Heart Giving

Being the start of the new year, I’ve been thinking about gifts; those that we give and those that we receive.

While living in Las Vegas, I befriended a neighbor. She was an older Russian woman, recently widowed, who had married a Psychiatrist. She was well-off but lonely. Having been a homemaker, she did not have children and had a very small circle of friends. Her only living relative was a sister in Russia. I encouraged her to get involve in the Arts, which she did. And, I invited her to dinner a few times a month. She was an excellent guest and always brought me a box of chocolates or flowers. She took note of my formal table setting (we ate in the dining room) and I wore a pretty apron with slacks, never jeans or a casual dress. She was delighted that I served a small appetizer and began the meal with a homemade soup and ended with a liqueur. One day when I couldn’t get her on the phone, I went to her house and was about to leave a note when she answered the door, puffy eyed. “My darling” she said, “Come in.” I sat there and listened to her, speaking as little as possible, because that was what she needed. After a while she asked me into her bedroom and showed me her enormous jewelry collection; both real and costume. My eyes danced. A costume cuff bracelet caught my eye. She offered it to me. Sensing that it might have come from her husband that she loved so much, I could not accept it.

Months later, on a spring day she had left her french doors open and was burglarized. She called me for moral support when the Police arrived. Later, when the fear died down, she said, “Your bracelet is gone. You see I wanted you to have it, it had to leave me anyway.”

I watched a sense of generosity filled with warmth that echoed a feeling of life, in the spirit of wanting to give.  The virtue of generosity is spontaneous and joyful with a reward that is priceless. It enables the giver to know their best self and ultimately their power. And I realized my error. It enabled me to  acknowledge how profound life is, to be uplifted in an instant. Lesson learned; allow others to give to you. Don’t block it. Their is grace in receiving.

By giving or receiving, we experience oneness and a wonderful connection with others.

Answer the bell

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Last night I was flabbergasted, or at least my ears were. Expecting a concert, I had no idea that I’d be listening to Westminster’s College Choir hand-bell ringing. I never knew what an Art it is to ring bells and the precision, fine ear and coordination that is needed. The Choir is part of Rider University located in Princeton, New Jersey.

The hand-bell ensemble played at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church. What a venue! It’s an old Gothic building and the oldest church in Pasadena but after the Sylmar earthquake they had to renovate and added a sanctuary with wonderful acoustics ahead of its time.

The ensemble is made up of 17 students who have been involved in music most of their lives and many are studying music education. Despite their youth, they are well-known for their creative handbell music nationwide and they travel all across the United States, as well as perform with orchestras from Europe, and Asia to captivate audiences with their performances.

After the concert they had a lovely reception that spared no expense. When I asked one of the ringers who had tap danced what he liked most about ringing he said it forced him to be in the present moment because in another year he’d graduate and wouldn’t be a part of this dynamic group of musicians. I call that friendship and appreciation of fellow musicianship.

After 20 years of show-stopping virtuosity, and countless music CD’s released, Westminster has established a reputation for having some of the best hand-bell ringers in the country together with exceptional leadership and musicianship. Bravo!IMG_2603

Disco Beat

 

600_449755139600_449755236I have three cures for the blues and they are; playing with either children or my dog, riding the scariest rides at an amusement park and the most liberating of all…dancing. Dancing is so uplifting and makes me feel breezy, light and extremely happy. Here I am with some of my disco buddies, having fun on a Saturday night against the city backdrop of hip downtown Los Angeles.

There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met

William Butler Yeats

Philia, the root of Philadelphia, roughly translates to “brotherly love,” in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, an enduring source for understanding the ethics of friendship. Aristotle identifies three essential bases for friendship: utility, pleasure, and virtue. Friendships of virtue, Aristotle believes, are ideal because only they are based on recognition.

When I lived in New York, I spent a labor day week-end in Philadelphia, with a friend. I had been on the east coast eleven months, and it was an end of summer farewell.

I loved the historical points of interest that I witnessed from my window seat as she drove along the Delaware River. She was half- Irish and half- Philippine and classy in every sense of the word. She had a decade on me, and had lived in Italy, serving as an attaché to some dignitary. I was content to have her be my tour-guide. The view was idyllic and I was mesmerized by the lush beauty and couldn’t get over that the fact that the foliage on the east is a different shade of green than it is on the west.

Friendship had never seemed both more important and less relevant than it did then. Perhaps it was because of the way we met. The concept surfaces primarily when we question whether our networked lives impair the quality of our connections. On a non-theoretical level, adult friendship is its own puzzle. The friendships we have as adults are the intentional kind, if only because time is short.

During that period, I began to consider what is essential in friendship? Why do we tolerate difference and distance? What is the appropriate amount to give?

It was a happy trip; we spent the days in shared recreation, walking or on the water. We explored history and art colonies. Both she and I joked, and advised each other on professional opportunities, personal matters. It made me think; do all friendships have heart, wherein the potential of friendship is a place, real or imagined, that we continue to inhabit even when reality challenges sentiment?

Recently, I thought about that trip, and friendship; when I realized virtue in friendship, lives in action; the ways that we make recognition known in matters that are important.

Aristotle suggests, that friendship is the most immediate form of public personhood; it motivates a person for moral excellence, ennobles us to become a stronger unit for a social whole. And yet, the very material of friendship is the exchange of it. In friendship, sentiment is the relationship. It may have a public aspect, but it is essentially a private exchange. If there has been anything that time has shown me, it’s that friendship remains the special provenance of those who live it.

Friendships grow and change, and get adjusted by degrees that I don’t totally understand. The reassuring thing is that no single law rules over them. Friendship is a return, as variable as we are.

I’ll be taking a break from the blog; see you in September, my friend.

Mass made into Flamenco Style

While the combination of a Gypsy Mass and Flamenco was unknown to me until yesterday, it was the object of adoration at All Saint’s Parish in Beverly Hills on Sunday afternoon, June 21. Held in the chapel, the venue provided the perfect acoustics for Drew Croon’s Misa Gitana Andaluza.

I was among the guests who attended the melange of a performance that came from the collection of the late composer Drew Croon. Croon, an American from Los Feliz, spent his life composing in Europe. When he died in 2007, his sister, Doranne found his music boxed in an attic in France. She has made it her goal to bring it to the stage.

Fanny Ara, Doranne Cedillo, Kindra Scharich, Alex Conde

Last month, I was contacted by Doranne Croon Cedillo. We connected through Facebook and have a mutual friend in common. When we chatted I assumed she was in Los Angeles. Turns out, she makes her home in Denver. She told me her brother, Drew Croon had written a “Gypsy Mass” before he died at the age of 56, and that she was assembling a performance. It’s taken her seven years to find the right ensemble to perform his work. The first performance premiered in San Francisco in April and the second would be held in Beverly Hills. She asked if I would come.

The first part of the program featured the young guitarist, Taso Comanescu. From Los Angeles, When I heard his rendition of Recuerdos de la Alhambra, by Francisco Tarrega, I was fell into complete silence. It’s one of my favorite pieces because of it’s simplicity, where one watches the grace of the performer. Highly romantic and perhaps the most famous tremolo piece for classical guitar.

Next came Alex Conde, a classically trained pianist from Valencia, Spain. Born into a musical family, he has spent the last six years in San Francisco. Conde was trained as a classical pianist, but when he came to the United States to pursue his classical studies, he began to miss flamenco tremendously.

Seated in the second row, I watched his fingers and his movements. He’s got extraordinary musicianship and creativity and has great technique. I expect to hear more of him in the future. He also mentioned to the audience that artistically he was thinking of how to combine flamenco with jazz and the following evening he got a call by Croon Cedillo asking him to do just that. He played his own composition Barrio del Carmen (Alegrias) with such flexibility it made you want to get up and dance.

Fanny Ara, originally from the French Basque region hit the floor dancing. I loved watching her elegant body movements which included a concave pose, arms stretched upward with hands in a prayer pose, fingers spread in exclamation points and her feet gliding in circles. And alternating these movements with an attack of the floor.

And there was the mezzo-soprano, Kindra Scharich. I think her job was the most challenging and she did it superbly. Singing a Mass has to be complicated. The notes don’t come easily but she pulled it off beautifully. When she wasn’t singing, she clapped her hands at various volumes.

Being married to a classically trained singer, I recognize when you sing live, you realize yourself, and express the best you have inside at that moment. You interpret the composer’s intent to the best of your ability.

None of the musicians knew Croon or his music. Despite this, there was not an empty seat to be seen.

Who knew a Flamenco Mass could sound anywhere near this great?

The audience loved the concert and although when it ended, it wasn’t followed by “Otra! Otra! Otra!” I would venture most of the audience would be happy hearing another two hours of Drew Croon’s Gypsy Mass. They will have to settle for the CD set.

Avalanche

Left to right; Director: Juan Garza, Sound: Bill Hartman, Cinematographer: Tom Taplin, and Producer: Linda Martinez.
Left to right; Director: Juan Garza, Sound: Bill Hartman, Cinematographer: Tom Taplin, and Producer: Linda Martinez.

Last Saturday I read about the Nepal earthquake. The loss of lives was tremendous. Late that afternoon I went to a home in Hastings Ranch. The lovely ranch style home was open and inviting with windows all around. The backyard was a forest with a backdrop of a mountain. One side of the view was the entire San Gabriel valley. The final view was the dramatic swimming pool lined with lovely ficus’ surrounding the water. It was easy amongst natural beauty to forget that all of this is only temporary.

Kirtan (songs) were being performed and when they concluded we were asked to consider those whose lives had been lost and those who were left homeless by the Nepal devastation as a moment of reflection.

The toll has reached over 3,700 from the massive earthquake. It wasn’t until Sunday that I was told that one of the victims was a man I knew and admired that I had worked with on my short-film, The Trouble with Tonia, Tom Taplin, http://heavy.com/news/2015/04/tom-taplin-american-filmmaker-documentary-nepal-mount-mt-everest-dead-killed-avalanche-earthquake-photos-video-family-funeral-memorial-fundraiser-dan-freidenburg-marisa-eve-girawong-quake-deaths-wife/ a filmmaker from Santa Monica. The third American confirmed dead.

Tom was gifted and creative, a gently guy that took his work seriously. He worked with filmmaker Agnes Varda and was respected for his work ethic. Ironically, later that day I found this photo, from our wrap party that I share with you.

So what is death? A physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. A Spiritual death, which in my mind is of greater significance, is the separation of the soul from God. Regardless of what we believe in, it’s a jolt when we hear about death.

Let’s keep in mind one thing, our time here is short, and can be gone in a flash, each individual needs to ingrain a mind-set of optimism and happiness regardless of what’s going on in their lives. All of what happens in our outer world can bring us back to the center of our being. Be grateful for life!