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The West Coast Concerts

Glaser wide screen with Noe blue flatOn March 19th we had the west coast premiere concerts of CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, CA. Here we are just before the last song of the cycle, “Snowfall.”  We brought my granddaughter Noe up on the stage to join us for this one because it is dedicated to her and I wanted her to hear it from the vantage point of being in the middle of the sound.
For these concerts, Take Jack was joined by the Sonoma County Kitchen Choir – directed by Sarah Saulsbury, and by an orchestra that included Steve Adams, Cory Wright, Kyle Bruckman, John Tuttle, Oliver Tuttle, John Bidwell, Philip Beard, Sarah Jo Zaharako, Katie Harlow and Joseph Sabella. Also – we were joined by students from Oak Grove Elementary School – directed by teacher Vicky Hill. The whole occasion was conducted by Bay Area composer, conductor, and multi-instrumentalist, Omid Zoufonoun. We all had an incredibly fantastic time, end-to-end. And here was this amazing audience, thousands of miles from the northern Minnesota world of true winter and sled dog mushing and knowledge of John Beargrease, smiling away with big enthusiasm for the project. We could all feel the support throughout the two concerts and this made for some fine singing and musicianship in return. There are now wheels turning toward future performances of the cycle. I’ll post the particulars once we’ve set the dates. For all of you asking – Anchorage in 2017?  Maybe! Meanwhile my forever thanks to – all of the singers in the Kitchen Choir for their beautiful singing and true commitment to the project and to their dynamite director, Sarah Saulsbury,  to Vicky Hill and her 4th grade students from Oak Grove School who joined us to sing “Without Those Dogs,” to the orchestra, and to Omid Zoufonoun for bringing it all together!  And – to Take Jack –  for months of rehearsals, for traveling to Minnesota for the concerts, for smiling about this project every step of the way from  -17º to 102º  thank you! And you can listen to two of the songs, “John Was My Best Friend” – about John Beargrease, and “Fourteen Reasons” – about the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

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Minnesota Concerts

World Premiere concerts of CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL took place on FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Marais, and on SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6th at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth.
Concert number one • Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Marais. The Stonebridge Singers Drum, from Grand Portage, joining us as people get settled in their seats.

Stonebridge Singers Drum BLC cropped

They continued, honoring us with one final song before CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL begins. I can’t imagine a better first performance of this song cycle.
Bethlehem Luthersan Church Concert 2-5-2016

The Cook County community came out in force to hear the music. They gave a warm and emotional, enthusiastic response – adding some fantastic anecdotes afterward. An evening filled with loveliness. Gratitude to the Borealis Chorale and Orchestra one and all, to Bill Beckstrand, and to Take Jack for so beautifully and thoughtfully bringing this music into the world. After the concert we returned to our hotel for drinks and a late microwaved dinner and were treated to a visit and some much-appreciated animated storytelling from our friend – musher Arleigh Jorgenson. The words in song #13  in the cycle – “The Most Important Thing” – were spoken by Arleigh during an interview with Mark Ostazeski for his educational blog on John Beargrease.

Concert number two • SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6
An early morning goodbye to Grand Marais. A drive to Duluth to set up for our second concert at the beautiful Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth.
Jacks gone to whiteBCO arrived around noon. A yummy lunch was offered for all, kindly coordinated by Arno Kahn and Chris Bowman–thanks so very much! In some ways the concert was even stronger this time around, as is often the case. If you look closely here you can see our friend Natasaha Haugnes over to the left with her hand on the blue drum. Natasha flew out from California with her son Oliver so that they could hear the music and then, due to a somewhat mysterious disappearing incident involving the drummer, was roped into joining us. So she (and Oliver) went mushing early Saturday morning, drove 2 hours to Duluth, stepped out of her car and onto the throne. Natasha – you rock! Here is a link also to a (reverberating but decent) video from this concert of the first song in the cycle, “The One Who Stayed.”
Sacred Heart Concert allSacred heart during concert
And here we are joined by students from Hermantown Elementary School, singing “Without Those Dogs” directed by Jerry Kaldor. These kids knocked off many socks. Fabulous.  Thanks you guys!
Hermantown Elementary
And, thank you to the McKnight Foundation and The American Composers Forum and thank you Minnesota!
Next up – west coast premiere concerts on March 19th, directed by Omid Zoufonoun, with Take Jack and Orchestra joined by Sonoma County’s Kitchen Choir, directed by Sarah Saulsbury.

Bill took this photo – so you can see Ron Smith here with us on the far left – thank you Ron for so many dynamite photos.Take jack with Ron duluth
Thank you Duluth

Here’s to the dogs!

