Category Archives: Storytelling

A Life Well Lived: Bernard Silver

Two weeks ago today my uncle, whom I called Dad and viewed as a grandfather, passed away. With the flurry of events that have taken place since then, I have not yet had the chance to express myself in a way that I felt was right and honorable.

This post is my attempt to recognize the man who meant so much to me and my family.

Bernard Silver (August 10, 1923-January 11, 2017)

Son of Louis and Jeannie Silver, Bernard came to the world on the same day as the funeral for former President Warren G. Harding. Louis had to travel far and wide across Brooklyn, New York to find the necessary supplies for Bernard’s home delivery as the majority of businesses were closed for the national day of mourning declared by newly appointed President Calvin Coolidge.

Later, the family grew again when Bernard’s sister Vera was born. A few years later, the Silvers moved to Washington, DC–just in time for the Great Depression.

Bernard great up knowing want and learned very early to be frugal, yet still found ways to enjoy life. The week was often spent doing chores to earn enough money to splurge on the weekends on penny candy and a nickel for a movie. Times were not easy, but Bernard always spoke how he and his family had it pretty well-off in comparison to other families.

On September 1, 1939 the Second World War began. Bernard was just 16 years old.

Like most young men, Bernard had a great desire to serve his country. Directly after graduating high school in 1943, he enlisted and was placed in the United States Army Air Corps. After completing his training, Bernard became a Staff Sergeant of the 328th Squadron in the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) A.A.F. Serving as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator, Bernard and his nine other crew members completed 35 bombing missions over  Belgium and Germany. Several of Bernard’s favorite plane, the P-51 Mustang, accompanied them on every mission and as he would often say, “They kept us alive.”

Bernard was honorably discharged  on September 29, 1945 and returned to the life of a civilian. Several years later, Bernard began to work for a food company based in Washington, DC named Sol Salins.

In the mid 1970s, Bernard met and fell in love with Bonnie da Silva, a Brazilian immigrant to the United States. They were married in 1978 and Bernard treated Bonnie’s sons, Joseph, Edward, and Robert as his own. Bernard and Bonnie never had children together.

The newly formed family moved to and lived in Olney, Maryland. In 1986, they welcomed Bonnie’s younger sister, Vania, into their home.

Sadly, Bernard and Bonnie divorced in the 90’s and Bonnie would return to Brazil permanently. Bernard would eventually move in Vania, her husband Luis, and two daughters, Juliana and Vanessa. They affectionately called him “Dad,” and for the girls, Bernard was like a grandfather figure.

In 2013, Bernard moved to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC, only a couple of blocks from where he had grown up. There, he received all the care he deserved as a veteran of the United States, and even had the opportunity to meet President Barak Obama and his family.

On January 9th, Bernard fell and was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he succumbed to an infection that affected his heart, lungs, and kidneys. He died peacefully in the morning of Wednesday the 11th, with his caring sister-in-law Vania by his side.

Bernard is survived by his three nephews, Bonnie’s sons, his sister-in-law Vania and her family.

Bernard’s was a full life, one that has seen many changes in society, technology, and government. Those who knew Dad loved him and will miss his kind spirit and wonderful stories.

His was a life well-lived. Rest now in deserved peace.


Please remember to always tell those you care for how much you love them. And whenever you see a service member, especially a veteran from WWII, be sure to thank them for their service.

This post will be later updated with photos of Bernard throughout the years of his life. Thank you for reading.

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

 

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Golden Tours Excursion

Today I had the great privilege of participating on one of Golden Tour UK’s day trips to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. 

It sounds like a lot, and it was, but what an enjoyable and amazing day!

I had to meet the tour bus on Buckingham Palace Road by 8:30am, meaning I had to leave my AirBnb before the sunrise to make it in time. Yes, it was early, but I finally had the chance to see my London sunrise.


There were so many people interested in this particular trip, that we were actually divided into two groups. I ended up on the bus with Alton, the bus driver, and Eddie, the guide. They both proved to be absolutely wonderful people and made our day trip everything we could have asked it to be. 

Our first stop for the day was in Windsor Castle. It wasn’t until we arrived at the foot of the castle that I remembered that I had actually been here before with the New England Youth Ensemble when I was in college. Memories flooded back, but I also had the chance to experience tons of things for the first time. 


Sadly, as was the case with the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey, pictures were not allowed to be taken in many parts of the castle. But while I cannot show them to you, what I can saw is that this one of five homes of the current queen is utterly exquisite and ornate. Nothing was left unthought of when it came to materials used and decorations displayed. 

