28. Winchester, Lynn, Fountain City and Farmland are exceptionally quaint little communities, still thriving with many hometown, downtown businesses. Jose was highly interested in the fact that these communities still maintained so much of their former charm – a charm I knew so well in nearly every city as a child.

One site that caught our attention, and interest on SR-32, just west of Winchester, was the stone entry to the former orphanage, long abandoned. The entrance had the words “Orphans Home” engraved, and the long drive led back to a circle of trees where the building once stood. It was a lovely area, but also one that seemed rich in history, and many sad stories.

We stopped at a Dollar General to buy a water dish for Flyer, and as I stepped out of the car in Albany, Indiana, I looked up and there was Rivar’s! Rivar’s is a dance/show apparel shop, built by former Ball State University Singers alumni. The Rivar sisters have a huge, competitive business that is known throughout the nation.

We pulled into Elwood around 1:00pm, and took Mother to lunch at Richards, one of our favorite haunts.

Back at Mother’s, I saw a tall, elderly gentleman looking at my car. Finally, he came to the door and spoke to Mother who eventually called me out. The neighbor was backing his truck out and rammed into the back end of the car which was parked off the street, and on the grass since there is no curb. He had already called the police out to make a report, and I filled out all the pertinent  information. The gentleman repeatedly mentioned something about a law about vehicles needing to be 18 inches off the street – however, Mother, who has been with the police department for nearly thirty years, and Diane at State Farm Insurance had never heard of this ordinance. I will go have an estimate made, and then send it to State Farm.

After a running a few errands, cutting up vegetables, and chatting endlessly, it was time for supper. We went to the local Chinese Restaurant, greeted by the VERY loud hostess.

The remainder of the evening was relaxing.

The following morning we left the house at 8:00am for Fowler, Indiana where my brother and his family lives. Fowler is one of my favorite spots in the world – it is just so relaxing, and I always seem to return refreshed, and energized. One of my favorite things is seeing the tall, futuristic-looking wind turbines

We arrived shortly before 10:30am and watched my nephew, Parker, play soccer. It was so hilarious watching those little peeps on the field!

Out at the Fowler Haasienda, lunch was prepped while I snapped photos of my nephews at play. Freddie, who is two and a half years, and my Godson, is a riot to watch in action. He is an exhausting little fellow to watch, but quite hilarious, and adventurous.

As always, lunch was delicious. My sister-in-law, Stacia, and her mother, Norma, always fix some of the tastiest dishes.

Just as lunch was finishing up, the guests for Parker’s birthday party began arriving.

Stacia and Destin led them through games, and other fun activities that captivated the lively little crew. While this was going on, Freddie was soaking himself, and Jose, with water from the kiddie water trough in the side yard.

Presents and cake were on the screened in porch – one of the neatest features of the farm… so relaxing, even in the 90-degree heat, and 1,000% humidity that bathed us. Eventually, a thunderstorm arrived, temporarily cooling off the temperature, but before long the steam began rising throughout the countryside sauna.

We left Fowler around 3:45pm, and arrived in Elwood at 5:30pm. We loaded the car, and were pulling out of Mother’s drive at 6:00pm. We retraced our Friday path, and enjoyed the little towns along the way, with more accompaniment of great conversation. We pulled into our own drive at 8:30pm, unloaded the car, went to Family Video so Jose could get a game, and then grabbed a Hot-N-Ready $5 pizza from Little Caesars. Finally, at 11:00pm, I was crawling into bed as a thunderstorm began raging.

A brief, but enjoyable trip.

And Monday, the official summer teaching schedule begins!

In 1986, while a student at Ball State University, I began writing a choral project on President Lincoln. Having been a fan of the 16th president since first grade this was a project I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, I had not read much on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The precious little information I had obtained led me to follow the belief that she was a hysterical shrew, and hell-cat as described by some of her less flattering contemporaries.

One movement in this proposed choral piece was entitled, “Love Is Eternal,” based on the inscription on Mrs. Lincoln’s Etruscan gold wedding band given to her on the day she married Mr. Lincoln, November 4, 1842. This movement was more a sarcastic treatment rather than one about true love. I began this portion thinking, “Oh, poor Mr. Lincoln, married to Mary Todd… how sad.”