To the dogs

 

Take Jack, in Minnesota

This trip out I was joined by the other members of  Take Jack, the collaborative ensemble from Sonoma County I have been with since the group formed in 2010. We were joined by Ron Smith – fantastic photographer, actor and Co-Jack extraordinaire. Here is a bit about our time together during the week leading up to the first CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL concert.

FRIDAY JANUARY 29
Take Jack arrives, Minneapolis. Ten of us with all of our gear and a rental bass from All Strings Attached snug into 3 behemoth rental SUV’s and head to Duluth. 

All Strings Attached
Temperatures dropping. Snow falling. Good news for the marathon! In the Star Tribune today, spotted at an airport kiosk upon arrival, an incredibly thoughtful article about the project, written by Katy Read:
http://www.startribune.com/music-written-for-beargrease-dog-sled-race-inspired-by-north-country/366874181/

SATURDAY JANUARY 30
Early start heading toward Grand Marais with a stop in Beaver Bay to visit the mushers with their teams getting Vet checks in preparation for the 2016 JBSDM, and to pay our respects at the gravesite of John Beargrease.

TJ Visiting Beargrease site

TJ at Beargrease gravesite
Midday arrival at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in time to join the 47 members of the Borealis Chorale and Orchestra for lunch and an afternoon rehearsal. Fantastic to see everyone again. Brilliant singers and musicians, stellar people all ‘round and Bill Beckstrand is a truly gifted director, musician, composer and well… plus – he’s just one of the people you’d most want to meet in a lifetime.
Rehearsal Bethlehem Lutheran

BCO rehearsal with Take Jack

SUNDAY JANUARY 31
The 2016 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon begins! Take Jack sings “O Canada,” arranged by member Chris Smith, and then – the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Take jack O Canada(Just want to say to all you Giants fans who have sung the SSB in SF at AT&T Park on a sunny spring day? Try this.) … and then suddenly the lyrics we’ve been rehearsing for the past several months (in this instance words from musher Frank Moe) come alive as the countdown begins and the teams take off  “… Nine, eight, seven, six… like a shot from a gun… smokin’ down the chute…” Here is Nathan Schroeder at the start line. Nathan Schroeder JBSDM race start 2016.jpgPhoto • Ron Smith.
We made stops later in the day and evening at Finland and Sawbill checkpoints.

MONDAY February 1
Rehearsal number two with the BCO. Joined this time by the orchestra including Yvonne Caruthers on cello – featured in several of the pieces.

BCO rehearsal number 2

TUESDAY FEBRUARY 2
Take Jack stops in for an hour at WTIP radio to talk with Will Moore and sing a bit on Sidetracks.
Will Moore WTIPHere’s a link to the show. http://www.wtip.org/take-jack-live-sidetracks

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 3
A visit with the kids at Sawtooth Elementary School to sing through “Without Those Dogs” in Kerri Bilben’s  inspiring music class.

Sawtooth Elementary rehearsalEvening concert with TONE BENT at Papa Charlie’s in Lutsen. Much appreciation for Jerry on sound!
Take Jack at Papa Charlie's

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 4
The Jacks go mushing with Matt Groth of Grand Marais. So much I could say here but here’s the deal. Just go. Try it. Really. https://www.facebook.com/grandmaraissleddogadventures/

Shari Kovner:

Shari gone to the dogs

Robin scores a puppy hug:
Robin with puppy cropped

Bill:
Bill mushing

Chris:
Chris mushingClare:Clare mushing

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 5
At long last the day of the first concert has arrived. We do one final rehearsal at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church where Pastor Mark Ditmanson has so generously supported the project, allowing our keyboard, amps, speakers, and additional gear loaned to us by the North Shore Music Association, to remain set up all week long. Thank you Grand Marais for your kind welcome!

Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Good bye to Grand marais

 

 

Waiting For the Mail

Dear Ones,
Well, here it is!  We leave first thing in the morning for Minnesota. With a bit of luck everyone in Take Jack will be in Duluth by dinnertime Friday night and heading up to Grand Marais Saturday morning for rehearsals with the Borealis Chorale and Orchestra. Got our music. Got our guitars.  Renting the bass. Keyboard. Amps. We’ll stop in Beaver Bay on the way to say hello to the mushers who are about to race in this year’s marathon and to pay our respects at the gravesite of John Beargrease. We even have some beautiful locally grown (Sonoma County) ceremonial tobacco gifted to us for this occasion.Sonoma County tobaccoAnd, because every good road trip deserves a new song, here’s a preview of one of the songs from the CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL song cycle –“Waiting For the Mail”
recorded live at one of Take Jack’s recent fundraising concerts. Can’t wait to be joined by the Borealis Chorale and Orchestra and to have Director William Beckstrand at the helm. Hope to see some of you at the concerts!
For those of you who have asked for the link to the live broadcast of the Saturday concert from the Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth on February 6th, Here it is  – http://www.ifan.tv   Concert should begin at 2:00 California time, or 4:00 Minnesota time.