Enormous paintings covered the ceilings of several rooms, featuring individuals who had lived in the castle among the gods. The armory was breath-taking and the hall where royal dinners are often held was quite long. Apparently they have a single table that stretches across the whole expanse!

There was a special exhibit to honor the Queen’s 90th birthday that featured her outfits from across the decades. Riding costumes to theatrical garb to estate dinner gowns. Everything was so beautiful, but one thing I noticed was the height. The Queen does not seem to be, by the looks of her clothes, very tall at all. To me, that makes her all the more charming. 

I exited the exhibit just in time to catch some of the changing of the guard ceremony. Not quite as elaborate as that at Buckingham, and certainly not as crowded, but still quite fun to watch. The musicians accompanying the ceremony were a fife and drum corp, and the fife players were struggling a bit with playing in tune. It was entertaining, but I also felt I could sympathize with them since I play piccolo and know that the cold weather makes it difficult to stay in tune. 

Let’s be honest, the piccolo is just hard to keep in tune regardless. 



Just before we had to leave, I ducked into St. George’s Chapel, one of the oldest parts of the castle. It was ornate to the highest degree and also a fully functioning church. I wonder if it is open to the public every weekend and what exactly happens when the Queen is residing there. 

Our second stop was to something that had been on my list for a long time now – Stonehenge!


These ancient rocks, despite all the archaeology and study that has been done on them, still maintain an air of mystery and wonder. 

Visitors are dropped off in the parking lots and then must go through the visitor center before taking the mini-bus up to the path that leads to the rocks. There was also an option to walk a trail to the rocks. It was only a little over a mile, and I would have done it, but the cold was just too nippy. 


The mini-bus leaves visitors just within view of the stones, but as you walk closer, you can feel the whole aura of this ancient place. 

In fact, I made myself stop for just a moment. No pictures, bracing the cold, and took in the atmosphere. Sometimes I’m too “trigger happy” with my camera and forget to be present in the moment. Let me tell you, this was a moment to be present in. 

There are varying theories as to what the stones represent and how they were brought to the Salisbury plains. What is known is that the structure could be as old 5,000 years and that on the summer and winter solsitices, the structure is perfectly aligned with the early morning sun. It is believed that the Beaker people, named for the unique type of pottery they used and the builders of Stonehenge, could also use the formation to predict eclipses. 



Around Stonehenge were various ditches and mounds. The ditches helped outline the perimeter of the ancient memorial, placed there by ancient peoples for purposes not entirely clear today. The mounds are actually burial grounds, where the wealthy and influential Beakers were buried and prepared for the after life. 

There were also lots of birds that inhabited the rocks and the plain surrounding. Jackdaws and rooks were abundant and some of the rooks even were brave enough to land on a couple of the memorial’s wardens. I tried to convince one to come sit on my hand with peanuts, with the consent of the warden, but no luck. 



Our final destination of the tour was city of Bath, once an opulent city when Britain had a powerful Roman presence that fell into disarray when the empire crumbled. However, the rediscovery of the Roman baths in the 19th century brought people back to the city. Jane Austen, British author of the late 1700s/early 1800s, mentioned Bath in a couple of her novels. Her finally novel, Persuasian, took place entirely in Bath. 

It would have been nice to see more of this ancient city, but we were there to see what had started and revived the city-the Roman Baths. 


Wandering through the museum portion of the site and then standing by the large green pool was truly a memorable experience. Once again, I felt as if I had been placed in a time capsule. To think, hundreds of years ago, this was a place where the wealthiest came to worship and relax. 




What famous people must have entered these waters? What amount of people have these walls seen? 

There were pieces of the ancient altars and parts of statues that were revered, including a bust (more just a head, really) of Minerva, the Roman god of wisdom, to whom the baths were built in honor of. (I believe her Greek counterpart was Athena.)


After a quick glance through the gift shop (there always seems to be a gift shop, huh?), we were back in the bus for a two hour ride back to central London. 

I have been on several tours, day trips and otherwise, and I can honestly say that this is one of the best I have been on. The timing of our visits and the travel in between were perfectly calculated to allow us to see all we could want, have us leave wanting more, and still never feel rushed. Eddie, our tour guide, was pleasant, funny, and approachable, making our time together enjoyable. 

If I had the time, I would book another tour that they have down to Kent and Dover, but I believe I will have to wait until I return to the British Isles for that trip. 