My MTL Research Journey journey began with Ruth Painter Randall’s 1953 biography, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. I was soon scratching my head, and wondering why so many from her generation thought of her with such acidity. I began believing, “Oh, poor Mary Todd, married to Mr. Lincoln!”

A friend introduced me to Irving Stone’s, Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd Lincoln. Although I had some minor issues with Mr. Stone’s research, I enjoyed a year of correspondence between the famed historical fiction author, and his lovely wife, Jean. Mr. Stone’s sympathetic portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was, to me, quite enchanting, and terribly romantic.

Weighed with the enormous works of Ms. Randall and Mr. Stone, I soon began scouring Springfield, Illinois, and Lexington, Kentucky where Mrs. Lincoln was born, and lived the first score of her life.

In Springfield, I became friends with a darling lady, Charlotte Oglesby, the grand-daughter of former Governor Richard Oglesby, a friend of President Lincoln, and one of the two gentlemen to see him into the carriage as he and Mrs. Lincoln drove away to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I was also fortunate to meet Lou Holden, the director of The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky – the first home preserved to honor a first lady. I was delighted to get to know Ms. Holden, and the other staff members of the MTLH, and to further my research.

I also became acquainted with Carol Massey of Lexington – but this story shall wait for another time! It is quite interesting, and very…. well, we shall leave it at “interesting.”

I also became a frequent telephone pal with Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., author of the 1987 non-fictional, The Trials Of Mrs. Lincoln, a thorough account of the insanity trial, and the former first lady’s clever plot to legally restore her sanity.

Throughout those four years, I became obsessed with MTL’s story, and even worked with a BSU professor who was experienced in Victorian prose, and a local OBGyn who assisted me with the Nineteenth Century’s knowledge of gynecology, uncovering some of the claims made against Mrs. Lincoln.

Around 1988, I met, and fell in love with the phenomenal actress/vocalist, Kathleen “Katie” Pfister-Musick (photo at right). I knew immediately Katie was the right one to portray Mrs. Lincoln on stage, and after 24 years, I still believe she is perfect for the role.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio the summer of 1990, I put aside my script and score on Love Is Eternal, and absorbed myself in teaching, directing, conducting, traveling back and forth between Dayton and New York with various projects, and by 2000, adopting sons.

Now that life has slowed down a tad (no pun intended, of course), I began looking over the Lincoln musical, again.

Ironically, via Google Alerts, and Facebook, I became E-cquainted with a Mary Lincoln scholar, and actress, Donna D. McCreary, from Indiana. I was quick to learn she is also friends with a dear college friend, and exceptionally talented actor, J.R. Stuart.

The past few days, my new Mary Todd Lincoln E-friend and I have shared several interesting, amusing letters, and my laid-aside interest in Mrs. Lincoln is resurfacing.

1986-1990 took me on a fascinating journey with Mrs. Lincoln, and this coming Sunday I shall re-enter the ring as I present to the Dayton Lincoln Historical Society, a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, and his relationship with his mother.

And the weekend continues…

After leaving Wright State University’s production HELLO, DOLLY (see previous post), I chatted with Mother en route home. By 6:00pm, Jose and I were to two of our scheduled grad parties for Megan Weyrauch and Ryan Crouch.

We had a blast at both parties!

I got to spend time with the Weyrauch family and their guests – 95% of which were Fairmont band students.

They had a dunking tank in the back yard which was gathering much interest from the teens, as well as the trampoline, volleyball and food.

Megan was quite involved in the Fairmont music department – alto saxophonist, choir, show choir, and musicals.

This past marching season, Megan served as one of the marching band’s field commanders.

Megan is a beautiful young lady, and when you know her parents, Jim & Sherrie, and sister, Kaitlin, it is obvious why  this young lady is so special.

Megan will be heading to Wright State University this fall to study nursing.

You can visit her this summer at Kettering’s popular family joint, Magic Castle.

