VICTORIAN RADICALS

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Musica (Melody) by Kate Elizabeth Bunce

A “June Gloom” day in Seattle made for the perfect opportunity to visit the  VICTORIAN RADICALS exhibit at Seattle Art Museum (SAM).

The attention to detail in the array of colorful paintings, tapestries, clothing, jewelry, and pottery transported me into a romantic world of  gardens, gods, goddesses, secret liaisons, betrayals, and courtly love!  My hands down favorite painting was Musica, by Kate Elizabeth Bunce. The lovely young musician with her ornate lute, sumptuous dress, and  intricate jewelry,  posed in front of a blooming floral arrangement, swept me away.

At one point I was asked to kindly step back  from a display case (got to close).  The case held a book which was open to a poem entitled, Edward  Gray.  I was mesmerized by the beautiful poem written by an English poet, Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892).   I thought to myself, someone must have set this poem to music.  When I got home, I did a little digging online and found a piece of sheet music written by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900),  of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.  As it turns out, Edward Sullivan set Edward Gray to music.  Sullivan’s setting is operatic, covers multiple octaves, and is far too complicated for the purposes of laying down a quick track for my blog……..  so I modified the melody and accompanied myself on my Taylor guitar as I don’t have a  lute lying around the studio, I do however, have plenty of floral dresses.

Here’s my version of Edward Gray:

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Here are some more beautiful paintings from the exhibit!

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Sigismonda (or Gismonda), 1897 by Joseph Edward Southall

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I didn’t get the name of the artist for this one… the narrative of the painting is about a young man who died in battle, the women are handing over some of his  personal belongings to his broken-hearted lover!

 

Couldn’t we all use more flowers, more color, more art, more music, more beauty, more love?

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Cafe Flora, Seattle

 

Rancho La Puerta 2018

IMG_4642I just returned from a week at the health and fitness spa, Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.  This was my eighth visit to the Ranch as a  visiting musical artist. The motto of the Ranch is ¡Siempre Mejor! (always better).  My first visit was life changing, and each visit provides inspiration to lead my best and healthiest life possible!  Here are my top 10 experiences from the magical week, in no particular order.

  • Wandering around the brick paths that snake through the entire property while taking in the colorful gardens! 

  • Attending  two concerts from Grammy Award winning classical guitarist, Jason Vieaux! I will never forget his magical playing and commentary in the  intimate setting of the Oak Tree Pavilion.  Here’s a pic of Jason below.

Jason Vieaux

  •  Hanging  out with my handsome husband who worked at the Ranch for thirty-one years before retiring to live in Seattle. I literally took the Ranch home over six  years ago, when Joe came to live with me and my daughter, Ruby.  Now he visits the Ranch  as my guest and gets to relax and do whatever he wants!

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  •  Seeing old friends and making new ones! Below, the lovely Manuela, Concierge Extraordinaire!

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  •  A wonderful hands on cooking class with master vegan chef and cookbook author, Jill Nussinow, the Veggie Queen!  Joe, Ruby, and I  been following a plant based diet for over two years now, never felt better.

 

 

  •  Performing an evening solo piano  program, Across the Borders,  in the Oak Tree Pavilion! I also led two sing along classes in the same space, terrific fun.

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  •  Swimming Workouts in the beautiful fitness pool. IMG_0833
  •  Yoga!

 

  •  Watching a barn owl swoop into a tree at sunset like a  winged white ghost from another world.  Joe and I experienced this together.  We also saw a family of 7 skunks the same night- luckily, they kept the family party moving!  click here for some magnificent bird photos

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  • Returning Home.  Good to go away and oh so happy to return home to the yellow house.  There’s no place like home.

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Strait To Vegas

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Rodeo queens, show girls, casinos, hustlers, Texas hold ’em, slots, swanky shops, and mile after mile of neon lights, oh my! Last weekend, Joe and I took a trip to Las Vegas, my first time. Why Vegas? Two words: George Strait.

I’ve been listening to and singing George Strait songs for over thirty years. I love his soothing voice, the beautiful songs, his personality, and his old- school country sound. What’s better than George singing more than thirty of his greatest hits, accompanied  by the Ace in the Hole Band?  Amarillo By Mornin’, Check Yes or No, The Chair, Easy Come Easy Go, are some of my favorites. I also enjoyed the two songs tribute to Merle Haggard, including, Are the Good Times Really Over, now that’s some old-time country!

