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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

The mezzo-soprano was in the middle of spinning the second phrase of "La flûte de Pan"…

Pour le jour de Hyacinthies,
Il m’a donné une…

…when the gentleman turned to his female companion and whispered something along the lines of "Oh, she sings well, no?  And in French too!"  The requisite head nods of agreement and self-confirmation soon followed.  I was seated in the second row of the small hall, and this couple was seated in front of me… In the front row.  During the pause before "La chevelure", the woman picked up her program, then pointed out where the next sets of texts and translations started…

Il m’a dit: "Cette nui, j’ai rêve."

Another set of head nods accompanied by some still-audible murmurings of the English translations, which I then realize were colored with a Germanic accent.

The whispering, the head nodding and program shuffling continued throughout Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, and I eventually realized that I was not alone in my irritation at the apparent lack of manners on display.  Other audience members in the immediate vicinity started to look over at them too.  At one point, I was about to put my hand on the shoulder of the gentleman as a way of silently saying, "Please, could you be more respectful of the Artists… Who just happen to be performing just six feet away from you!?"  However, I was afraid any sort of gentle physical contact would have prompted an ever more audible and demonstrative response, so I refrained.

After "Le tombeau des naïades" came to a close, there were a few moments of silence followed by a well-deserved and freely offered round of applause. As the applause died down, I was able to confirm that the couple sitting in front of me were indeed German – well, perhaps even Austrian.  The woman then turned around looking for some friends who were seated a couple of rows back, motioning them to come join her in the front row since the seats next to her remained unoccupied.  Apparently, her friends wished to stay put for the time being which resulted in the woman making even larger gestures in exasperation.  All I could think to myself was, "Good. They’re not to join her. That would just give her more people to talk to during the recital."

The house lights dimmed once again, the door stage left opened, and the Artists walked back onto the stage.  Of course, this only prompted the couple in front of me to re-shuffle and re-open their programs to the texts of the Schumann, followed by more audible whispering and head-nodding.  As the pianist played those first two pensive quarter notes chords, they were still whispering, talking to each other.  I just had to take action.  While gently placing my hand on the man’s right shoulder, I whispered….

"Silence, s’il vous plait."

Why I suddenly started uttering in French is beyond me, and I even ended up laughing at myself, to myself – inaudibly! – for a split second.  However, my very gentle protestation seemed to do the trick. Silence.

Seit ich ihn gesehen, glaub’ ich blind zu sein;
Wo ich hin nur blicke, seh’ ich ihn allein;
Wie im wachen Traume schwebt sein Bild mir vor,
Taucht aus tiefstem Dunkel heller, heller nur empor.

Sadly, halfway through "Du Ring am meinem Finger", the women raised her program up to eye level, pointed to something, and then nudged her companion to look at what she was looking at: the pianist’s program biography.  And, yes, during the brief piano postlude that completes Frauenliebe und -Leben, they started conferring with each other again, long before the pianist extinguished the ringing of the final notes by releasing the damper pedal.  Intermission.

As I re-setttled myself in my seat, I noticed that the woman’s friends had gone ahead and joined her in the front row for the second half of the program.  What is the German for "Please, be quiet"? Fortunately, the other couple seemed to be on their better behavior. Truth be told, it seemed that the husband did not really want to be there, and he remained slouched – and silent! – in his seat throughout the Harbison and de Falla song cycles.  The woman and her companion also seemed to be a bit more settled during the second half, although, I could tell they were questioning exactly what an "aerial" was during "Ballad for Billie I" – more finger-pointing and whispering.  Then there was the rhythmic head-nodding and hair-bouncing during the more dance-inspired selections of the Siete canciones populares Españolas, "Jota" seemed particularly motion-inducing.  Even I will admit to air-playing along with the right and left hand patterns of the guitar-invoking accompaniments from time to time, but at least the pressing of my fingers against my jeans produced no sound unlike the slight jangle of the woman’s earrings or the scuffing of her blond curls against her companion’s nylon jacket…

Dicen que no nos queremos
Porque no nos ven hablar;
A tu corazón y al mio
Se lo pueden preguntar.

This was my second vocal recital in as many days.  The night before, I had attended Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s recital in the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall.  This night’s recital was being held in the more intimate(!) Weill Recital Hall, and featured the mezzo-soprano, Sasha Cooke, filling in for an indisposed Joseph Kaiser.  Song recitals hold a special place in my heart.  While I was in college, I discovered the true Joy and Beauty of the Human Voice, and I subsequently devoted a good chunk of my studies to Classical Art Song Literature as both an Accompanist and a Singer.  I accompanied voraciously.  There were a few times when I had up to 15 voice majors to play for during the end of semester juries.  -I still have the three-ring binders filled with all the Xerox copies of all of that repertoire! I even sang a few juries myself.  I was also blessed with a wonderful Song Literature teacher and departmental Vocal Coach who was more than happy to let me sit in on other singer’s coachings from time to time.