I highly recommend Golden Tours for your visit to London, and no, I was not asked or paid to say this. I really just liked it that much. 🙂

Hard to believe I only have two days left before I return home! I’ll be sure to press in as much as possible within the next two days–and then share all about it! Look out for my next blog post. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

Sounds of Life

As I get older, I’ve noticed that I have become more aware of sound. Maybe it has something to do with being a musician? I’m not sure, but what I can tell you is that when you start opening your ears to the sounds that surround you, you begin to notice things you never did before. 

My mom, her two co-workers and I explored some more of 16th Street today in Denver and found four more painted pianos. Honestly, how cool is this project?

   
   
Sadly, most of them were really bad sounding but there was one piano, bright pink, that was in family good condition. When we came across it, a man was serenading a woman at her request and wow, was he good. 

  
Continuing down the street we came across a share a travel story campaign, and people were quietly writing and hanging their tales to twine hung between trees. The pages rustled in the wind, encouraging passersby to stop, read, and dwell on the stories they told.  

 

At one point contagious laughter filled the air as people sat in red chairs with bottoms shaped like tops (yes, I realize that is confusing) and going for a spin while trying not to fall off.  

 

People mingling, buses chiming, music playing – all these filled the senses as one walked through downtown Denver. 

The sounds didn’t stop there. My second cousin, who was the main reason I chose to visit Colorado, picked me up in the afternoon to take me to his home in Broomfield. 

His nearly four-year-old son warmed up to me very quickly and within a span of a few hours we had already been on so many adventures with our imaginations, one would think we had gone around the world and back. Hearing a child tell you a story, having them tell you about the world from their point of view, is so heart-warming and eye-opening.  

  

 We should all spend more time engaging with and listening to little children. They would teach us so much. 

The evening was filled with the melodies and rhythm of samba. My cousin is a Brazilian percussionist and teacher who specializes in samba. I had the privilege of attending one of his workshops and learning the basics of how to play pandeiro, tambourĂ­n, and other Brazilian percussion followed by a two hour batterĂ­a (Brazilian marching band) rehearsal. Talk about a lot of sound! 

  

 
I know a lot of people who are not fans of percussion only ensembles, but I love them. I love how the sounds fill the room and the rhythms are so strong you feel them vibrate between your ribs. 
When you think about it, everything in life is about rhythm. Percussion ensembles are simply stripping away to the bare bones of the sounds of life. 

Finding your rhythm in the ensemble of life is what we are all called to do. Sometimes the patterns are more difficult, but if we keep at it and remain sensitive to the sounds around us, we will all eventually find our place in the band and together, we can produce some marvelous works. 

Here’s to you, reader. May you find your part in the ensemble if life. 

-Wanderjng Minstrelette

PS – If you are interested in hearing some of my cousin’s music, check out their website: http://gingaband.com

PPS – If you are interested in becoming a part of the Boulder BatterĂ­a, please contact the community center they rehearse in: https://intercambio.org.

A Second Chance

Today I had the opportunity to save a life. 

While doing laundry this morning, I noticed a fledgling blue jay on our front porch. I had never seen a baby blue jay before, so my first instinct was to bask in it’s cuteness. 

As I kept washing, my mom also saw the blue jay and made a comment about all the outdoor cats we have in the neighborhood. We ourselves own two cats, but they never go outside and weren’t a threat. The others, though, were likely to make this little creature their next meal. 

I decided to grab a pillow case to toss over the little creature (gave me quite a chase for something that couldn’t fly properly), and gently but firmly held it in my hand. I was surprised that no parent blue jay attempted to five bomb me. This little guy was screeching for a while, but no one came to the rescue. Perhaps it had been abandoned? After a few minutes, though, it relaxed and rested quietly in my hand. 

    
“What should we do with it,” asked my mom. Thankfully, I knew exactly where to take it. 

  
The Second Chance Wildlife Center in Gaithersburg, MD is an amazing place that nurtures and rehabilitates wild animals that have been abandoned, injured, or found ill. 

Mom drove while I held the little jay and we were soon at the door of the Center, which doesn’t look much more than a normal house on a lot of land. The last time I had come was in 2011 with a baby starling that had been found in the old music building at Washington Adventist University before it was torn down. I was given a tour of the place and saw where they kept the birds, bunnies, raccoons, and all sorts of other things while they regained their strength to be released back into the wild, if possible. Some, sadly, do not make it but most do. It seems to be very rewarding work and perhaps someday I’ll get a chance to volunteer

This time we weren’t allowed to tour, but the young man at the desk was very nice and gentle with our little jay. There was also a woman making a documentary about the affect of house cats on birds who asked if I wanted to be filmed for her work. She filmed me giving the jay to the keeper and was going to ask me questions when a woman came in carrying a box with a full grown yellow-billed cuckoo that her daughter’s cat had nabbed the night before. 