I can’t stop thinking about the show,  what a delight to experience a stage full of  seasoned musicians who effortlessly and elegantly tossed off hit after hit. I think musicians of all genres would find inspiration in watching these professionals at work. Some of those guys were in their late 70’s if not 80’s.  Definitely not their first rodeo.

While in the big AT&T  Stadium, the concert had excellent sound with amazing views  of George and the band no matter where he was standing on the square-shaped stage, thanks to the Jumbotron.  For the encore, the George and the band played a perennial favorite… All My Ex’s Live in Texas, the Milk Cow Blues, and an old-time swing number, Take Me Back to Tulsa. Here’s George Strait singing Old Troubadour.

We also took in Cirque du Soleil’s One, featuring the music of Michael Jackson.  A stunning show with death-defying acrobatics, creative staging, brilliant costumes, amazing performers,  and dazzling lighting.  Standouts of the show  include, Billy Jean danced in the dark, the dancers (and flying acrobats),  outlined by a tiny lights,  the sexy, Dirty Diana, danced by an athletic, and incredibly flexible woman, the fierce female bass player playing all those memorable riffs such as  Beat it and Smooth Criminal,  and a hologram of the King of Pop himself, dancing the grand finale of the show.  Absolutely mesmerizing. Here’s the trailer for the show.

Below are some shots of the strip and check out George Strait singing Old Troubadour.

My version of Amarillo By Mornin’:

 

 

 

 

 

Montana’s Trailhead

Billings, Montana, marketed as Montana’s trailhead,   located in South Central Montana in Yellowstone County,  serves as Montana’s largest  city  with a population of nearly 115,000 residents.  I was born in Billings while My Dad was attending Eastern Montana College (now Montana State Billings).  My Mom reports we lived in a humble abode ( a garage)  for around $30.00 per month. We lived in Billings  for my first four years, then moved to Poplar, Montana, then ended up in Choteau, Montana.

My recent trip to Billings, accompanied by Joe,  was  nostalgic, relaxing and educational.  The primary reason for the trip was to pay a visit to Jay Old Mouse and learn about the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute.  In a  couple of packed days,  we visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield, hiked along the Rim Rocks, strolled along the Victorian Mansions in the Historic District, and visited the  Western Heritage Museum. We also spent time with my brother and family who drove over from Clyde Park, near Bozeman.  (also ate at a great restaurant called the Wild Ginger!)

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I love finding unusual music stories, and I found a treasure in the Western Heritage Museum!  Ever heard of the song, the Hippy Hippy Shake, recorded by the Beatles and 30 other bands? It also turned up in that 80’s movie, Cocktail,  starring Tom Cruise.    As it turns out, that song was written by Mexican-American rock star, and Billings born, Chan Romero ( born  in 1941).  Here he is performing The Hippy Hippy Shake.

 

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I had no idea there was such a rich Mexican- American in Billings.   It’s truly a thrill to find these hidden music gems on my travels.

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Sculpture on the  Little Bighorn Battlefield

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Billings Victorian Beauty.

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Would love to add this outfit to my vintage collection!

 

 

 

I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.

-John Steinbeck

 

Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute

 

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Cheyenne Courting Flute made by JD Old Mouse  now part of my instrument collection.

 

My first recording on the Northern Cheyenne Courting  Flute…. The flute is not tuned to a traditional diatonic scale, the sound is more improvisational, however, I have found that I can play some folk songs.  Here is a sample of  me playing Wayfaring Stranger on my beautiful flute. 

In traditional Northern Cheyenne culture, when the time came for a young man to find a mate, he would enlist the help of the tribal flute maker.  The  flute, made of cedar wood,  showcases a bull elk, along with sun and moon carvings.  This design honors the elk for shelter, food, and clothing, and the sun and the moon for the blessings of the day and the night. Upon receiving his flute,  the young man would go off to a quiet area and play a love song,  hoping to attract the attention of his intended mate.

Although not used for courting anymore, the tradition of flute making and playing continues through the work of JD Old Mouse, a Northern Cheyenne Indian who lives in Busby, MT.  Busby is about a 1.5  drive from Billings, MT  on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, near the Little Big Horn Battlefield.  This was a pilgrimage from Seattle to Eastern Montana (my native state) to learn about an aspect of Native American music from a primary source. This is part of a larger music project I’m creating called  Heart and Place: Exploring  Westward Expansion through music and stories.  