When I saw the program for Sasha Cooke’s recital, it was like seeing a couple of old friends.  I had studied the Debussy, Schumann and de Falla songs while I was in college.  (The Harbison cycle, "North and South" was written a couple of years after I had graduated.)  Although I was looking forward to hearing Liszt’s "Petrarcan Sonnets", and the selection of Rachmaninov songs on Joseph Kaiser’s originally scheduled program, I had heard the Liszt earlier this season, and the Siberian baritone had more than satisfied my Russian romance requirements for the time being. Being familiar with Ms. Cooke’s program allowed me to put my program and translations in my bag, and just sit back and enjoy the recital.  Just Watch and Listen. Alas, I found myself watching and listening to other things during the course of the recital.  -Thankfully, there were no errant cell-phone rings during Ms. Cooke’s recital, unlike the night before during Mr. Hvorostovsky’s concert – at least four times! – and always during the quieter sections!!!

Being a somewhat-former somewhat-performer myself, I really do try my best to be the Perfect Audience Member (PAM, for short).  I arrive at the hall early enough to get seated, and if I know I am sitting in the middle of the row, I will make sure to take my place early enough in order not to inconvenience the others in my row sitting to the side of me.  I dress appropriately.  -Although due to an oversight on my part – "Oh, the recital starts at 7:30, not 8:00!" – I was not able to run home in time to put on more presentable clothing, and I ended up feeling a bit self-conscious as I sat there in the second row in my half-zip fleece pullover.  I turn my cell-phone off – even "vibrations" can be heard. If needed, I keep my paper-wrapped Ricola’s in my hand ready to go at a moment’s notice. And if I’m not that familiar with the repertoire, I read the program notes and translations beforehand so that I can devote my full attention to the stage, and not have my head buried in the program reading along and cross-referencing the song text with the translations.

As I sat there listening to and watching the Artists and my fellow Audience members, I began to wonder just why I was being distracted by the low murmurs and the shuffling of the programs? If I really was paying full attention to what was going on on stage, then I would not and should not have been distracted by anything else going on around me.  Right? Was I no longer the PAM I prided myself on being?  Had I suddenly become one of Them?

With vocal recitals, in particular, I find myself from time to time wanting to advise some of my fellow audience members to Look Up and Listen.  Stop reading along.  Stop trying to match up each German word with the corresponding English word.  The Singer is Singing.  Communicating.  Just let the Singer Communicate with You, to You.  A related annoyance occurs whenever I attend a piano recital where Ravel’s "Gaspard de la Nuit" is being played.  Inevitably, there will be people reading the texts and translations of the poems (if provided) that inspired the triptych, seemingly trying to match up the French and English(!) syllables with the piano figurations.  But again: Why do I notice such things?

After a bit of theorizing – and, boy, did I come up with some far-flung theories – the answer to that question suddenly became quite obvious.  If I was on that stage, I would want an audience filled with PAMs.  A bit narcissistic, yes, but not an unreasonable request.  Whether I was playing a Beethoven sonata, a Chopin ballade, or accompanying a singer or instrumentalist, I would want – and hope – the audience to Listen.  A Musician’s life has good a deal of isolation built into it.  A practice room can truly be the most "separate" place anyone can know, an inherent loneliness.  Before a piece of music – or even just a brief phrase of it – can be shared with others or just your teacher, it must be pored over, dissected and repeated many times over, and the only ears that ever hear it during that process are your own.  At times, it can seem like you are forcing yourself to listen to the music.  Or vice versa.  But then you reach that point where you want another set of ears to take in what you have been creating and re-creating.  Music is Sound, and Sound is meant to go through the air.  To borrow another analogy: If a pianist plays Chopin’s "Revolutionary" Etude, and there is no one in the audience to hear it…

I guess I should give my fellow audience members a break, or at least not allow myself to get so upset when such distractions occur.  I was already feeling slightly uncomfortable sitting in Weill Hall dressed in a more casual manner than I would have liked, but then to have them right in front of me – and right in front of the Artists – well…

As the encores started, something almost miraculous happened.   -I noticed this night before during Hvorostovsky’s recital too.  Yes, there were a few mutterings throughout the audience as the pianist began playing the introduction – "What piece is this?", "Ah, very nice!" – but once Ms. Cooke started singing…

Yeshjo f paljah beleyet snek,
A vody ush vesnoi shumjat,
Begut i budjat sonnyi brek,
Begut i bleshjut, i glasjat…

There was no translation to consult. There was no program to rustle. There were just two Artists on stage. Playing and Singing.  Sharing and Communicating. And for a few minutes – during Rachmaninov’s "Spring Waters" and the haunting aria from John Adams’ "Doctor Atomic" – the hall was filled with PAMs.  Listening. Receiving. Remembering. Smiling.