The poor creature looked so pitiful in that box, both of its legs broken. I hope it makes it. 

It’s a lesson we all need to learn – if you have cats, please keep them inside. Many endemic species of birds, rodents, and other small animals suffer greatly from house cats hunting them. If your cat must go outside, have them wear a collar with a bell to reduce their stealthiness. Let’s do our part to help our local wildlife and keep our pets indoors. 

Our little jay is in good hands now, and the Center will contact us when it (or the brood it’s placed with) gets released. It’s nice to know that we made a difference in a life, even if it was a very small one. 🙂

To learn more about the Second Chance Wildlife Center, click this link. They are always in need of volunteers and donations. Support a good cause and help give local wildlife a second chance. 🙂

NOTE: Please don’t attempt to handle wildlife unless you have knowledge and experience. If a particularly large or dangerous animal like a fox or deer, call the authorities. 

– Wandering Minstrelette

Moment in the Mist

When Mommy and left the hotel this morning we were a bit distraught to see snow falling from the sky. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to make us both think, “We’re going to freeze today…”

Why? Because today we were taking the tour of Niagara Falls, Canada, which included our northern neighbor’s version of the Maid of the Mist called the Hornblower. When we signed up for the tour, the agent had mentioned to us that technically the Maid of the Mist was a better ride because the boats are better equipped and able to maneuver within the curve of the Horseshoe Falls but that one would only notice after having gone  many, many times. Either way, we were expecting to get really wet.

Our Gray Line tour guide for the day, Carl, picked us up right by the hotel and after gathering the other passengers from locations around Niagara, NY, took us to the border where all we were asked was, “Where do you live?” and “Are you carrying any firearms?” As both of those were easy to answer, everyone made it to the other side without any difficulty and were soon bused to the Hornblower Cruise.

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Mommy didn’t want to get wet and therefore decided to stay below, but I chose to brave the winds and mist on the upper deck. Throngs of people, cloaked by wildly flapping red ponchos, pressed at the railings in an attempt to have the best angle for a memorable shot and a decent looking selfie. Admittedly, I was thinking the same thing as I wanted to be able to share with my family, friends, and followers here, on Facebook, Instagram, Yonder, and Google+. As I couldn’t get to the railing myself, I found the shortest people I could and reached over them until I got just what I wanted.

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Then I heard a father tell one of his kids, “Don’t worry about taking the best picture – be present in the experience. It’ll make a better impression.”

I’ll be honest and say that it only had me pause for a moment, because I was playing the part of a tourist and throughout the rest of the day as we visited different locations of importance on the Canadian side of Niagara and wanted to take photos of the floral clock, the Skylon Tower, the whirlpool, etc., not just to share but really for myself. I want to have memories that are somehow saved, that won’t fade and can be recalled at a click of a button.

But… his words did make me think. How often, in this day and age is our first reaction – when we something interesting, exciting, or even scary – to document and share it? Social media has pushed this urge to new heights and it makes one wonder if we know how to wonder anymore. How to be in awe. How to just be.

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, when Walter finally finds Sean O’Connell, the wildlife photographer he’s been trying to track during the entirety of the story, up in the Himalayas waiting for the perfect shot of the elusive snow leopard. Walter, trying to figure out what was on a special negative he thinks he’s lost, is trying to coax and answer from Sean when a snow leopard comes into the viewfinder.

Sean motions Walter to peer through the camera at the beautiful “ghost cat,” and then continues to sit and stare across the valley. “When are you going to take it?” asks Walter.

Sean replies, “Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”

I need more of this attitude in my life. To enjoy the moment without any distractions and cherish something real, honest, and true. I’m not saying that I won’t be taking anymore pictures during my time in Canada, but this is a philosophy that I hope to make my own – perhaps you will consider it to.

That being said, today’s tour was very enjoyable, even with the random moments of precipitation. It was never too cold and the flimsy ponchos on the Hornblower actually kept us dry. Despite the gray skies, there’s no denying it – the Canadians have the better view.

We returned to our hotel in the afternoon, only to turn right back around and go through US-Canada customs a third time (this time with a little more questioning) and spend a few moments in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake before heading to Toronto, the next destination of our trip.

