Bill Murray and Classical Music?

I attended a unique concert that paired Bill Murray orating and singing American classics with three musicians performing classical and musical theater hits. I was intrigued and slightly skeptical going in and satisfied and elated going out.

The crew is touring for an album they released called New Worlds. Bill Murray reads and sometimes acts out excerpts of the writing of Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, and Billy Collins. In between his orations, Jan Vogler, Mira Wang, and Vanessa Perez perform excerpts of works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Schubert, and Maurice Ravel. I was impressed by the power of Bill’s singing voice. The man has pipes.

Bill was himself…comedic and goofy one minute, deadpan and apathetic the next. The musicians were superb and treated their instruments like living, breathing things. They got the audience involved by inviting us to sing along to such disparate songs as “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess and “Loch Lomond,” a traditional Scottish song.

On paper, it’s weird, but in reality, it works. If it comes to your town, go!

 

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Gloria and Dan

I saw two 20th-century icons speak recently: Gloria Steinem and Dan Rather.

Gloria was a keynote speaker at the opening night of the Massachusetts Conference for Women. I hadn’t  attended the conference before, so the opening night was a good overview of the event. The exhibit hall was impressive: areas for career resources, nonprofits, female business owners selling their products, and multiple authors available for book signings. There were other keynote speakers that evening as well, but my friend and I only tuned in for Gloria.

I wish I could pass on some nuggets of her wisdom, but since my dad’s sudden death, most of my day-to-day thoughts and memories are crowded out by my thoughts and memories of him. I do recall that she was fierce, real, and optimistic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan is touring with his recently published book with Elliot Kirschner, What Unites Us. Again, I don’t remember a word he said, but he was also fierce, real, and optimistic. I saw him speak on the one-month anniversary of my dad’s passing, and I fell asleep that night wishing that I could tell my dad all about it, since he was a fan of 60 Minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m trying to get back in the saddle regarding the birthday list, but I’m taking it slow and will give myself an extra month or two to complete it. Bear with me, dear readers.

 

Learning About Armenia

I walked into the Armenian Museum of America not knowing a thing about Armenia, except that its people suffered a genocide (but I had no idea when). At first glance, it looked like a small museum…but I spent almost two hours there.

There were many beautiful artifacts and artworks:

Armenian Museum artifacts

Armenian Museum artifacts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was thrilled to see a Yousuf Karsh exhibit. Born in Armenia, he was a famous photographer who took stunning portraits.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The term “genocide” was first coined by a lawyer who was studying the events that led to the extermination of 800,000+ Armenians between 1915 and 1917 by the Ottoman Empire (later known as Turkey). What can I say about this…no words suffice. I’m glad to be informed about this horrific time in world history, but I struggle to comprehend such evil.

The Armenian Museum is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighborhood of Watertown, Massachusetts.

Make Trouble

John Waters is one of those artists whom I love without even having seen most of his work. I just know that I love him. Now that I’ve seen him in person, I feel a stronger urge to study his oeuvre beyond my viewing of Hairspray in 1988.

A couple of months ago, he was visiting my local bookstore to promote the publication of his new book Make Trouble, which is essentially the speech that he gave at the 2015 Rhode Island School of Design commencement. I had read the speech online and did it make me chuckle!

During the interview, he was witty, charming, blunt, and seemingly down to earth. I didn’t have time to have a book signed that night, but I truly hope I get to meet “the prince of puke” someday.

John Waters

John Waters (right) being interviewed by Chris Castellani.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Scots

I have an affinity for Scotland, since many of my dad’s maternal ancestors lived there. When I think of Scotland, I think of wild and windy remote areas and tough, headstrong people who like to have a laugh. I’ve only ever been to Edinburgh—it’s a beautiful city—but I hope to return someday to visit the ancestral homeland and the wild and windy remote areas.

So I was grateful to have the opportunity to see two great Scots speak last week: Alan Cumming and Harry Benson.

Alan Cumming is simply amazing. He acts, he sings, he writes, he photographs. Many people who watch TV know him from The Good Wife; I’ve known him from his movies in the ’90s. And as the Masterpiece Mystery! host, of course.

He was in town to promote his book You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams, composed of brief life stories accompanied by photos he’s taken. I could have listened to him tell stories for hours. He seemed so down-to-earth, charming, and witty. I think Scots have their very own version of a smirk and eye twinkle.

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He signed books afterward but I didn’t have it in me to stand in line that particular night. But I do love him! I hope he brings his sappy songs concert to New England sometime.

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He particularly enjoyed telling the story of meeting Oprah, who inspired the title of this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had never heard of Harry Benson, but when I read the description of the documentary about him—and read that he would be in attendance at a local screening—I had to attend. I wish I could be Harry Benson, one of the world’s most prolific photojournalists. He grew up in Glasgow, getting his start at a local paper and then moving on to the cutthroat atmosphere of Fleet Street in London.

He was asked to photograph the Beatles’ first visit to the States in 1964 and things just went up from there. He has photographed pretty much every celebrity throughout the past 50 years, including 11 U.S. presidents. He was there when Martin Luther King was assassinated and when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. He photographed the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Somalian refugees in the 1990s.

Calling him driven and hardworking is an understatement. But he also was able to connect with loners such as Bobby Fischer and Michael Jackson and gain the trust of countless celebrities and political figures. His sense of humor and no-nonsense style shone through in the documentary, and in real life when he answered questions from the moderator and the audience at the screening.

Both he and Alan survived bleak childhoods to share awe-inspiring talent, grace, and humor with the world. It was thrilling to hear these successful artists share their life stories.

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry's wife, Gigi; Harry, Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry’s wife, Gigi; Harry; Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

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BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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