And, yes, she sang very well. And in Russian too!

*I would be sorely remiss if I did not mention the fine pianists who performed along side these fine singers:  Ivari Ilja did the honors for Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Pei-Yao Wang was Sasha Cooke’s musical partner.

blue1.jpg

As I was leaving my apartment today, I glanced at myself in the mirror in the hall… Boy, that’s a lot of Blue! Alas, that’s the not the first time I’ve had that "revelation" in regards to my attire. My favorite color is Blue, and I buy a lot of Blue-colored clothing. So, today, as I looked at myself in the mirror for those few brief moments: Blue jeans, Blue oxford shirt, Blue coat, Blue knit-cap… Even my sneakers, which have some white and yellow on them, are basically Blue. My t-shirt today was actually Green, but we all know that Green is just Yellow and Blue mixed together. And, yes, even my underwear was Blue today. And if this were the Spring or Summer, and I happened to have my favorite water bottle in tow with me… Well, there’s no guessing what color that is.

When I got on the D Train (the Orange Line) to head downtown (I did not take the A Train, a.k.a. the Blue Line), I started looking around the train car to see just how much Blue there was out there in the world today.  A jacket here there.  A scarf there.  A few baseball caps – Mets, Yankees, "Go Giants!".  However, the most prominent color on the train – besides those strange MTA hues of Orange and Yellow-Orange – was Black.  Black overcoats.  Black down jackets.  Black scarves.  Black jeans.  Black boots.  And the more I looked around, the more Black I saw.  When did Black become a Winter color?  Was it caused by some sort of hyper-adherence to the "No White After Labor Day" rule?

After transferring over to the F Train (also part of the Orange Line), then getting off at 14th Street, and walking east for a few blocks, I finally reached my destination: the Green Market in Union Square. Lots of Colors there!  Green Cabbages and Brussel Sprouts. Orange Carrots. Magenta Beets. Purple-crowned Turnips. Yellow Bell Peppers. Amber Maple Syrup. Red Apples. Off-White Parsnips. Swiss Chard fanned out in a veritable Rainbow. And, yes, there were even some Blue Potatoes.

blue2.jpg

What is the announcement they’re making?  I can barely hear it….

"This train will be bypassing 145th Street…"

Oh, guess I need to get off here and walk the rest of the way home.  No biggie, it’s not that far.

Come up to street level.  Notice two abuelitas doing pretty good business selling their tamales de Oaxaca from their (shopping) carts.  Champurrado? Nah, I just had dessert.

Start walking up Broadway… Hear a commotion, a fight in the near distance…  Finally see the fight: a "crack ho’" and her "man".  Wow! That’s a lot of expletives.

Pass the "man" who is still yelling at his "ho’" who has walked up the block.

Call my friend, "Well, see what I get for riding the train home with you?…"

Pass the "ho’" as she goes to a pay phone. There are still payphones in New York City? Can see that she’s dialed 9-1-1.

Can still hear the fight behind me as I continue walking.

Notice that the Puerto Rican/Dominican restaurant that opened last summer has changed names again.  For a third time.  Hmmm, the menu and decor still look the same.

Sounds like the fight is still going on, but fading in the distance.  Should I be hearing police sirens by now?

Pass another restaurant that has just closed for the night.  Sort of surprised to see the staff counting out their money on the front table by the window.

Turn onto 145th.  Oh, I guess the abuelita that is normally here went down to 137th.

Notice that a woman is locking up her hair salon.  Her five(?)-year old daughter really wants to go home.

Pass the Tacos Express truck.  Sopes? Carnitas?  Nevermind…

Cross Amsterdam.  Still wondering if "Jesus’ Taco" is pronounced GEE-zuss or hay-ZOOSE.  And why is it paired with a Twin Donut?

Pass the Cajun restaurant.  Members of the band still on the sidewalk, talking… "Well, he grew up lovin’ white women all his life…"

Turn onto St. Nicholas.

Enter building.  Enter apartment.  Yes, the radiators are working.

12:34am

God, I Love New York!

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