Mom and I are truly having a wonderful time on our trip so far. Here’s hoping that as this week continues we’ll learn what it truly means to just stay in the moment, so that it’ll be saved not only in our hard drives, but our hearts.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Mason Pride

It’s hard to believe that my time at George Mason has officially come to a close.

I somehow managed to extend my stay for a year longer than most full-time graduate students, but I am thankful for every moment that I have had on this vibrant, robust, growing campus.

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My first day of graduate school. 🙂
Things have changed a lot since I first came in Fall 2013. Firstly, I started off as a masters in flute performance student, studying under the amazing Julianna Nickel. She was the main reason I chose to come to Mason, despite opportunities to attend the University of Oregon and the University of Akron (with a full ride to the latter). Never before had I been with so many flutes in one place, and I was honestly surprised at how nice and supportive everyone was. For an instrument where competition is high to get a minimal amount of positions, this studio only showed love and encouragement to each other. I’m confident to say I rather blossomed during my time in Nickel’s studio. IMG_6935

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Prof. Julianna Nickel coaching a fellow flutist, Fall 2013.
Besides the flute studio, I had some amazing experiences that fall. My music in research class had the opportunity to handle old, original manuscripts from the Middle Ages.

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I also made some great friends and together we created wonderful chamber music – oh, and survived graduate level music analysis class. Those who suffer together, bond together, haha.

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Poulenc Sextet

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A typical day in analysis class
But what would change my life forever was joining the Mason Symphony Orchestra. I didn’t know it yet, but I was in for a lot more than I ever imagined when I came to that first rehearsal to play piccolo.

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About halfway through the semester, people started asking me what my plans were for the future. When I told them about my dreams of starting a youth ensemble or opening a conservatory, the question I kept getting was, “Then why are you in performance?”

The first time it shocked me and I didn’t know what to say (very unusual, by the way). After I got it several times, I came up with some half-baked answer that I didn’t entirely believe myself. It wasn’t until I was leaving class one evening and discussing this situation with a classmate that I realized that God was telling me something.

I was in the wrong program.

After much prayer and discussion, I decided to drop my masters in music performance and applied to be accepted into the Arts Management program at Mason. Spring semester of 2014 was a fresh start, with new faces, new classes, and a whole new campus.

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I actually found it harder here to make friends, because most people came for class and left directly afterwards, but eventually I connected with some individuals that have now become dear to my heart. Together we went on field trips to places like the National Portrait Gallery and NPR. Some of us volunteered at the Association for Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) in a frigid New York January. A whole squad attended the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) at American University to attend panels and experience art ourselves as a reminder of why we chose this field. Our Special Event class took us outside of the classroom as well by encouraging us to participate in events near us so we could have the experience of what working as an arts manager feels like in the real world. And of  course, who could forget our culminating Capstone projects!

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I was also blessed with the opportunity to do not one, but two international internships  during my program: Summer 2014 in NiterĂłi, Brazil and Summer 2015 in Berlin, Germany. I have written about both experiences in previous blog posts – be sure to check them out!

 

What I will always cherish the most, however, was the surprise of when I was hired to work for the same orchestra that just a couple of semesters ago I had been performing with. The previous orchestra manager had to leave suddenly in the Spring semester of 2015 and of all the candidates interviewed, I was chosen.

It felt like going back home, not only because of having once been part of the ensemble, but because I had worked for my orchestra in undergrad and felt comfortable in this supporting and managerial role. What I learned over the year and couple of months of my service to this ensemble and its director, Dr. Dennis Layendecker, will be carried with me for the rest of my life. The frustrations and joys, the tensions and celebrations, the overwhelmingly, ridiculously “proud parent” feeling I had at the end of each performance – I’m really going to miss that.

Managing this group not only became my job but my joy. I wish each and every member, especially those who are graduating, the very best in the future and many blessings from the Lord.

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Speaking of graduation, I actually graduated in December, but stuck around to continue working with the MSO until the end of this semester. I had my sister do a graduation photo shoot to celebrate since I couldn’t attend commencement, and boy did they turn out nice. Check our her online portfolio to see some of her great work.

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But now I feel like things are really over. The orchestra had it’s last concert, everyone’s done with finals and presentations, and then yesterday was a celebration of Fall and Spring Arts Management graduates. Once again, I was shocked, surprised, and honored to receive the Erin Gaffney award which, according to the GMU Arts Management website, “is named in honor of Erin Gaffney, MA in Arts Management in 2007, who was instrumental in advancing new programming within the College of Visual and Performing Arts, graduated with High Honors, and was the first recipient of the Dean’s Award. Erin Gaffney passed away on July 10, 2008. The award is presented to an outstanding student who exemplifies Erin’s respect for self, for others, and for the power of the arts to transform.”

