July 24th, 2011 :: Reading Days
From The Pastor as Minor Poet:
"After wasting far too many years trying to do the spectacular, it has finally occurred to me that God loves routine. All of creation holds together by the same things happening again and again, whether those are great things, like planets revolving around stars, or very small things, like electrons going around and around their nucleus. And with each rotation, year after year, through winter, spring, summer, and fall, if you are paying attention, you can almost hear the doxology: 'Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.' Similarly, we are not asked to be other than a part of this created order who get up, go to work, care for children, make meals, do laundry, pay bills, and go to bed, only to rise the next morning to do it all again. 'Keep on doing . . .,' the apostle commends. But along the way, those whose pastors have taught them to pay attention do it all as doxology."
-M. Craig Barnes
July 17th, 2011 :: Performing Days
This is a shameless commercial advertisement.
After five years of performing and recording together, my musical partner, Jerome Jim, and I are making it official. We are becoming a musical duo. We are, in fact, The JimGreer Duo.
But as Jerome told a recent audience, “I have to get something off my chest. Some people may be wondering, but Amy and I are NOT a couple.”
“No one,” I shot back from the piano, “is thinking I’m leaving Matt Greer for you.”
We are nothing if not a bit feisty on stage.
I am writing this shameless commercial advertisement to let you know about a few things.....
First of all, you can learn all about The JimGreer Duo on our beautiful website: thejimgreerduo.com (clever, huh?).
Secondly, our latest CD has just hit the streets. This is a double CD that we recorded in March, during week that was both wonderfully intense and just intense. I have been told (albeit mostly by people who already love me, so perhaps it doesn’t count) that it is a lovely recording. The title track, an arrangement of the folk song “The Water is Wide” by composer Mark Hayes, is the last track on both disks. When Jerome was up to his eyeballs in the editing room he couldn’t decide which take to choose. So he put a different one---and they are shockingly different--on each CD. I love that.
You can buy this recording on the website, which feels just remarkably sophisticated. I might just go buy one right now for the pure novelty of the idea. (Something of MINE can be purchased on the Internet. Wow.)
You can also listen to a few seconds of each track of both this CD and our previous one. This is all so very fancy.
Thirdly, for those of you who do FaceBook, you can follow us there (although I can promise the FaceBook updates won’t be done by me. I am not that cool yet.) OR if you’d like to be kept updated on future performances and events, you can join our Constant Contact email list. We promise never to share your contact info with anyone. (Actually, I don’t really understand how all this works anyway, so I am about as dangerous as Jerome’s Chihuahuas.)
We have several performances in the next few months, and in our now official capacity will be looking to add more. Preferably in far-way exotic locations. Like Paris. Or on a beach somewhere. Or in a location full of good food and interesting people. If you have leads for us, or even better, run a concert series of your own, PLEASE send word. While I don’t do FaceBook, I can be reached via email. I am also a big fan of pony express. Or homing pigeons carrying messages.
Finally, from time to time we will be posting on our Duo website reflections about working together, about rehearsals, about performances, about our time on the road, so check in. While we are so NOT a couple, we do promise to be entertaining. As Jerome once wrote on a recital poster, “Disrupt your day. This is SO not your sister’s flute recital.”
July 10th, 2011 :: Traveling Days
Everybody needs a little time away.
In May, after our final concerts were put to rest, term papers turned in, spring recitals a distant memory, we left town for a few days.
“Where do you want to go?” Matt had been asking me for weeks. Nearly buried alive by all the things I still had to do, I couldn’t even consider the question, let alone come up with an answer. “I don’t know,” I kept repeating, my mind wandering even as I was formulating that vague reply. And so, my love of almost two decades took me to Lamy.
This was the reaction of countless friends, expecting a more romantic, or at least a more distant location. Lamy, New Mexico (Yes, it rhymes with “Amy,” which has a certain poetic justice) is located about 20 minutes southeast of downtown Santa Fe. It is where the Amtrak station is located, and where scientists from all over the world were deposited on their journey to the labs in Los Alamos back during the Manhattan Project. No one we knew had ever been there. It isn’t likely to make the New York Times travel section anytime soon. It is, truly, the definition of nowhere.
Except for this. Across the street from the train station is a compound with a guest house. Owned and run by a fantastic woman who has traveled internationally, the “compound” consists of her home, her daughter’s family’s home, and a guesthouse. The whole property was originally built for the mistress of a rich Texan some 50 years ago. Matt, sensing between my non-answers my need for solitude and quiet, and yet wanting very much the option of a good place for dinner close by, stumbled upon this little rental option on the Internet.
It was -- and I do not say this casually -- perfect.
The guest house was beautifully laid out with a long great room, big kitchen, high ceilings, one sweet bedroom tucked off to one side, and floor to ceiling bookshelves. The best part was a long covered portal (porch) that ran the length of the house and where we could sit with our coffee or our wine and watch hummingbirds at the feeders and listen to the wind rustling through the aspens below. For two days, we did little but just that.
I read three books (including, I must confess, the first of the “Dragon Tattoo” series. Suspicious of their overwhelming popularity, I had snobbishly decided I was above those books, until I dipped into one that was sitting on the bookshelves of the guesthouse. I read it in under 15 hours. I am here to tell you that I am not above those books. Indeed, I was like an addict in my quest to get my hands on the other two in the series.). I went on a walk down a dirt road and saw a llama who wanted to become friends. We went to Santa Fe for dinner. We cooked an outrageous amount of food we had bought at Trader Joe’s en route to Lamy. We drank three bottles of wine. I went on a seven mile hike to a ghost town, during which time I never saw another soul. Or a ghost for that matter.
“If we ever had a second home, I’d want it be exactly like this,” I announced to my husband, and to anyone who would listen in the days after we returned. “You could just use that one as your second home,” one friend suggested. “Much less trouble than owning one yourself.”
We could, at that. Matt calculated that we could get on the city bus a few blocks from our house, ride it downtown to catch the train to Lamy and then walk across the street to “our” guesthouse. It is so outrageously easy to contemplate that we just might do just that, one of these days.
July 3rd, 2011 :: Reading Days
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I visited the Stein exhibit at the MOMA and afterwards wandered into the art museum’s store. There I stumbled upon a children’s book by Herve Tullet entitled Press Here. On the cover was a yellow dot, and on each page contained various instructions: “Press the yellow dot,” “Shake them up a little,” “Try blowing on them.....” I was immediately enchanted, and bought the book for my studio back home. I wondered if I would be able to catch a student obediently obeying these instructions, perhaps convinced that these actions were actually doing something profound, or, at the very least, helping to create the image that would then appear on the next page.
The next week a young student was waiting in the sunroom after his lesson. “There’s a new book on the shelf,” I called out to him from the next room. A few minutes later, I peeked in. Charlie was sitting there, diligently shaking the book on cue. I grinned, but said nothing. After painstakingly working through each page, he reported back to me , “Miss Amy, this is a cool book.”
One of the joys of not having children, yet having children in my life, is that I can indulge my passion for great children’s books. My students know every book on my studio shelves intimately. From time to time I even catch parents browsing the stacks.
Here are a few of the favorites:
I have mentioned these books before, but they remain at the top of the list, so they deserve another shout-out. The five book pop-up series by David Carter--One Red Dot, Yellow Square, Two Blue, 600 Black Spots, White Noise--are brilliantly imaginative. Kids of all ages devour them (I have witnessed groups of college age kids fighting over the books.). Mine are so loved they are falling apart and need to be replaced.
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems. This is for that person we all know who desperately wants something until they actually acquire it.
Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield. This is the book version of the hugely popular YouTube cartoons about Simon and his curious, relentlessly insufferable cat. Once I caught a little boy reading this book while waiting for his lesson. He was giggling uncontrollably, which was music to my ears. (I have a soft place in my heart for people who laugh out loud when they read to themselves). When he came into his lesson I asked him if he knew about the Simon’s Cat videos. He didn’t, which only goes to prove that things don’t have to be digital to win over the younger generation.
Olivia has gone to Venice since last we spoke. She ate at least as much gelato as I did in Italy two summers ago. (Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer.)
And finally, Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack. Our friends tell me that my husband’s most notable characteristic on Facebook are the unfortunate photos he finds on the Internet and then posts as his profile picture every Monday morning. In honor of this habit, one of his youth choir kids gave him this book of bad family photos. It quickly found a home on the studio shelf and is the favorite among any student or parent with a healthy sense of humor, and the ability to laugh heartily at the embarrassing portraits of others.
It’s summertime, the livin’ is easy, and the reading is good.
Contact Amy Greer at: firstname.lastname@example.org