Sunday, January 24, 2010

Music in the Mountains and on the Subway

On January 16, 2010, the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra performed in Queens at the New York Irish Center. Our pianist, Brendan Dolan, was giving a lecture called Music in the Mountains. This fascinating talk focused on a region of the Catskills where Irish Americans have vacationed for generations. Brendan researched this topic for his master's degree in Irish and Irish-American Studies at New York University. The event was well attended and the food was great. Click here to see the New York Irish Center's report which includes a few pictures.

I traveled to our gig by subway. Nothing unusual about that. I was plugged into my iPod listening to a recent CD by Green Fields of America. The WSHSO plays many of the tunes on particular CD, so I was tappin' my foot and gettin' in the groove for the evening's performance when a young woman named Lisa interrupted me. Lisa explained that she was interviewing people for her blog called What Are They Listening To On The Subway. We chatted, she made careful note of my music and snapped my picture. In just a few minutes my routine subway ride was turned into a real New York adventure. Click here to see the post. Thanks, Lisa, and good luck with your project!

© 2010, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My New Flute!

It arrived on Christmas day. A post office deliveryman rang my doorbell at 10:56 AM and handed me the package I've been waiting for since May 8, 2008. My new flute is finally here!

My Merry Christmas!
A new coat (with tags still dangling from the sleeve), a new watch, and a flute!

The flute Peter Noy made for me is a six-keyed boxwood flute. The head joint is unlined and unthinned, with a Cooper cut embouchure which includes a blow edge insert made of horn. The rings which reinforce all the joints are made of horn as well. Modeled after the Rudall & Rose 19th century flutes, it has rather large Nicholson-style finger holes. The middle joint is divided. With six keys, it is a fully chromatic instrument. The traditional Irish repertoire doesn't use the flute's third octave, but this flute does in fact have a viable and pleasant sounding third octave.

The flute, cleaning rod, and humidifier rest in modified art supply case.

The head crown of my flute was made by Catherine Crowe of Toronto, an enamel artist and traditional Irish singer I met in the Catskills. Unbeknownst to me, Peter and Catherine have been friends for years, which is how Peter came to have the enamel crown Catherine made. Reading my blog posts, Peter recently discovered that I knew Catherine as well and suggested I might like her crown on my flute.

Catherine's art uses patterns and objects that draw their significance from the folklore of ancient Celtic, Scythian and Etruscan cultures. The pattern she used for the flute's crown is the Celtic triple spiral. According to Catherine, The triple spiral is one of the oldest Celtic designs. It was in use from the 7th century BC right up to the present. This particular one is based on an enamelled escutcheon from around the 7th century AD. (Click here for more information)

Interestingly, Catherine's triple spiral is very similar to Peter's logo which incorporates a stylized representation of the three-pronged trillium, the emblem and official flower of Ontario. The trillium holds special significance for Peter because he grew up in Ontario and lived in Toronto for many years.

Like the flute makers of old, Peter engraves his logo on each section of the flute. The main stamp, to the right of the right-most ring in the picture below, has the letters NOY arranged in a semi-circle under the trillium shape. From this photo's prespective the stamp is on its side, with the N at the bottom. The main stamp is located on the flute's third joint. The stamp Peter uses on all the other joints is simply a very tiny trillium, as seen on either side of the left-most ring. You can see these a little better, especially the one on the lighter piece of boxwood. Double-click on the picture below to enlarge it.

At first I thought Catherine's design was a fancier form of Peter's logo. However, in email conversation with both Catherine and Peter, I realized that each design was distinct, with its own meaning and story. It's a rather an uncanny coincidence that the two are so similar!

In the end, I came to appreciate the synchronicity of my flute's two symbols. It reminds me of the ribbons in a Celtic knot, twisting through both personal and historical circumstances. All of the Canadian provinces, including Ontario, took in many immigrants from Ireland, particularly during 1800's as a result of the Great Famine. As a result, Ontario has a rich and lively Irish community, with an Irish Canadian population of approximately two million people according to the 2006 census. Living in Ontario and participating in the Irish community, both Catherine and Peter would have been exposed to many Celtic patterns over the years. Likewise, I'm sure they both would have seen the trillium represented in many forms for various reasons. In an email exchange with Peter about the relationship of his trillium logo to the triple spiral, he concluded it was what Joyce called " the ineluctable modality of the visible." (and if you need help with that statement, as I did, click here)

In closing, here are a few more pictures. Actually, taking good flute pictures is quite difficult. One needs a much better camera than mine and proper lighting to prevent the the flash or the sun from reflecting off the finish and distorting the rich hues of the wood. Nevertheless, I hope these photos will give you some idea of the marvelous workmanship that goes into a Peter Noy flute. I'm just thrilled with it. Bet you never would have guessed!!

© 2010, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Friday, January 01, 2010

Testing the Times Square Ball

This year I had to work on December 30, 2009. I was happy about going to work on this particular day because being in the office meant I would be able to watch the test of the New Year's Eve ball drop. From the 30th floor of the Times Square office building where I work, I had a great view of an event which very few people get to see. Naturally I took a few pictures.

Here, the unlit ball is resting at the bottom of the pole behind the Toshiba sign.

Here's a closer view of the ball, showing one of it's many colored patterns.

The test of the ball went well, as you can see below. Using iMovie I was able to splice together several short video clips taken with my digital camera. The background music is Ramsey Lewis playing What Are You Doing New Year's Eve. Have a look!

(Tip: the video quality is better if you don't go to the full screen view. It's a rather old camera.)

Two years ago I wrote about the 100th Times Square Ball-Drop. Last year a new ball was installed. The Times Square Alliance website describes last year's ball as follows: "The new Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball is a 12 foot geodesic sphere, double the size of previous Balls, and weighs 11,875 pounds. Covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals and powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDS, the new Ball is capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns producing a spectacular kaleidoscope effect atop One Times Square."

For the 2009 ball drop, the new 2008 ball was modified to include 288 new Waterford crystal panels. The clear glass panels have a swirling Celtic design with a colored icon in the center. The YouTube video below offers more details and shows closeups of the panels.

Twenty-Ten... 20-10... It has rather a nice ring, don't you think? It's a number that is fun to say aloud. (Remember how pleased you were when you realized you could count backwards?!) We can't turn back the clock. I'm not even sure we would want to. (Ok, I lied - maybe we could turn it back just a little bit!!) All kidding aside, though, hopefully 2010 will be an upbeat year in which we take more joy from the basic, simple pleasures of life and focus on what's really important.

Happy New Year!

© 2010, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement