Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Radio free Europe...

Following an exilerating yet exhausting evening of launching his career as a sound engineer, Dave got up Monday morning for a 8:30am radio interview with BBC Radio about the project he's been working on in Coventry, England.

Dave's role goes something like this: developers contact Jerde about the possibility of building a new shopping center. Dave visits the site and gets inspired by the potential of the city and convinces said developers, city council and other city stake holders into considering not just a new mall, but a new city center masterplan.

Bingo. Bam-o. Bullseye.

After spending about a year to build the relationships necessary to see the idea through, there is now discussion of a 1 billion pound improvement to the city and it seems everyone's talking about it.

If you want to read more about it, click here to check out one of many newspaper articles that have come out this week about this.

Just call me a proud wifey.

New York State of Mind

This one goes out to Janae, who has been waiting for years for me to do a Billy Joel cover.

Helen was busting her buttons...

Sunday night. Rock and Roll. Burgers and fries. Forty eight people. Four encores.

This joint was jumpin.

We held another muziekavond on Sunday. As ever, the night began with a grand feed and wine offering, with friends coming through the door in scores. The bell would ring and I'd open the door to another six or eight people. It was incredible. New friends and old showed up for our fourth muziekavond, themed "A Concise History of Rock and Roll."

Mysteriously-linked-come-dear-friend Carole Dahlem brought us eight amazing original prints of rock and roll photographs from the Rock Archive gallery, where she works as a sales consultant. The moment they darkened our doors, our living room became a sanctuary for great lyrics and tough choruses and the crazy magic that still happens when you hear anything from The Joshua Tree. These artists, these desperados who shape souls with their battle cries for love and equality, sex, drugs, and everything in between were here on our walls. They were altar boys ushering in the gods of Illumination and Impulse. And we welcomed them with open arms.

These prints are truly amazing. First hand accounts of these artists as real and passionate beings. For any of you reading this in Amsterdam, take the time to go visit the gallery on Prinsengracht. Bike against the wind up hill both ways, if you have to. Trust me, you won't be sorry. Click here to get to their website.

Rindert Meijer, professor of history at the Conservatory, began the evening with an introduction to rock music...from its roots in African traditions of communal music through the blues and R&B to rockabilly and Elvis. He played a BBC documentary as well, emphasizing the history with amazing video footage from 50-60 years ago of Leadbelly and Hank Williams and countless others.

Rindert is an accomplished historian with a great knack for telling stories and connecting dots. It was such a pleasure to have him be a part of this. He set the tone perfectly.

To close the night, I sang and played a set of tunes familiar to most - (dedicated to Janae and Ansel) NY State of Mind (Billy Joel), Purple Rain (Minnesota native Prince), Here Comes the Sun (the Beatles), King of Pain (the Police), and Landslide (Fleetwood Mac). But beyond the usual piano/mic combo, Dave helped me rig our acoustic piano (which also has MIDI - digital - output/input) up to his computer. So we were able to run all sorts of various sounds and effects through both the mic AND the piano. It was so dang cool. A whole new realm of possibilities. Stay tuned for recordings in the near future.

And the music didn't stop there...It seemed that our music gods weren't content with the offering until we had gone through another four tunes as an added encore. Brown Eyed Girl had everyone singing at the top of their lungs.

Thanks to Asif, we have some great photos from the night. I've included a few here...Carole and Rindert speaking, me singing and playing, and Dave being the sound engineer (on our first date, he told me point blank that he would someday love to be my sound engineer-slash-roadie...dreams really do come true, honey! Be careful what you wish for!). If you want to see a bigger selection of pix, click here.

Thank you to all who joined us on Sunday. It was an amazing night and Dave and I had such a blast entertaining. We'll see you on March 9th for a totally different musical selection - an evening of new music for string quartet.

Keep on rockin in the free world.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ansel Shepard Bakken Cotter...

I'm so excited to let you know that my dear childhood friend Janae had a baby boy Friday morning - her first - and she and the baby are doing just great.

Janae, I'm so proud and excited for you and Michael and little Ansel. You did it! Wow. I can't wait to meet him! Lots of hugs from Amsterdam...

Old long since...

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

Like Valentines' Day, it seems that many a New Years Eves get accurately tucked away in the "Romantic Events That SHOULD Have" file. Theatrical images of thirty thousand balloons dropping over extravagantly dressed party goers. That special someone who had been watching you from afar makes a bold step from behind the last remaining seconds of the year. Healthy salutes to the old and warm welcomes to the new as teary-eyed toasts introduce bubbly beverages that never taste as good as they do on New Years Eve.

Fantastical scenes typically loop over and over in my mind as December 31st jogs toward me.

But the reality often looks something like going to bed at 10:13 pm with Pringles crumbs stuck on my pyjamas and the last drop of diet coke still lingering on my lips.

And with the way the last few years have been, sometimes Dave and I are together on that night. Sometimes not. Although it's always heart warming to hear his voice as the clock strikes 12, I love it most when we're together.

With a sigh of relief, I am happy to report that this recently passed new years eve turned me into a romantic once again. Sometime on the 28th, D got the idea to look for a fun place for us to go for New Years, and - miraculously - was able to confirm a reservation for all three of us at a beautiful chateau hotel in Valkenburg, a suburb of Maastricht.

After a 2.5 hour train and a short taxi ride, Chateau St. Gerlach welcomed us warmly with all sorts of holiday cheer. Even Number Five got a grand reception, complete with treats and toys waiting for him in our room.

St. Gerlach is part of a privately-owned chain of small boutique hotels, each of them residing in some fantastic old building which has been re-purposed as a five star lodge. To set the scene...imagine a set of rolling hills coming up behind the neck of a grandiose but petite castle, with a green lawn sprawl that looks like it could blanket a medium-sized lake. There are four buildings on the grounds, one of which used to be a monastery, and the estate's history dates back to the 12th century.

The owner has paired a few modern pieces of art against this perfect country baroque backdrop which gives both old and new a unique sense of balance and placement. Cozy rooms. Lovely staff. There was nothing we could've wanted beyond what was given.

We had amazing food while there...a 4-course dinner the first night. And of course the best of it being on the 31st...a black tie event (had to dust off a tux and dress, which in itself was huge entertainment...D worked on tying his bowtie for about an hour). A gifted culinary writer could do the meal more justice, but I will just say that if the scallops they served were the last thing left to eat on the planet, I would cross oceans for a bite.

The party continued after dinner outside the chateau, where they arranged a private fireworks show. We actually headed back to the room at 11:30 to tend to Number Five, who had been gnawing his tail down to a nub, scared by the miscellaneous firecrackers that had been going off all day. Surely this big display was going to put him over his puppy-sized limit for noise disruption.

So we welcomed in 2008 in our jammies, sitting next to a pile of well-serving formal duds, full of delicious food, holding our puppy in the dark and letting him know everything was going to be okay.

I think 2008 is going to be a great year.