We left the Weyrauch home around 7:00pm and ventured back to our neighborhood for the Crouch party. Whereas the Weyrauch home was filled with band students, the Crouch yard was bulging with choir students – a completely different mix.

Ryan, like Megan, has been a super duper music trooper at Fairmont. Ryan was primarily involved with the choral program, but was also a noted piper! Ryan was in symphonic chorale – where he served as section leader and sometimes, student conductor; Fusion (vocal jazz) in which he sang, arranged, and often led rehearsals; show choir; and the musicals.

At graduation this coming Thursday evening, Ryan will conduct the senior choir in their final choral salute to their high school careers.

Ryan will be attending Bowling Green State University this fall, major in music education – choral.

I chatted with Ryan a bit – which is funny because I see him for 90 minutes each week, and we always have plenty to chat about.

I finally sat at a table with choir students to chat with Ryan’s girlfriend, Alex, and continued to give Bobby “Booby” Symes a difficult time.

Jose joined me at this table, and the Haas men proceeded to entertain their perspective halves of the long table.

Around 9:00pm, I joined several of the adults – John & Felicia Crouch, the Parretts, Tracey Witten, and a new couple I did not know – Rich & Bonita Palmer. Bonita looked familiar to me, but I could have passed her in the frozen food aisle at Kroger and still remember her face.

FINALLY… it was discovered that the three of us had not only been at Ball State together, but we three had been in the music department and marching band! We sat there for a good hour laughing about so many of our antics, and fun from BSU school department days. Rich had gone to school with Warren Central HS friends, Troy Allbright, and Shelley England – friends from Mid-America Music Clinics, and BSU, and Bonita had gone to high school with David Hall, another Mid-America camper and BSU music buddy! It was such a blast!

After the Palmers left, I sat chatting with the choir parents, and had a great time. However, I was appalled when I checked my watch and it was 1:00am!

Once we arrived home, I began preparing the potato salad for Sunday’s 2:00pm cookout at the neighbors. By 3:07am, I was finally in bed.

7:00am hit like a led pipe across the head, and I could not sleep. After the morning ritual, I prepared the potato salad, chatted with Jose, and sat down briefly to write this post.

At 12:30pm we will head to Delco Park in Kettering for Jill Cordonnier’s graduation party.

Jill began studying piano with me when she was six years old. Her feet did not touch the ground.

Around her fifth grade year she began studying saxophone along with piano, and developed into a fantastic threat to those in the Centerville Bands.

However, Jill’s main goal was to serve as field commander for the Centerville High School Band… and this she did for two successful seasons!

Jill has also been quite involved with the high school’s musicals – working on sets, or crew, and playing in almost all the pit orchestras. Jill’s dad, Michael, is the technical director, and manager for the Performing Arts Center at Centerville High School.

Jill, like Katie O’Neill (from previous post), has been like a daughter I never had.

This fall, Jill will enter Bowling Green State University, majoring in environmental management.

By 2:00pm, we will have returned home to join the Moore-Parker family for their annual cookout, along with our neighbors directly behind us, Bob & Chris Stephens. I always look forward to this gathering, as much as I do any Hoosier family gathering.

Around 4:00pm, or so, we will walk to the other side of the high school for a graduation party for Christina Suther, a marching band pal of Jose’s. Christina’s older sister, Vic, was one of my social studies students at Kettering Middle School.

Now, this is where the schedule becomes a little murky.

At some point we will end up at Old River Park for some canoe time, and then on over to Carillon Park for the Carillon Park Band, Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and the fireworks! I just am not certain of the time we will venture the 3 minutes north to the south edge of Dayton!

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46 years ago, Ball State’s Emen’s Auditorium opened…

46 years ago, the Ball State Singers were born…

46 years ago (this September), I was born…

46 years ago (this September), BEWITCHED premiered on television…

and…

46 years ago, HELLO DOLLY premiered on Broadway!

This afternoon, I was reminded of why I love the show so much! Wright State University’s theatre department produced another Stuart McDowell masterpiece with two so many outstanding performances by individuals, and a tight ensemble.