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I am pictured here receiving the Erin Gaffney Award with Erin’s parents, brother, and niece.

Truly, I am overwhelmed. God has truly blessed me during my time at Mason and I could not be more proud to call this school my own.

Thanks for the memories, Mason. Now onward to the future.

PS – Keep in touch over the next several days as my mom and I will do a victory tour of Ontario, Canada in celebration of my graduation from GMU. We’re bound for some exciting adventures!

-Wandering Minstrelette

A Stroll Among the Cherry Trees

Last week for my birthday, I treated myself to an experience I had never had before.

Waking up several hours before the sun, I drove to Washington, DC, surprisingly tons of people already moving at that hour and even more surprisingly found FREE parking near the Tidal Basin. Following the growing crowd, I found myself on a bridge facing the Jefferson Memorial, just as the sky began to turn from navy blue, to purple, to red.

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It turned out that my vantage point was perfect to capture the beauty of the sunrise and in fact it was one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever experienced.

Pink clouds were strategically placed at the water’s edge, their pale color appearing with the increasing light. The Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument stood proudly and majestically across the way, welcoming the awe and wonder of the already thousand some tourists gazing upon them at first light.

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The colors in the sky became brighter, richer, until finally the sun appeared from beyond the horizon and the magic dissipated.

At least in the sky, it did, but it continued among the trees.

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As I skirted along the rim of the Tidal Basin, I would watch as the wind gently played with the soft, fragile branches arrayed in a distinct hue with which the entire capital has donned for the next few weeks. Every so often I would pull away from their allure and be drawn to what was just on the other side of their lattice-like appearance.

I discovered, for the first time, the FDR and George Mason Memorials. I strolled up to the foot of the Washington Monument, touched its base that had stood strong despite the unexpected earthquake of the recent past.

 

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Back in the pink forest, I saw all sorts of people taken advantage of the most attractive time of the year in the District. Photographers and models were everywhere – there were engagement shoots, wedding shoots, maternity shoots, family shoots, artistic shoots, and even pet shoots.

This is an event I have been blessed enough to have grown up by and enjoy for several years. But as I enjoyed my morning under the blushing boughs, I began to think about all those who would have loved to come and see what I am seeing, experience what I am experiencing. So, I decided to take a stroll among the cherry trees and share it with you around the world that you might, vicariously, be able to enjoy a moment of the wonder of spring in the nation’s capital.

Please click here to see my video on YouTube.

Happy travels!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Wedding Day Perfection

I really need to be better about punctual writing…

 

The March 13th could not have been more perfect.

I woke up rested and was able to take a nice, warm shower. A gift after the previous day’s dab-and-dash. There was little for me to do, so I took my good sweet time doing my hair and makeup and even after that I found myself twiddling my thumbs. Paulo, too, had nothing to occupy his time until his friends came to pick him up, so I was able to ask him to give me an impromptu violin lesson. I proudly showed my ability to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” but was quite lost after that. String instruments are pretty confusing to me, a flute player. Especially vibrato – how does one even make one’s hand move that way?

Anyways, Paulo’s friends soon came and picked him up to go to the wedding venue in the Mexico City suburb of Naucalpan, leaving me to once again twiddle my thumbs. Christina, her mother, and the bridesmaids had all spent the night in hotels closer to the venue to allow for early morning preparation. Paulo, who was one of the musicians, was to arrive later. I was to come with Christina’s father and grandparents, just before the ceremony started. When the time came, I quickly threw on my dress and shoes and together we were off to the event for which I and many others had come.

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The gate of Quinta Corregidor opened to welcome us into a beautifully manicured garden scene, complete with lawn umbrellas, comfy chairs, and Mexican style furniture. The “first look” had already happened, and we passed as Christina and Fernando were posing in an older, attractive looking car. A valet took the vehicle and I quickly found all the bridesmaids, whose dresses I nearly matched (honorary bridesmaid status – woo!). They were all GORGEOUS. Christina was GORGEOUS. The whole venue was, you guessed it, GORGEOUS.

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The ceremony would take place in a grove-like area – enclosed by trees and brush, covered by a white textured canopy, and lined in faux grass that looked and felt real.

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There was plenty of time to schmooze and take pictures before the actual ceremony began, when the guests had been requested to not attempt to photograph there ceremony with their phones in order to enable the professional photographers to do their job properly. I took what I could before the ceremony, admiring how simple and beautiful (and Pinteresty) everything looked. I’ll post some pictures here, but you can find some of my other favorites on my Instagram account: @wanderingminstrelette.

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Soon, the ceremony began – Christina has always been a punctual person – and as the bridal party filed in, the emotions started to well up inside me. I was so happy and blessed to be here for Christina, who had gone through so much with me and encouraged me throughout our college years. From seeing Fernando’s face as he awaited her turn down the aisle, I knew that she had found herself a man that truly loved and appreciated her, that together they would be so much more wonderful than apart and that theirs was a commitment that would last their whole lives.

The music began, not the traditional bridal march – we musicians are too picky to have overdone wedding music, and there she was, arm-in-arm with her father. Christina was glowing, radiant with joy. For that one moment, I disobeyed the photographers’ request and stealthily brought out my phone to snap a picture of this triumphant entry. I’m so glad I did.

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The whole ceremony, like the weather, was perfect. I snuck my phone out one more time and managed, without really trying, to get the much sought-after kiss shot.

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The beauty of the ceremony was challenged only by that of the reception hall. A covered area with a similar canopy, the open air “room” was daintily embellished with Mexican-style, yet sleek and modern, furniture and decorations.

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Then there was the food – oh my goodness, the food was amazing. The couple really outdid themselves in selecting the menu.

I have to admit that this was one of the first weddings, Adventist or otherwise, where I never felt bored. Perhaps it was because of the people I was seated with or the fact that the karaoke (instead of dancing) kept us all entertained or that the reception didn’t last until all hours of the night, allowing guests to leave wanting more rather than wishing for less.

Too soon, it seemed that this treasure of a day was over, months of planning gone in an instant, like the sparklers with which we sent off the couple into the warm, welcoming night. The present would now become cherished memories that all who attended will hold dear in their hearts.

Truly, it was a perfect day for this beautiful couple. I can only hope and pray for as perfect of a life for them ahead, where their relationship grows with each day and their commitment to each other delves deeper and stronger.

Christina and Fernando – ¡Felicidades! and many blessings. May God use you both for His glory, and may you always honor Him.

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-Wandering Minstrelette

 

 

 

Star Power

It’s not often that one gets to share a space with a living legend, but on Thursday night last week I was in a room full of them. 

  
The Berlin Philharmonic is one of the greatest symphonic orchestras of the world, and is most certainly the most well-known. Their history is interwoven with pride and disappointments, but there is no doubt that they have managed to make themselves the golden standard by which nearly every orchestra measures themselves. 

I had heard the Berlin Phil once before at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. How cool would it be, I had thought, if one day I could see them on their home turf? 

   

One of the first things I planned to do when I knew I was coming to Berlin was to go see a performance. However, tickets tend to go fast, especially when you have well-known conductors thrown into the mix. 

Gustavo Dudamel, another living legend (and quite a young one, for that matter), was going to conduct this amazing ensemble in a performance of W.A. Mozart’s Serenade for Posthorn and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Dudamel is especially known for his remarkable interpretations of works by Mahler, so I’m pretty sure that everyone in town who cares about classical music (which is actually quite a lot of people here) knew and planned to attend. 

The performance was completely sold out, but I was able to purchase a standing room only ticket for €10 by waiting in line for about an hour and half just before the concert. There were plenty of others with me, too, hoping that they would have a spot for the concert. 

  
Never in the States have I ever heard of people scrambling to get a ticket to attend a classical concert. Do we even have standing room only options available? Of the entire Philharmonie GroĂźer Saal, which holds 2,440 people, I saw 4 empty seats. Even those were filled in the second half by those who had originally been standing. I am pretty sure that the major orchestras in the area where I live – the National Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony – would love to have that kind of ticket available if the demand was high enough.  

Anyways, there I was at the very back of the hall, standing. The first musicians began to appear and the audience began to clap. They just showed up and they were being praised! This city truly loves their orchestra. 

I also was able to make out that the first flute player was Emmanuel Pahud, a brilliant performer and one of my musical role models. I totally fan-girled. I think the other people around me must have been wondering if there was something wrong with me. His playing was so beautiful, so effortless… There is definitely a reason why he is the principal flute of this renowned ensemble. 

Then Dudamel appeared. For a few seconds, I wondered if I was in a rock concert instead. This young conductor has nearly single handedly changed the perception of what classical music can be and every one loves him for it. 

First, the Mozart. It was instantly recognizable as a work of Wolfgang from it’s style and almost happy-go-lucky sound. Dudamel seemed to be barely doing anything, so as not to distract for the glorious work the orchestra was producing. The players seemed to me to work as one giant instrument – even from where I was standing, I could see that everyone moved together and even breathed together. The Posthorn soloist appeared only for one movement of the work, and did a great job at showcasing this unusual, and I am sure rather difficult, instrument. Overall, the entire work sounded like velvet to my ears. Smooth,comfortable, approachable. At the end, a great applause erupted – and it was only intermission!

The Mahler was absolutely glorious. Once again, Dudamel seemed to be doing as little as possible (which was a surprise, I expected him to be a bit more showy…) but was pulling amazing sound and emotion from the orchestra. It had been a long time since I had felt so moved and elevated by a live performance, but there was no way that anyone could not have felt something. Each movement was more wonderful than the last and the different sections all had a chance to be showcased throughout the work. 

Pahud sounded amazing (How I would love to play like him…) and his teamwork with the principal oboe player to make what we call the “floboe” sound was true perfection. Honestly, the whole orchestra was the sound of perfection. 

When the last sounds of Mahler faded away, the packed hall burst into cheers, whistles, applause, and shouts of “Bravo!” This lasted for at least 7-8 minutes. Dudamel had to appear three times (the last with the orchestra already off the stage) before people would subside and start making their way out of the hall. 
  
When a long-held dream of yours finally comes true, things can seem a little surreal. But it was true – I had seen the Berlin Philharmonic at their resident performance hall, with their principal flutist in the ensemble, performing amazing works, and being conducted by one of the greatest conductors of our time. Living legends with a ridiculous amount of star power – and I was there. 

I can actually say I was there…

What an amazing night!

Do you have a have an experience of encountering a living legend or another influential figure? I’d love to hear about it. 

Until next time – happy travels.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Nostalgic Weekend

This weekend was like stepping back into time. 

It has been six years since I was last in Austria. Six years ago, I had come to the Bogenhofen/Salzburg region with a group of 40+ individuals on the first major orchestra tour of my college career. That tour is still the one I tend to speak about most often, and it started in Austria. 

It was here that I saw cute houses around every corner. It was here that I really fell in love with German. It was here that I knew I wanted to be a musician for the rest of my life. It was here that I met my best friend and brother from another mother, Michael. It was here that I knew I would some day return to. 

Bogenhofen Seminar Scholss is a school where high school students and theology students come to learn while living in the beautiful “heart of Europe.” The school also has a language program where international students come to learn German. I had wanted to come during my college years, but sadly it never happened. Perhaps it still will? We’ll have to wait and see… 

 

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 The campus was more beautiful than I remembered. Ever corner brought memories of different antics and stories from my time there with the NEYE. 

I also had the chance to visit Salzburg, which had been a highlight of the NEYE tour. In this place where Mozart was born, lived, and worked, music seemed to seep from every stone’s crevice. 

The orchestra had had the honor of opening the famous international music festival in the gorgeous Salzburg Dom. Walking through those doors, glancing up at the five organs and beautiful art all around, it was like I could see us all again, performing under the Kappelmeister who held Mozart’s old job. Dr. Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, our late director, would be bobbing around to make sure we were all in our places and letting us know if any of us were off pitch. The younger faces of all the people I know and love and call family kept appearing before my eyes, and nostalgia swept over me. 

   
 The Fortress was the other must see site of the city, one that I had failed to appreciate fully the last time I had come. Being in poor physical shape is never fun, but especially when it keeps you from enjoying memorable experiences. Also, I had chosen to rest instead of climbing to the top because I didn’t want to exert myself too much, as I was expecting to perform later that evening. I didn’t perform and ended up having missed out on the amazing view – and it was time to rectify the latter. 

  
With a little encouragement from my friend, I was able to make it all the way to the top of the Fortress and my, Salzburg is beautiful from above. 

It was amazing to remember the good times once had, but it was even more amazing to think of all the memories I was making now. 

On this short trip, I also had the chance to: meet and play with a giant 6 month old Great Dane puppy, walk through the overgrown forests and fields of the countryside, ride a motorcycle (essentially for the first time), see the Inn river, practiced my improvisation skills, explore places in the Dom and the Fortress I had not seen before, attended a fail jazz concert (but we had fun anyways), and had some long, awesome conversations with a good friend. The only thing I could have asked for more of was time.      

Let’s just hope it won’t be another six years before I return. There are too many memories waiting to be made. 

-Wandering Minstrelette

(Pictures to be added later)