Dear Friends & Family,
Once again it’s time for my annual year in retrospective or the “all about me” letter. I do live alone after all…except for all the wildlife that comes to visit. If you’re reading this online, you will find clickable links (underlined) to lots of photos and videos. If not online, you won’t see the photos or videos and, consequently, will miss the best part! Best get thee to a computer (or iPad or iPhone) and visit my web site at http://saxchick.net. Just click on the Holiday Newsletter graphic. It will remain online until next December, when it will be replaced with a new holiday letter.
My old man cat, Morris, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on August 11th this year. He was blind and diabetic and generally in declining health. My daughter Lois rescued him 16 years ago and brought him home in a bucket. He was a good buddy and provided a lot of love and comfort throughout those years. I may eventually get another cat or two but for now am enjoying my newfound freedom and cleaner house.
I continue to teach a few students (saxophone and trumpet) and am happy to keep the numbers low and devote my energy to a special few. I had several high school students graduate this year and go off to college. Over the years of lessons I grow very close to my students and their families. It is gratifying to watch them grow and mature – both musically and chronologically.
Speaking of families, we observed a significant event in our family this year. Our Aunt Marion, the last remaining member of our mother’s family of eight siblings, turned 99 in July. My sister and I celebrated with her at her residence in Dixon, Illinois. She is still mobile and sharp as a tack! We also gathered together for family holiday celebrations. Here is a little photo album of our tribe.
I finally grew weary of mowing and trimming around tree stumps so I had a dozen of them ground out this fall. That will alleviate a lot of frustration and extra work in my yard. I’m trying to make my life easier to manage as I get old and decrepit. Of course, I still have enough creative energy to mow around my lawn sax and my prairie takes care of itself.
I continued my obsession with photographing the beautiful birds and other wildlife that come to visit here. Most birds are camera shy and are not very accommodating at posing for me. I try to lure them in with peanuts but the birds are so quick (and my camera and I are so slow) that it is a challenge to capture good photos. Still, I keep at it and occasionally get lucky.
I planted a garden again this year. This time I tried something new: laying down landscape cloth to keep the weeds out. It was a lot of work and my back is still paying the price…but I didn’t have any weeds except for a few hardy ones that managed to poke their way through by the end of the gardening season and a few that took advantage of the few spots of exposed soil around some plants. I think it had an adverse effect on some plants but I’m going to stick with it for next year and see how it goes after a year without tilling the soil. I always enjoy planting new and interesting things: varieties of summer and winter squash, purple sugar snap peas, cylindrical beets, and mystery eggplants, I already have my seeds (including some new and unusual bean, squash, and eggplant varieties) for next year’s garden…since I will have to start them indoors by Valentine’s Day and, of course, because I do everything before it’s time!
This was a banner year for apples! My trees produced bountiful crops of all kinds of apples: Wolf River (huge but mealy cooking apples), Macs, Honeygold (crisp and sweet), Cortland, Fuji, and Pink Lady. The specimens were also better than usual...bigger and mostly critter-free (without spraying). My black walnut trees also produced a huge crop this year. The ground was littered with walnuts, which of course I had to pick up before I could mow my lawn before winter. Once they were all gathered and dumped on my shop driveway I drove over them to encourage the husks to loosen, then spent ten hours (over several days) husking them by hand. I hope I am ambitious enough to crack them (in a vise) and pick out the nutmeats…but I don’t have a very good track record for that project.
I turned 71 this year and believe this may be officially old: everything either hurts or leaks, I can’t remember anything, my fingers are twisting, and I snack on TumsI It’s a good thing I still have my sense of humor; my other senses are all diminishing! I am thankful to have friends who are willing to put up with me.
This year my carpet mural production consisted of two “Homage to FLW” murals and two murals created for an exhibit with the theme of Democracy. If selected they will be on display at Madison’s Overture Center Playhouse Gallery, where my Covid mural was on display in last year’s “Everything Covid” exhibit. I contemplated retiring from making carpet murals, as my carpet stock was getting low and my back was complaining. However, after a thoughtful fellow artist friend secured the mother lode of carpet samples for me, I reconsidered and ordered a new batch of frames.
When trying to recall all the concerts, plays, musicals, and operas I attended this year I realized there were lots of them! I feel blessed to have dear friends with whom to attend these cultural events that enrich my life. If not for my treasured friends (who enrich my life immeasurably) I would probably just stay home and watch TV and eat chocolate! Okay, I do that anyway.
Though Covid 19 is still with us, live performances are back in full swing. My APT schedule consisted of only one play, as the first two were cancelled - one due to Covid in the cast and the other due to ill-timed rain. The third one, however, was a grand finale: APT’s talented actors gave an outrageously grand and comic performance of The Moors by Jen Silverman. It was a most unusual play – a dark comedy with some life lessons thrown in for good measure. Colleen Madden’s talking and trilling moor hen had me in stitches and had James DeVita, as a mastiff dog, falling head over heels in love with her! Kelsey Brennan’s ballad in celebration of the murder of her overly critical sister (Tracy Michelle Arnold, who reminded me of a Maggie Smith character)) had the audience roaring!
My first trip to the Fireside Theater in Fort Atkinson was delightful! It began with a fabulous buffet dinner, followed by the musical A Mighty Fortress Is Our Basement, presented by the Church Basement Ladies. It is a theater in the round, giving everyone a good view of the action on stage in the center. As expected, the church ladies were a hoot and I want to go back for more (food and musical)!
A very thoughtful friend gave me prime tickets for Hairspray (the musical) at the Overture Center. I thoroughly enjoyed the laughs and welcome break from the tension in the world.
My concert buddy and I resumed our season of Madison Symphony Orchestra concerts (following a Covid year of cancellations). It was a make-up year celebrating Beethoven. Highlights (not all Beethoven) included January 24th Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (with actors from American Players Theater), February 14th (Rachmaninoff, Kodaly, Beethoven), March 14th Beethoven concert (Egmont Overture, September 25th season opener Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, November 13th (Marquez, Bruch, and Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony No. 6} and December 4th Madison Symphony Christmas. We always take a selfie at these concerts so, if she approves and it’s not too scary, I will include one.
As usual, I attended three operas (that’s what’s in the subscription) at the Overture Center this year: on February 20th Bock/Harnick’s She Loves Me, on May 1st Offenbach’s Overture in the Underworld (an entertaining romp through Hades), and Strauss’s Salome on November 6th. All were excellent but the most recent was my favorite. The production of “Salome” was as fabulous as it was outrageous, largely due to the leading character’s outstanding vocal range and power - and bonus dancing ability! The giant-sized pit orchestra was also most impressive, with extended solo passages by tuba and contrabassoon as well as flute and Eb clarinet at the other end of the tonal spectrum.
We actually do have an excellent concert series right here in Richland Center, just down the hill from my house! This year I got to hear Otis Murphy (saxophonist extraordinaire) and Greg Zelek (outstanding Overture Center organist).
Our saxophone quartet, Burlap Sax, met a few times this year, though not often enough to satisfy my addiction! Our first session was on April 3rd, when we recorded the Ukranian National Anthem in support of the people of Ukraine, who had just begun to suffer under Putin’s dastardly invasion that still lingers on. We scheduled two holiday programs, December 11th and 18th, for Walmart shoppers. It has become a favorite venue for us! I will add photo proof after our first performance. We tried to book a Halloween concert, and even compiled a folder full of spooky music, but could not get our schedules together to do it so we just had our own Halloween session in my shop/studio. We recorded a couple of appropriately frightful tunes for you to hear. Due to a good sale and free shipping offer at Vistaprint…I was inspired to order some new embroidered polo shirts to add to our holiday collection. They are not my original designs, just my finds…and, in some cases, Vistaprint’s re-design to work with their embroidery process. I am so impressed with the embroidery (though I know it’s computerized) that I have become a bit obsessed with coming up with excuses to order new shirts!
As always, I wish each of you a holiday season filled with people who appreciate and adore you, music that stirs your soul, pets that love you unconditionally, food that’s worth the calories, and health good enough to enjoy it all!
A joyous and prosperous new year to you all!