Friday, October 26, 2007

Natalie MacMaster ...A Performance to Remember

Recently I visited my daughter and son-in-law, who live in Columbia County, New York. They invited me to join them for a concert featuring Natalie MacMaster and explained that she is an extraordinary fiddler from Cape Breton Island. That was all that I knew about her and I had no idea how exciting the evening would prove to be.

From the minute that Natalie came on stage the audience was mesmerized. Her energy is not to be believed. She is an accomplished dancer as well as a fiddler and she combines both talents in her performance.

Natalie’s nimble fiddling ranges from traditional and contemporary Celtic melodies to folk music and even some classical symphony pieces. She was accompanied by a simple quartet consisting of piano, cello, drums and a young man who played a variety of instruments, including bagpipes, flute, guitar and banjo.

Besides her magnificent stage presence I was impressed with the warmth of her interchanges with the audience. She encouraged them to clap or dance or show signs of enjoyment at any point in her performance. She also shared her show with a local group of young fiddlers. They were High School students from Dutchess County, NY called “The Strawberry Hill Fiddlers” and she actually invited them to accompany her on stage. What a thrill that must have been for those youngsters to have Natalie give her time and her encouragement to them.

To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. When I arrived back at my daughter’s home I emailed one of my blogger friends…AC of Raindrops… to see if he’d ever heard of Natalie. He lives in Canada, is a violinist and loves folk music. This was his reply email: “Natalie is perhaps the most famous Canadian fiddler. Six years ago, we were introduced to her mother in the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou which is in Cape Breton. Two of the Rankin sisters (my favorite group) now own that pub. I have also heard her husband. He belongs to a group that hails from not far away from here -- Leahy. They are a family and they all fiddle. Somewhere, I have a CD of theirs, but I don't have a Natalie CD.”

Isn’t it fun when we bloggers can communicate like that? Natalie had mentioned her husband and family to the audience and even shared that she was nursing a 3 month old baby between breaks! She now has two children and they (and her mother) travel with her.

She must have tremendous stamina in order to be able to sustain a live performance of that caliber. Her talent and enthusiasm were awe inspiring and it was an evening that I will remember forever.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Four 1910 Post Cards tell the story of “The Volunteer Organist”

“The preacher in the Village church one Sunday morning said:
‘Our organist is ill today, will someone play instead?’
An anxious look crept o’er the face of every person there,
As eagerly they watched to see who’d fill the vacant chair.
A man then staggered down the aisle whose clothes were old and torn
How strange a drunkard seemed to me in Church on Sunday morn.
But, as he touched the organ keys, without a single word,
The melody that followed was the sweetest ever heard.

The scene was one I’ll ne’er forget
As long as I may live,
And just to see it o’er again
All earthly worlds I’d give;
The congregation, all amazed,
The preacher old and grey,
The organ, and the organist
Who volunteered to play.

Each eye shed tears within that church,
The strongest men grew pale,
The organist in melody
Had told his own life’s tale.
The sermon of the preacher
Was no lesson to compare
With that of life’s example
Who sat in the organ chair.

And, when the service ended,
Not a sole had left a seat
Except the poor old organist
Who started toward the street;
Along the aisle and out the door
He slowly walked away,
The preacher rose and softly said,
‘Good brethren, let us pray.’ ”

I saw these 4 postcards for sale in my daughter and her husband's antique shop, "Bowen Barn", in Stanfordville, NY. They are printed by Bamforth..."Life Model Series"...circa 1900. The poems were written on each card but when I scanned them the writing was too small to I cut them out of the picture and re-typed the applicable poems after posting the pictures.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

THE POWER of SMELL... My first memory.

I have tried very hard to recall my early days but I honestly don't know what I actually can remember as opposed to those things that were retold so many times in my family that they seem to be MY memories.

I am not able to go back much further than when I was 6 or 7 years old. The years before that seem to be lost to me...except for this amazing experience. I have heard that the primary sense is that of smell...and I can attest to that. When I was very young the whole gang of us went to Brattleboro, Vt. to visit my mother's family. I know this is true because we have pictures to prove it and it is also recorded in my Aunt Emma's diaries. I must have been 3 or 4 at the time and I have no conscious memory of that visit.

HOWEVER...many years later I became aware of a very strange seemed to be a combination of three odors...the pungent smell of new sawn lumber, the slightly gamey smell of lamb being roasted in the oven and the almost sickly sweet smell of maple syrup bubbling on the stove. I was immediately transported to the kitchen of my grandparents in Brattleboro. The sensation was so strong that I felt like I could reach out and touch them...and I actually remembered being there. It was a swift but powerful memory and then it receded almost as quickly as it came..

The interesting thing is that Grandpa was a carpenter and had a shop and wood lathe in a large room off of the kitchen. They also had a "sugaring-off" business and would tap the maple trees and boil the sap into syrup on the wood stove in the kitchen.. The smell of lamb being roasted?? Perhaps that was the special meal being prepared for our visit.

Whatever it was, I have only smelled that combination three times in my 73 years and each time it has pulled me back to that warm and loving kitchen of my childhood.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Some of the best conversations I have ever encountered have been during or after an evening meal. The body is fed and the mind follows. This was particularly true of my childhood home.

By the mid 40’s none of us had left home yet so our dining room table was always full. It was very enough to seat 10 comfortably. We needed that space because we were 5 girls, (separated in age by 8 years!), my mother and father, and an assortment of boyfriends and other guests.

Everyone was welcome and it was understood that if you stayed for dinner you would participate in the lively discussions and games that followed. The menu might be scant, due to rationing or lack of funds, but, the enthusiasm was abundant.

One of our favorite games revolved around the Dictionary. One person would hold the opened book on their lap, eyes closed and point to a word. It was then up to all the participants to define the word and the winner was the one who came closest to the actual definition in the dictionary. An example might be: the word PICOT. (Typical answers could be: “a small bed”, “a quaint saying”, “ used to make a fancy fence”…etc.) Of course the actual definition is “ornamental loops in embroidery”. It was not only an amusing game but it helped to increase our vocabulary and to promote an interest in words. I loved it.

Another high-light of those evenings were the discussions. We would relate our day’s events, talk about world or national events or just plain listen. Our guests were an eclectic group so we would often be mesmerized by what they shared. What a lucky little girl I was!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

59 Years after my birth…….a strange reunion

I was born in 1933 in the Muhlenberg Hospital, Plainfield, New Jersey, the youngest of 5 girls. Only 8 years separated me from my oldest sister and I guess my parents had given up making it a big deal by the time I came along.

This became apparent when my Aunt Emma, who lived in Brattleboro, Vt. recorded the event in her Diary like this: “Wed Feb 15, very pleas after awhile but foggy early, turned colder & quite cold this eve. Went over to Ida’s about 9 & she had just had a phone message from Jimmie saying Ruth had just had her 5th girl, her name is Virginia. None of us knew anything about it.” (Speak of ego deflation!)

At that time my father was working as Production Manager in an Ad Agency in New York. He had many friends there and collaborated with one on an ad that was quite famous in it’s day. It was titled: “The Kid in Upper Four” and showed a very young soldier on a Pullman train occupying the top bunk. This was in the early 1940’s and it was commissioned by one of the railroads to demonstrate that the troops would be using the trains shortly and for the regular passengers to be considerate of time delays and crowded areas.

I tell this for a reason. In 1992,I was working at the hospital in Pinehurst, North Carolina. While there I ran into an elderly gentleman with an unusual name that sounded oddly familiar. When I mentioned to him that my father (who had passed away 32 years before in 1960) had a friend with the same name he couldn’t believe it. “Are you Jim’s daughter Virginia?” he asked and when I told him I was he just shook his head and then he floored me by saying: “I was at the hospital with your Dad when you were born!”

Isn’t that amazing? He was the writer for the advertisement, “The Kid in Upper Four” and, though quite a bit younger than my father, one of his closest friends.
I think it just goes to prove, once again, that real life can most certainly be stranger than fiction.

Monday, October 01, 2007

WHY ?? ...Do I BLOG ?

14 months ago I didn’t know the meaning of the word. My interest was piqued when I read an article in the AARP magazine stating that so few seniors took advantage of this line of communication. I had heard the word, BLOG, of course but I figured it was just another part of the vast internet world that would forever elude me.

The amusing thing, to me, is that in my day we would have simply called it what it is...a Web Log. (Then I would have understood it !) But the shortened version is here to stay and reminds me, once again, to get on the “computer-age bandwagon” or be left behind.

But, back to the question, “Why do I blog?” I have tried journaling (recording my daily thoughts and feelings), keeping a diary and even submitting articles for publication…all to no avail. Each of these outlets left me strangely unfulfilled.

Blogging, however, is the perfect medium for me and I love it. I have often wished that I could have known my parents as children and young adults. What were their dreams and accomplishments? Did they overcome adversity? Did they seize opportunities or let them slip by? Who were they?...and how did they influence my life?

“Goldendaze-ginnie” was, first and foremost, my attempt to answer these questions for my own children...but it has become much more. I realized, as I wrote, that I had overcome some pretty rough spots along my life’s journey...a husband’s chronic illness and the disease of alcoholism...and I felt compelled to share these experiences.

It’s fun to get comments and to realize that there are people all over the world who can relate to what I’ve written but that is like the icing on the cake. I have no idea how many people actually DO read my blog, but it really doesn’t matter. If I’ve carried the message of hope to just one other reader it will be worthwhile.

Why do I blog? Because it is my way to record the emotions and events of my 74 years on earth...a journey of self discovery. I find that each article that I write prompts me to remember still more...a great taxing of the mind. It is an exhilarating memory experience and I am so thankful that it is available to me.