Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mighty Craic in the Catskills

My blog posts have slowed down because I was in the Catskills from July 16 through July 22 attending Catskills Irish Arts Week in East Durham, New York. I took a traditional singing class with Roisin White of Northern Ireland as well as a master class with Julee Glaub of North Carolina. I also attended several great lectures, enjoyed many wonderful performances, and played flute in some marvelous sessions in the pubs around town. In the next few weeks there will be multiple posts on my adventures there, but at the moment I'm still savoring and digesting the experience.

I thought I'd ease my way into the heavier stuff by sharing the beauty of Greene County, New York. This map of NY State below shows that Greene County is about 150 miles north of Long Island, that bit of land at the southern tip of NY that juts eastward into the Atlantic. I drove up from Manhattan, the little island between the NY mainland and Long Island, not really visible on this map.

The hamlet of East Durham arranges itself around one road, New York highway 145. Every so often a side road like the one below branches off NY-145 and meanders into the countryside. I traveled on roads like this to and from the boarding house where I stayed. During the week I saw deer, adult and baby rabbits, a possum, a red tailed hawk, a family of wild turkeys, numerous chipmunks and squirrels as well as farm animals such as horses, cows, goats, and chickens. One of my housemates even saw a flock of peacocks crossing the road!

I stayed in a private Victorian guest house called. The Woodlands located in Roundtop, NY, 15 minutes from East Durham. (The owners rent it only occasionally, so please don't call thinking it is a year-round B&B.) My picture below shows a side view of the house and allows you to look across the spacious front lawn. Click on the link above to see the front view of the house as well as some interior shots.

Occasionally I was in the right place at the right time to see a beautiful sunset like the one below. Before I left NYC, I told a few people I was going to Irish music heaven for the upcoming week. They thought I was kidding. But with scenery like this, incredible music, likeminded folk, and plenty of Guinness, this week of Irish music in the Catskills is for me a bit of heaven on earth. Or, as the Irish would say, "the craic is mighty!"

© 2007, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Night at Keyspan Park

My husband Daniel is a college professor. When he's not teaching, he's likely to be found on a baseball field wearing an umpire's uniform. Readers of this blog know that my serious avocational interest is music. Well, for Dan, the equivalent of music is baseball. From March through October he officiates anywhere from 3 to 5 games a week for teenage and adult players. The difference between his serious avocation and mine is that he gets paid.

June 11 marked a significant umpiring event for Dan. That was the day he served as an umpire in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) high school senior all-star game. Each of the four umpires belonged to different umpire association. Dan was honored to be chosen to represent the Bronx Umpire Alliance.

The game was played Keyspan Park, NYC’s new minor league stadium, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Although the 7500-seat stadium was not nearly filled to capacity, the fans included a good group of spirited parents and friends as well as some college coaches - and at least one umpire’s wife. (That would be me, of course.) Although players and umpires alike behaved as though this were just another baseball field, I'm sure they were all absolutely thrilled to be at Keyspan. It's a beautiful ballpark.

Before the game began, I had plenty of time to roam around the stadium and take a few pictures. Situated in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, Keyspan Park is especially scenic. This shot was taken from a vantage point behind home plate looking down the first baseline. Beyond the right field fence is the old Parachute Jump ride, built in 1939 for the World’s Fair. It has an interesting history which you can read by clicking on the link above. The Parachute Jump is no longer operational and has been been declared both a national and a New York City landmark.

Beyond the Parachute Jump lies the Coney Island boardwalk and the Atlantic ocean. I've magnified a portion of the picture above so you can see the lights over the boardwalk and the ocean beyond.

The next picture was taken from the stands behind first base, looking toward second base at the scoreboard behind left field. The Keyspan sign above the scoreboard bears a replica of the roller coaster for which the Brooklyn Cyclones were named.

Approximately one mile beyond the scoreboard is Astroland Amusement Park which contains the famous Cyclone roller coaster, also a national landmark, which was built in 1927. It still thrills riders with its initial 85-foot drop and the violent jerks it delivers on the curves. Astroland is also home to the Wonder Wheel which is the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, soaring 150 feet into the sky. Built in 1920 and declared a NYC landmark in 1989, it has both stationary and swinging cars. (Click on that link, and watch til the end. This Ferris wheel may be scarier than the Cyclone!) Riders of the Wonder Wheel enjoy extraordinary views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Jersey Shore and the NYC skyline. Once again I've magnified a portion of my original picture. It shows the Wonder Wheel from a rather weird angle. You're looking toward the center support from a position you might take as you climbed into one of the cars. Looking behind the Wonder Wheel, you can see a bit of the Cyclone - the real one, not the replica on the scoreboard.

While I was gazing at the scenery, some of the umpires were having a pre-game pow-wow.

It rained a bit before the game, and everyone hoped that would be the end of the showers. However, towards the end of the first inning there was a pretty significant downpour. When the inning concluded, the umpires called a rain delay which lasted about 30 minutes and precipitated (pardon the unintentional pun) the later decision to conclude the game after eight innings. For those of you who would like to see more details regarding the game itself, I recommend the nice recap on the PSAL website, which also has some action shots of the kids. Here are my action shots of Dan.

... looking down the third baseline

... and now, signaling a home run that has just cleared the left field fence!

And here's our hero, heading to the locker room after the game. Please note, it was not raining.

Shortly after I snapped that shot, however, there was a sudden deluge. Groundsmen quickly moved in and covered the pitcher's mound and the home plate area.

Dan and I both got quite wet on our dash to the car. However, the rain did not dampen the thrill of umpiring at Keyspan Park. This will be a night to remember -- certainly the highlight of this season’s umpiring. So congratulations, Dan. I was very proud to be there and share this moment of glory with you. I wish you many more such games in future seasons!

© 2007, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Music at MMF (July 1, 2007)

Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship - which meets at 5 pm in Manhattan's 15th Street Friends Meetinghouse pictured above - has a number of capable musicians who rotate the responsibility of providing music for services. My turn rolled around on July 1st. In addition to accompanying the hymns I was responsible for a prelude, an offertory, and a postlude. That's a lot of music!

Since I currently practice flute and singing much more than piano, I decided to do a flute prelude consisting of a lovely Irish slow air plus the first two hymns of the service.

How Can I Live at the Top of the Mountain
Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise (St. Denio / Joanna)
I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Ellacombe)

My arrangement employs principles from the traditional Irish music as well as some classical stylings such as key changes, melodic variation and ornamentation to build to a climax. Click here to listen. (If you hear only a few clicks - no music - when the Quicktime player appears, try enabling Pop-ups. In Internet Explorer, look under the Tools menu.)

For the offertory, my son Michael accompanied me on guitar as I sang a song by John Bell of the Iona Community called Don't Tell Me of a Faith that Fears. The tune has a folksong quality, and the words are very thought-provoking. Unfortunately, the quality on this recording isn't very good. I nearly forgot to turn on the recorder so the piece is missing a few notes at the beginning. Later, the flute volume level rather overwhelms the little microphone in my mp3 recorder. Despite the technical difficulties, I think this recording merits sharing. Click here to listen.

For the postlude. I selected an African-American Spiritual called Steal Away to Jesus, arranged in 1940 by J. Rosamond Johnson who was featured in my March 15, 2007 post. Click here to listen. Beware: there's a long lead time before the music starts.

All in all, it was a lovely service. Michael and I received many nice comments and compliments about our song. He doesn't play in church any more often than I sing, so people were surprised as well as blessed. Providing music which aids and enhances people's worship experience is very satisfying indeed.

© 2007, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement