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Do I want to blog about my Mom’s health, surgery?   12:48 AM Oct 10th

Can’t sleep tonight. Too many things.  Mind is racing.   3:40 AM Oct 14th

Doctor just gave us the good news! First time I’ve seen my Dad cry in years.   12:28 PM Oct 14th

Just saw Mom in CICU    1:21 PM Oct 14th

Had lunch with Kirsten. So good seeing her again.  Asks if I Twitter?   2:19 PM Oct 16th

Mom finally moved to her recovery room.  Time for me to breathe again.   12:34 PM Oct 17th

Heading back to NYC, but will be back in another week.  12:28 AM Oct 20th

Auditions, auditions, auditions.  If I have to play “Part Of Your World” one more time…   1:20 PM Oct 21st

Has it really been a month since my last blog entry?   2:43 PM Oct 22nd

Just “re-lived” the Bernstein “Mass” at Carnegie Hall. So proud of my friends. So moved by the music. 10:22 PM Oct 24th

Well, I guess DST is next weekend after all.   11:52 AM Oct 26th

Carnegie Hall: Pollini playing Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin. How classic(al).   2:34 PM Oct 26th

Hint #2: Last row of CH = leg room and behind-the-seat storage.   3:01 PM Oct 26th

Four encores! Including the G-minor Ballade! Grazie!   5:39 PM Oct 26th

Walking through Central Park.. Guess it has been a few weeks, there’s color on the trees and on the ground.   6:06 PM Oct 26th

Little girl, age 9 – “It smells like popcorn and horses.”   6:34 PM Oct 26th

Thank You, Matthew Weiner! -Can’t wait for Season 3!   10:55 PM Oct 26th

Pack-a-little, Post-a-little… Getting to head back down to Richmond for the week.   11:24 AM Oct 27th

The wheels on the bus keep going round and round. 100 miles to go.   8:37 PM Oct 27th

Being a ‘rent to the ‘rents today.   1:36 PM Oct 28th

Over at Steve’s right now taking a break from the parents. Soup’s On!   6:28 PM Oct 29th

Heard about this ( http://tinyurl.com/68y572 ) on NPR yesterday, downloaded the free(?) album today ( http://tinyurl.com/6hgqpz ) Mash-Up!   1:17 PM Oct 30th

Pumpkin & Coconut Brownie Ice Cream from Bev’s Ice Cream http://snipurl.com/4uzsi 8:07 PM Oct 30th

Happiness is a non-sold-out Bolt Bus. Two seats for the price of one.   7:31 PM Oct 31st

Off to MoMA for the last Member Preview Day of the new Miró exhibit.   2:06 PM Nov 1st

This exhibit keeps going and going and going… “Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement”   4:50 PM Nov 1st

Tracking a couple of friends in today’s marathon, and wondering how delayed the online results are.   11:58 AM Nov 2nd

Standing amid a sea of Silver, Blue, White and splashes of Orange! Inspiring!!   4:05 PM Nov 2nd

About to head out for some post-Marathon sushi with my brother and Maria.   5:58 PM Nov 2nd

Off to meet some friends for a morning-after-the-marathon breakfast. Could be interesting.   10:01 AM Nov 3rd

Times Square at 2:28pm EST – CNN Central http://snipurl.com/53wod 2:29 PM Nov 4th

Overwhelmed, but in a good way. The sense of Purpose and Hope was palpable in the midtown air (regardless of who you voted for).   6:14 PM Nov 4th

Just listening to the Cheering and Car Horns outside my apartment in Harlem!!!!!!!!!!   11:11 PM Nov 4th

OOPS! HA!!! ABC (in NYC at least) just interrupted their coverage for a Flomax commercial?!?!?!?!?   12:26 AM Nov 5th

Magnolia, Levain and Shake Shack all within seven blocks of each other… Is that a good or bad thing to know?   1:56 PM Nov 5th

At Lincoln Center about to experience Doctor Atomic.. And watching a lot of people trying to sell their tickets on the plaza…   7:30 PM Nov 5th

Intermission at The Met: People eating,drinking, chatting… leaving…   9:43 PM Nov 5th

Back at MoMA to catch the Kirchner once again before it closes… And the Van Gogh and Miró, of course   3:33 PM Nov 6th