Of course, I was exceptionally proud of Will Hutcheson who played Barnaby…

…and Katie O’Neill who played Dolly Levi!

These two talents have evolved into incredible performers, and I cannot wait to see their careers flourish when they hit New York City this fall!

I have never thought of the main production number, “Hello Dolly” as a tear jerker, but it hit me this afternoon… much clapping and wiping away a few tears because I was so proud of these two future stars!

Thank you, Stuart McDowell, and the entire company of WSU’s HELLO DOLLY, and much love to Katie and Will!

Jeff Carter, my friend who is now the director of music at Webster University in St. Louis, always finds the neatest things. This was an incredible discovery!

http://jeffreycarter.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/candidate-record-on-the-arts.pdf

David Letterman has always been one of my favorite talk-show hosts. I found this article, and loved it.

Letterman wants to call sunset for late-night gig

Wed Sep 3, 1:27 AM PDT

David Letterman wants to stick with CBS’ “Late Show” through his contract — and maybe longer — as rival Jay Leno prepares to surrender the “Tonight” reins next year.

“The way I feel now, I would like to go beyond 2010, not much beyond, but you know, enough to go beyond. You always like to be able to excuse yourself on your own terms,” Letterman said in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine.

“If the network is happy with that, great. If they wanna make a change in 2010, you know, I’m fine with that, too,” Letterman said.

Letterman, 61, questioned why NBC is proceeding with its plan to remove Leno, who consistently tops the late-night ratings. Conan O’Brien will take over “Tonight” in June 2009, with Jimmy Fallon moving into O’Brien’s “Late Night” chair.

“Unless I’m misunderstanding something, I don’t know why, after the job Jay has done for them, why they would relinquish that,” Letterman said, adding, “I have to believe he was not happy about it.”

Letterman speculated whether “that’s actually what’s going to happen,” while acknowledging NBC might be too far down the road to retreat.

NBC is angling to keep Leno, 58, with NBC Universal but the late-night king has indicated he’s ready to jump ship. Eager NBC competitors, including other networks and syndicators, are prepared to help him make the leap.

Letterman, who called O’Brien “a very funny guy,” was asked about facing him as the new “Tonight” host. A cautious Letterman said he couldn’t predict the outcome.

“It will be weird to see Conan at 11:30, don’t you think? Which is not to say he can’t succeed, but, no, I don’t know what the competition will be like. I hope we’re able to do OK.”

In the Rolling Stone article, Letterman discusses guests including Madonna, Oprah Winfrey and Howard Stern, with the most moving remarks about musician Warren Zevon, who appeared on “Late Show” shortly before his 2003 death from cancer.

Letterman recalled his “heartbreaking” meeting with Zevon in a dressing room after the show.

“Here’s a guy who had months to live and we’re making small talk. And as we’re talking, he’s taking his guitar strap and hooking it, wrapping it around, then he puts the guitar into the case and he flips the snaps on the case and says, `Here, I want you to have this, take good care of it.’ And I just started sobbing.

“He was giving me the guitar that he always used on the show. I felt like, `I can’t be in this movie, I didn’t get my lines.’ That was very tough,” Letterman said.

___

I was browsing through the blog of my good friend, Jeffrey Carter, and listened to a recording of COME, THOU FONT, OF EVERY BLESSING. Jeff conducted the Ball State Concert Choir. Here is Jeff’s comments, and the link to the recording.

We closed my last concert with Concert Choir eight months later with Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of Come, thou fount of every blessing. If one can listen past the dyspeptic brass playing, this is great stuff. The men’s sound in the second verse is particularly thrilling, I think.

Come, Thou Font, Of Every Blessing

Here are several of my favorite videos from some musicals…

Josh Groban singing “Anthem” from CHESS (rehearsal)

Julia Murney and Sutton Foster singing “I Know Him So Well” from CHESS (rehearsal)

Sutton Foster singing “Someone Else’s Story” from CHESS (rehearsal)

And my absolute favorite…

Lea Salonga singing a tune written for MISS SAIGON, but with different words – “Too Much for One Heart” but known as the duet “Please”. “Too Much For One Heart” was originally in the show, but was cut…

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