Thank you one and all for the many meaningful ways you have so generously supported this project!
See you on the horizon,

Robin

 

 

Let There Be Music!

Crazy Cold Beautiful Scores image
Well, after 18 months of research and writing, the CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL song cycle is nearly complete! At this point there are 18 songs and the whole deal is about 60 minutes long. I am headed back to Minnesota this weekend to hear the Borealis Chorale and Orchestra perform their winter concerts, directed by William Beckstrand. Included in their program will be a preview of the final song in the cycle, “Snowfall.” The lyric for this one is taken from the final two paragraphs of a book entitled Canoe Country and Snowshoe Country, by Florence Page Jacques, with illustrations by Francis Lee Jacques. It is a contemplative bit – completely different from the other songs in the cycle in that there is not a single mention of mushing or dogs – rather, this is a look at the winter world sans humans, the timeless beauty of that.

While I am visiting I will also deliver the CRAZY COLD BEAUTIFUL scores, and am quite looking forward to meeting everyone in the Borealis Chorale and Orchestra. They will be performing the premiere concerts in February and I am hugely appreciative of their willingness to be on board with this project!
Meanwhile, all of the members of Take Jack have been rehearsing these songs here throughout the long months of California drought, learning the ensemble pieces that will be part of the cycle and trying to imagine what it will be like to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” at the starting line of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, 11:00 Sunday morning on January the 31st! We’re going to visit the Snoopy Ice Arena here in Sonoma County for a trial run-through. Hats on!

SAVE THE DATE!
CCB  all concerts 1-11-16 PRINT

 

 

 

THE ICE BALL

Every winter since 1967, people have gathered at Will Steger’s Homestead just outside Ely Minnesota to lend a hand in the harvesting of ice. It was my good fortune to find myself included in the activities this weekend. My gratitude to Marian Moore (thoughtful, kind, funny, beautiful, creative and be-slippered) to her sweet circle of friends, and to Will Steger for the welcoming.

People collected down by the edge of the lake with their various saws and shovels, picks and pry-bars, tongs, chainsaws…
Harvesting Ice phase 1
A top layer of softer snow is removed, the surface is scored and sawing begins.
Ice Ball Scoring the ice
And out comes the first cube:
Ice Ball popping ice out of the hole
Time to begin another:
Ice Ball Sawing 3
Next, chainsaws are used to cut the large blocks into segments:
Ice Ball cutting ice into cubes
Smaller blocks are then loaded onto the sled and the horses take them up the hill to the ice house:
Ice Ball Ice loading onto sled
While horses are some tough competition, dogs have had their day helping out with the hauling. To watch these horses in action you may click here!  And here’s a still:
The Horses Ice Ball
Yes, it makes you happy.
Robin at Ice Ball
The Mess Hall exterior:
Steger Ice Ball Mess Hall 
Today I am homeward bound. Thank you Minnesota… to the two and four-legged, ever-onward.

It Will Change Your Life

Tuesday I went mushing. I’ve been trying to write about it, but not much of what I write does the trick. Problematic, for a blog. Ever-shifting light across the stark terrain and leafless trees. Every kind of white. Tracks from Moose and Wolf and smaller animals. Muted jangling of metal clips on the harnesses, soft shoooshhh of sled runners. The dogs and their many desires. How very alive everything seems in the middle of winter. An experience I will forever treasure. The dogs. The dogs.

So, if you click here you should be able to see a little clip from the trail. We did a five-hour loop and I managed to get this at one point early on before I did the face plant and froze my camera.

Thank you to Matt Groth, of Grand Marais Sled Dog Adventures, for your patience and thoughtful guidance, and for making an experience like this possible. Thank you to Agnes, Jekyll, Adele, Meatloaf, and Phil. I am completely humbled by your steady onward.

I met a local yesterday who had considered mushing but had not yet given it a try. He said “I don’t know, it just seems like a lotta the folks who try it end up changing their lives.”

And yesterday evening – a shot of the cemetery on Maple Hill Road:
Maple Hill Cemetery

And a clipping about a type of loss I now understand in a new way:
Eider down complaint