Back at The Met tonight for the Berlioz. Technology and Art striving for their potential. I hope.   7:15 PM Nov 7th

Ah… The (Bittersweet) Hot Chocolate – with Marshmallow – from ‘wichcraft in Bryant Park http://snipurl.com/59hf1 3:52 PM Nov 9th

At Zankel Hall tonight for Jeremy Denk playing Ives Concord & Beethoven Hammerklavier. Monster program!   7:13 PM Nov 11th

Bravo, Jeremy Denk! Bravo!   9:52 PM Nov 11th

I was looking for an excuse to be lazy today: Thank You, Rain.   1:26 PM Nov 13th

Coolness in progress at MoMA http://twitpic.com/lrk1 3:43 PM Nov 14th

I wonder if they’ll have the Basil Hot Chocolate in Bryant Park today…   1:34 PM Nov 16th

More cupcakes coming to midtown Bway & 53rd… (Magnolia recently opened in Rock Center) http://snipurl.com/5n42q 2:45 PM Nov 16th

Thank you, Mr. Carfizzi and Mr. & Mrs. (Grant) Murphy for a wonderful recital. http://snipurl.com/5nlok 6:27 PM Nov 16th

Well, I thought I got here early enough to get in line for the movie. Probably #100ish, and still 30 minutes till they open   7:54 PM Nov 16th

“Slumdog Millionaire” – SEE THIS MOVIE! Thank You, Danny Boyle   10:35 PM Nov 16th

Everyone seems to be seeing snow this morning except for me – and I like snow!?!?   9:31 AM Nov 18th

ReTweet: @BravoTopChef Get ready! Spike is back and so are his shenanigans. Make sure to follow our boy tomorrow during the show   2:12 AM Nov 19th

Best lunch deal in Chinatown – 5 dumplings for $1 http://twitpic.com/mqr2 4:39 PM Nov 19th

Warming up with a Café Mocha at Abraço http://twitpic.com/mr4z 5:35 PM Nov 19th

Hmmm… No line… very tempting… http://twitpic.com/mra7 5:55 PM Nov 19th

What I’m playing this afternoon.. http://twitpic.com/mxqr 5:14 PM Nov 20th

Dinner at El Toro Partido – Torta! http://twitpic.com/ne8e 4:54 PM Nov 22nd

O Christmas Tree Stand, O Christmas Tree Stand… (145th & Broadway) http://twitpic.com/nvns 9:15 PM Nov 24th

On the Acela down to DC for the holiday weekend http://twitpic.com/o4xg 7:13 AM Nov 26th

@BravoTopChef Thanks, Andrew!   11:02 PM Nov 26th

Eat Well. Stay Safe. Happy Thanksgiving!   11:31 AM Nov 27th

Horse-Drawn Carriage rides in Carytown this weekend http://twitpic.com/osvq 5:21 PM Nov 28th

Then down to Cafe Gutenberg for dessert http://twitpic.com/ouyl    9:05 PM Nov 28th

My dessert: Oatmeal Stout Chocolate Float http://twitpic.com/ouz6 Yes! Beer (stout) and Ice Cream (chocolate gelato)   9:08 PM Nov 28th

Back at Bev’s Ice Cream – http://twitpic.com/p3kx Chocolate Chai with…   7:30 PM Nov 29th

With a Cranberry chaser – http://twitpic.com/p3lk 7:31 PM Nov 29th

My parents’ church actually has TWO late seating breaks during the mass.   12:22 PM Nov 30th

Who knew that my parents liked Vietnamese food? http://twitpic.com/p928 12:49 PM Nov 30th

Anderson Cooper swimming against Michael Phelps on “60 Minutes” tonight.   7:44 PM Nov 30th

Back on the bus back to NYC. Thankfully no one got trampled once the driver opened the doors, but there was definitely a throng.   7:29 AM Dec 1st

Take a Moment to Remember – World AIDS Day 2008.   9:44 AM Dec 1st

Happiness is a D (or A) Train across the platform.   3:49 PM Dec 1st

Anyone else going to the World AIDS Day “Bacharach to the Future” Benefit at New World Stages tonight? http://tinyurl.com/5jrv2j 3:54 PM Dec 1st

Condee Rice playing Brahms? I knew she was a good pianist, but… The Quintet is a LOT of notes! http://tinyurl.com/5q96px about 16 hours ago

Just saw a cop tie an elderly man’s shoes – I love New York City!   about 11 hours ago

It’s beginning to look a lot… http://twitpic.com/ps3q about 8 hours ago

I really should be asleep by now, but just came up with an idea for a new – and long overdue – blog entry.   about two hours ago

Well, I guess I am going to finish this blog entry tonight, well, this morning. -Who needs sleep?  27 minutes ago

Done! Publish. less than 5 seconds ago

http://twitter.com/JoseSPiano

At the end of last week, I managed to view the new Van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art three times: Thursday morning, Thursday afternoon, and Saturday afternoon. In other words, I decided to put my membership to MoMA to good use and take advantage of the Member Preview Days in order to avoid the inevitable crowds that will descend upon the museum once the exhibition opens to non-MoMA-Members. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I started drafting this entry that I realized there was a certain poetic coincidence in having the exhibit open on the First Day of Fall, or at least Fall Eve. Van Gogh’s brush strokes in various shades of yellow, brown and red, reflecting and complementing Mother Nature’s own autumnal palette change starting to take place a few blocks north in Central Park.

The exhibit, itself, is quite small in comparison to the usual retrospectives and blockbuster shows. However, it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish with a relative handful of canvases (just under 30 paintings), and a couple of drawings and lithographs. Although there were many masterpieces hanging on the walls of the galleries, I found myself drawn to the contents of some of the vitrines, the display cases in each room of the exhibition. And, so, on this First Day of Autumn, I would like to present the following “excerpts” from the current exhibit.

The first is an actual excerpt from a letter that Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, which is on display in the first room of the exhibit. Like the early works that surround it, the contents of this letter already begin to hint at Van Gogh’s later, trademark style.

The second excerpt is from the last room of the exhibit. Nothing hangs on the walls in this room, instead, contained in two vitrines (I just really like that word right now) are various books, both poetry and prose (in French, German and English), that were a source of inspiration for Van Gogh. While some of the books on display are “merely” original editions from various libraries and collections, some of them are the actual copies that belonged to Theo — which, more than likely, were given to him by his brother. When Van Gogh would come across a passage or a poem that piqued his interest, he would copy them into his journals, as well as in letters to his family, friends and colleagues. This particular poem happened to pique my interest too.

**********

November 2, 1883
. . .
When dusk fell — imagine the silence, the peace of that moment! Imagine, right then, an avenue of tall poplars with the autumn leaves, imagine a broad muddy road, all black mud with the endless heath on the right, the endless heath on the left, a few black, triangular silhouettes of sod huts, with the red glow of the fire shining through the tiny windows, with a few pools of dirty, yellowish water that reflect the sky, where bogwood trunks lie rotting… The day was over, and from dawn to dusk, or rather from one night to the other night, I had forgotten myself in that symphony.
. . .

**********

Pensée d’Automne (Reflections on Autumn)
Jardin du Luxembourg, November

. . .
Before the end of the day there is a time
When the sun, a weary pilgrim nearing home,
Turns around and looks back
And despite the toils of the day, is sorry it is evening.
Under its long gaze, mixed with a tear,
Muddled nature takes on a new charm
And pauses a moment, as in a goodbye.
The surrounding horizon turns fire red;
The quivering flower receives the dew;
The butterfly flies back to the rose it kissed,
And the bird in the wood sings in bright birdsong,
“Isn’t it morning? Isn’t that the East?”

Oh! If for us too, in this human life,
There were an evening hour, one moment that reignites
The loves of morning and their fickle flight,
And the fresh dew, the golden clouds;
Oh! if the heart, returned to thoughts of youth
(as if hoping — alas! — that it could be reborn),
Could stop, rise up, before faltering,
And give itself over, for a single day, to dreaming without growing old.
Let us take pleasure in the sweet day;
And let us not disturb this fortunate hour.
For the fields, winter is but a good short sleep;
Each morning the sky brings sun.
But who knows if the grave will have its spring,
And if the night will be relit for us by the dawn?

-Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869)
Translation by Jeanine Hermann and TransPerfect Translations

lagrandjattes.jpg

"White.
A blank page or canvas.
The challenge: bring order to the whole.
Through design.
Composition.
Balance.
Light.
And harmony.”

So begins Sunday in the Park with George. Book by James Lapine. Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The original Broadway production opened in 1984, and the Roundabout Theatre Company is currently presenting the first Broadway revival of it at Studio 54. This current production is a transfer (more or less) and a slight expansion of the critically acclaimed Menier Chocolate Factory (London) production from the 2005-06 season. I attended the show earlier tonight. I could go on and on for pages and pages about the show, the original production, the current production, the plot, the painting, etc., but I’d rather try to put into words some ideas, some ramblings that came into my head tonight as I watched the show. The show just started previews this past Friday, and does not officially open for a few more weeks. So, I’m going to refrain from reviewing it… Well, at least not comment in detail about it.

At its core, Sunday is about Art, Artists and Relationships. The Art here is Painting. The Artist here is a somewhat fictionalized George Seurat in Act 1, and his most definitely fictionalized great-grandson, also named George, in Act 2. The Relationships run the gamut: Artist and Subject, Man and Woman, Lover and Lover, Mother and Son, Mother and Daughter, Mister and Mistress, Man and Himself… However, none of that can begin to cover what happens during the course of the show’s two acts, and my apologies to those of you reading this post who may not be as familiar with the musical as I am. And, yes, Sunday in the Park with George is a show I know backwards and forwards.

All it has to be is good.

I never saw the original production of Sunday in the Park with George on Broadway.* The first time I saw the show was when it was broadcast on cable television in early 1986, and then again a few months later when it aired on PBS. By the time I had seen the show on TV, I was already infatuated with it via the cast album. Seeing the show, however, made me fall in love with it. The timing could not have been better. I was in my Senior year of high school. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to college, or that I even want to go to college at all. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to pursue Music on more than just a casual level. I kept asking myself, “What do I do next?” Well, the work of Lapine and Sondheim, coupled with that iconic physical production, answered that question for me. I learned it was OK to be an Artist, a Musician; at the very least, to pursue Music as a career. I also learned it was normal to be confused about the future, to not know what’s coming next. To find the joy in the possibilities. And so I went to college down in Richmond, VA, majored in music (piano performance), and graduated. Then came the usual post-graduation question, “Now what?”

Work is what you do for others, Liebchen,
Art is what you do for yourself.

After college, I somehow picked up a few decent gigs music directing and playing for shows in and around the DC area. However, my steady source of income came from working as a clerk at a music store in their sheet music department. It was an easy job for me since I had been one of the store’s more frequent customers; consequently, I was already familiar with their stocking and ordering process even before I was hired. That kept me solvent for a while, although I did end up buying quite a bit of music at the employee discount. In the fall of 1996, I was asked if I would be interested in playing the local auditions for the upcoming production of Sunday at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. -Yes! I was then brought up to New York City to play the auditions there. After a short break in the process, I started playing rehearsals in March, then moved on to playing keyboard in the pit for the run of the show. The show opened in April, and closed June 15, 1997. I had basically been with the show for almost seven months – from practically Day One to Closing Night.

The whole experience is one I will treasure forever. I discovered a lot about myself. A lot. It was also the first time I truly felt like a Professional Musician. It was my first Real Gig! And, best of all, I was making money doing what I loved. I was also blessed with a Dream Cast (at least in my head it was a Dream Cast), and a lot of close bonds were made – especially since I had met the members of the cast at their initial auditions. I was there from their Day One. I still remember after the final performance, after we had all packed up our stuff and were heading up to the cast party, going up to hug Sal Viviano, who had played George, and starting to cry. And cry. I know I cried for at least five minutes. Then I did the same thing a couple of minutes later when I ran into SuEllen Estey, who had played Yvonne/Naomi. They were tears of Gratitude, of I’m-Going-To-Miss-You, of I-Don’t-Want-This-To-End.

Alas, the very next morning, I found myself driving my grossly over-packed Ford Escort station wagon to my next gig. In the Amish Country of northwestern Indiana.

Read the rest of this entry »

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