JD traces his flute lineage back three  generations starting with Turkey Legs who lived near Fort Keough (Miles City, Montana)  in the late 1800’s. After Turkey Legs, the tradition was passed to Grover Wolf Voice, then to Douglas Glenmore, also known as Blackbear.

 

Turkey Legs, late 1800's, Miles City, MT

Turkey Legs circa 1890, Montana

 

 

 

Grover

Grover Wolf Voice

 

 

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Jay Old Mouse with his grandfather, Douglas Glenmore

 

 

 

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Jay Old Mouse teaching me how to play

 

JD learned the craft of building the flute from his grandfather, Douglas Glenmore. Not only did JD learn the building of the flute, but he’s also a master at  playing. He plays for weddings, funerals, schools and other special occasions.  Whenever a flute player is requested, JD answers the call,  this is part of the flute maker’s responsibility and legacy.

Last week, I had the privilege of spending  a morning with Jay and his wife, Amy,  at their home outside of Busby to learn about the Northern Cheyenne Flute, an experience I’ll never forget. Jay showed me photographs of early flute builders and samples of their flutes, he also played the flute and gave me a lesson on  playing this gorgeous instrument.  I felt honored to get a peek into this culturally rich world.  I purchased one of his wonderful  flutes, which I brought home to Seattle.

Traditionally,  the flute is played  only by men, but JD has given his blessing for me to play and talk about the flute. He has built flutes for other women who are interested in the flute for  healing , or for educational  purposes.

For a video of Jay talking about and playing the Northern Cheyenne Courting Flute visit, please visit  here.

Jay is a warm-hearted, funny,  wise, and and soulful. Talking with him feels like a visit with those three great generations of Northern Cheyenne Flute makers who came before him.

 

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“Old Skool” Jay’s workshop, a converted school bus

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Me and Jay after  lunch near the Little Big Horn Battlefield.

 

Buckets of FUN!

Bucket Drum

Simple Equipment

The Shoreline Jam

Remember that old song, I don’t Want to Work? Well,  last week,  I got paid to bang on the drum all day!  Among my music offerings including performances and private lessons, I work in communities near and far as a teaching artist. This means I utilize my skills and knowledge as a music educator and performer to tailor music experiences for a variety of audiences. For example, I’ve crafted tambourines and danced the Tarantella with elementary students, I’ve taught singalongs at retirement homes, and I’ve taught teenage Spanish classes the  Salsa!

This past week, I taught classes in bucket drumming as part of an arts camp offered to elementary aged kids and teens through the  Shoreline Lake Forest Park Arts Council.  I was one of several teaching artists offering unique arts experiences including, movie making/editing, theater  improv, print making, fiber arts, cartooning, silhouette creation, and cooking, to name a few. The goal of the camp, according to Kelly Lie, Shoreline Lake Forest Park Arts Education manager?   The Three E’s: Expose, Experience, Experiment!  I’ll say, the campers  experienced the three E’s in a big way!

My class, Rhythm Explosion, included Latin American percussion, bucket drums,  body percussion, and repurposing recycled materials into percussion instruments.  I met with two groups of students each day for a week.  The overall experience culminated in an Arts Showcase where all participants  presented their work to family and friends. Our final performance included both improvisation and composed pieces.

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The great thing about bucket drumming?  It only requires a five gallon bucket, a pair of drum sticks, and imagination.  (Ear plugs don’t hurt either!) There’s something cathartic about banging out rhythms in a group, or solo experience.

The work the students (with the help of some outstanding teachers) completed during the week was impressive.  The showcase included a professional looking gallery of  visual art  along with  a variety of  live performances.  Upon exiting the showcase, audience members were offered an icy cold fruit pop made by the culinary arts class.

Lorie Hoffman, executive director of the Shoreline arts council gave a presentation during the week about being an artist.  She told us, “Making art makes my heart sing.”   This week made my heart sing.  I can’t help but think experiences like this have ripple effects and  improve the world little by little, poco a poco.

