Remembering Martha P.”Pat” Brooks: A Personal Tribute

I first knew Pat when my family stayed for a summer vacation at the Obstinate J Ranch in 1961.  We liked “Steelhead Point” so much that we returned every summer until 1980, when we built our own home on Rogue River Drive.  Although Pat came from an elite eastern women’s institution, Smith College, she had no difficulty adjusting to life on a ranch in Southern Oregon.  In fact, she loved her horses, cattle, and especially her two poodles.  I remember Pat calling out:  “Dragon!  Gagette!”, and the poodles would come running out of her house, and jump into her pick-up.  And when she was on the road, she was not known for dawdling.  She may have set a speed record going up and back from Hwy.62 to Persist, a 38 mile scamper.  In spite of that, time was not something sacred for her.  Dinner was when she made it, and she was known for being late and forgetting to call people.  Yet, she never missed a board meeting when I was Director of Medford Education International and had an adept mind at preserving details.  Pat had an encyclopedic knowledge of Rogue Valley events.  She belonged to many organizations and often helped support them.  She also had a great love of family and a great pride in her children and grandchildren’s achievements.  Pat was a strong individual that many relied on in good times and bad.  She possessed a winsome, yet knowing smile.  Her young, vibrant voice was often heard throughout the valley.  But now as I look across the darkening hills, there is an uneasy silence…

“But What Do Australians Look Like?”: An Excerpt From Janusz Korczak’s How To Love A Child, Part 2.

This post concludes the conversation between the boy “troublemaker” and his girl guardian.

G:  You did the correct thing by writing to me.  We’ll talk and I’ll offer you advice.  But don’t get upset if I speak frankly.

S:  I have improved…, and I try very hard, but why can’t I go out more often?  All the others go out once a week, but I can only go once every two weeks.  I’m just like everyone else, so why should they get a better deal?  My grandma asked me to come over every week, and I’m ashamed to tell her I can’t.

G:  You know very well why you can’t go out . I’ll ask for you, but I doubt it will do any good.

S:  I know I was trouble before and was thrown out of school.  But now I want to go to school. I know thirty-five countries and I have a travel book.  A real book!  I really want a box!  Please give me an answer.

G:  I’ll try to find a box and give it to you.  Could you tell me what you want the box for ?

S:  I really need the box, because I’ve got a lot of things:  letters, and books, my notebook, and other stuff.  I’ll put everything down in my notebook:  my worries, anything I do that’s bad, what I’m thinking.  I’ve got plenty of interesting things to write.

The boy was nine, and his girl guardian, twelve!

A Time For Carols: Some Of My Favorite Collections

One of my December traditions is to listen to Christmas carols.  They have always been a major part of my life, and have brought me joy and solace.  My sister  Nancy once founded a group, The Dolcian Singers, which specialized in carols, and I remember singing carols in our home.  Going to Yosemite during Christmas and singing carols in the Ahwahnee Hotel before a large crackling fire, is something I’ll never forget.  The outside falling snow, the magnificent peaks and falls, and the wonderful joy of everyone, made my trip one I will always cherish.  I’ve decided to share with you some of my favorite carol collections, giving tribute to a tradition that has inspired composers since the Middle Ages.

1.  My favorite, and the one I play first is Harry Belafonte’s, To Wish You A Merry Christmas.  My Dad had been an admirer of Belafonte’s vocal style, and never failed to purchase a new album.  However, when Dad bought this album in the 1960s, it became a tradition to play it every December.  Belafonte’s warm, soothing, rich voice is ideal for carols.  If you want to sit back and relax, and absorb the spirit of Christmas, this collection is for you.  The orchestration is excellent, and the conductor, Robert DeCormier(who has several carol CDs on Arabesque Records) has great insight into the mood of the carols.  One of the highlights is Belafonte’s interpretation of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, which concludes the album.  A wonderful, and thought-provoking piece of music it is!

2.  My second choice would be the 2CD collection:  Christmas with the Robert Shaw Chorale on RCA.  Acknowledged by many music critics to be one of the greatest choral conductors in America, Shaw brings out the very best in his ensemble.  Included in the extensive liner notes is an interview of Robert Shaw, conducted by Vocal Music Editor of the BMG Classical Music Series.  This bounteous collection contains almost 50 carols, mostly traditional, but there are some surprises as well.  A great way to celebrate the Christmas season.

3.  A New Met Christmas is a splendid way to celebrate the holiday season.  Outstanding singers from the Met’s past are featured in this inspiring collection.  My favorites include Benita Valente’s wistful “Silent Night”, and Placido Domingo’s moving rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.  However, all selections are exceptional, and the CD is a treasure.

4.  A Scandinavian Christmas on Loft Recordings is a different undertaking altogether.  There is a quiet beauty in abundance, but little of the rousing, joyous spirit we associate with many traditional carols.  With David Dahl at the organ, director Richard Sparks encourages some lush, rich sounds out of the Choral Arts Northwest ensemble.  Many of the melodies are complex, haunting, and mysterious in their makeup, like parts of the Scandinavian landscape.  Definitely not a CD for traditionalists, but for those wishing to expand their horizons, this CD might provide an answer.

5.  Christmas Carols:  Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, England, Flanders, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Yugoslavia on Supraphon provides a collection of carols from selected European countries on one side(I have an LP), and Czech carols on the other side.  The Prague Madrigal Singers due justice to all the selections, and their conductor Miroslav Venhoda is a capable guide.  Notes are in English, Russian, German, and French.  There are a few traditional carols, but most of them the listener will probably not be familiar with.  A wonderful presentation of European carols, and the dance, folk character of Czech carols.

“On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas, Although It May Seem Strange.”: A Holiday Tradition

One of my holiday traditions is to listen to the following:  “On the twelfth day of Christmas, although it may seem strange.  On the twelfth day of Christmas, I’m going to exchange…”  So sings Allan Sherman on his album, For Swingin’ Livers Only!  In a contemporary satire on the carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Sherman enumerates the silly and trivial gifts he has received, including “green polka dot pajamas”, “a calendar book with the name of my insurance man”, “an indoor plastic birdbath”, etc.  The carol has been the subject of numerous satires.   Willard Espy provides one of the best in his Words At Play, In this satire, the writer imagines how a lady would react if she really did receive all the gifts listed in The Twelve Days of Christmas.  The conclusion is most amusing.  Just a note:  the Victorians were fond of number games and it’s interesting that the number of fowl in the carol equals the number of musicians, 23.  I wonder…