“It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
Steve Jobs, in introducing the iPad 2 in 2011

 

For more on bucket drumming, I encourage you to check out this clip:

Here are two websites offering tips on getting started with bucket drumming:http://www.bucketdrumming101.com

Join

 

 

Sweet Santa Fe Spring Break 2017

 

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Santa Fe proved a sweet destination for Spring break 2017.  My  (soon to be 15 years old!)  daughter and I headed down to the beautiful Southwest  for some desert fun in the sun.

Santa Fe, steeped in complex history and diverse cultures, is a mecca for art and history museums.  The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and The Museum of International Folk Art,  are both situated on Museum Hill overlooking 365 degree views of the mountains and the sweeping desert landscape. We stopped at a café for an outside table taking in the view between museum going.

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Along with an impressive historical display depicting the lives of the indigenous cultures of the Southwest, The Indian Arts and Cultures museum included thought-provoking works by contemporary Native American artist,  Frank Buffalo Hyde.

The plaza in downtown Santa Fe,  a stroll from our hotel , was a terrific place to people watch, listen to music, window shop, and talk to the jewelry vendors selling their wares  just outside of the Palace of the Governors (one of the oldest buildings in the country, dating back to 1610).

 

 

My favorite museum, New Mexico History Museum, tells the heartbreaking and captivating  stories of the American Southwest – the native people, the Spanish colonists, the Mexicans, the Santa Fe trail,  it’s all there!  A bonus exhibit on Flamenco dance and music was a highlight.  Turns out Santa Fe is a hot spot for Flamenco dance and culture.

 

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Ruby Dressed as a flamenco dancer. 

 

Then there was the Georgie O’Keeffe Museum  showcasing a collections of paintings  showing  the evolution of her art throughout her career.   I was as fascinated with her life as I was by her beautiful paintings.  O’Keeffe  lived 1887-1986, and spent much of her time at Ghost Ranch outside of Santa Fe, she was ahead of her time as an artist, traveler, observer, and independent woman.

It wasn’t all museums, we also took an afternoon to enjoy soaking and relaxing the 10,000 waves, a Japanese inspired spa just outside of Santa Fe.  We also enjoyed the delicious and spicy Southwest cuisine and loved the crisp clear mornings and sunny afternoons.

Ahhhhh, Santa Fe. We’ll be back!

 

 

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Coronado Historic Site

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A collection of santos

 

 

 

 

Florida

 

Contigo En La Distancia by César Portillo De La Luz, Recorded 1/5/17 in Yellow House Studio by Laura.

Central and Southern Florida!  Joe and I spent a week over the holidays in the Orlando area, Miami, and Key Largo.

We kicked off the trip with a visit to  Joe’s family in Titusville where we spent a beautiful day at the beach and another day meandering through the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge amongst  alligators, Great Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and Green Herons.

In Miami, we side strolled down the stylish art deco styled South Beach. Wall to wall  activity includes bustling  sidewalk cafés, posh shops, sandy beaches, and Cuban music blasting in the background. We also visited little Havana and enjoyed a traditional  Cuban meal near our hotel.

My favorite outing was to the Viscaya Museum and Gardens, built in 1914-1916 by the wealthy James Deering. The mansion and gardens, situated on a 180 acre estate, resemble the  Italian Renaissance and Baroque villas Deering visited in his travels.  I was fascinated by the ornate details of the huge mansion including a massive open indoor/outdoor courtyard and the sprawling gardens.  On the day we visited, teenage beauties posed for quinceañera photos. Each girl had an entourage in tow including photographers, assistants, make up artists, mothers, aunts, friends, and sisters  juggling water, granola bars, curling irons, dresses, shoes, and cell phones.

Our final adventure (not including driving on Florida’s fast moving highways) was a day trip to Key Largo for an afternoon  of snorkeling in the Atlantic.  We took a  boat 45 minutes out to sea to Grecian Reef where we enjoyed an hour and a half of snorkeling with a huge variety of tropical fish  in blues, greens, yellows, and pinks, including several large and teethy barracuda!

 

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Have Yourself a Merry Little  Christmas, Words and Music by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, Recorded at the Yellow House Studio 

Wishing you peace and love in the Holiday Season

XOXOX,

Laura

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

 

Memories of Cuba

 

You’re invited to Memories of Cuba: Laura Dean presents piano music, songs, travel photos and videos from her recent music adventure! 

Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, 2:00 PM

Music Center of the Northwest, 901 North 96th Street, Seattle, WA

Admission is free, made possible by grants from ArtsWA and MTNA