Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

What’s in a name?

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

Randal’s New Album – 2020

Nyel and I were both blessed with difficult names.  Difficult to remember and, apparently, in Nyel’s case, difficult to pronounce.  And then, of course is the spelling thing.  Sydney, Sidney, Cydnee, Cidne — more variations than you can sharpen a pencil for.  Nyel is often Neil or (go figure!) Niel, or Nyal or Niles or Nils.

So when Randal Bays sent us his newly released CD, Up The West, listing the twelfth track as starting with “Nyel the Cannoneer,” I for one was pleased.  It’s a jig and Randal had debuted it at Vespers a couple of years ago — and here it is, published!  And even spelled correctly!  Yay!

Which, of course, brings us to our last name, “Stevens with a v” as I often say, even before the question.  It really had never occurred to me before I accepted Nyel, name and all, that people would wonder — ph or v?

When we opened the CD wrapper and read the notes, however, I was surprised to find that our last name might have still another interpretation:
    #12 Nyel the Cannoneer/  My friend Nyel Stevenson lives on the edge of the world down on the coast of Washington state.  He has a cannon that he fires off on special occasions…

Randal Bays, July 2018

Never mind.  I’m pretty sure there’s only one Nyel who has a cannon and lives on the edge of the world.  And there’s only one dear friend named Randal who could compose a jig especially for Nyel.  Randal, we love you no matter what you call us!  And I’d be hard pressed to say that about anybody else!


Happy Birthday Aaron English!

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Checking Connections

Remember that old song, “If I’d know you were coming, I’d have baked a cake…”?  Well, we actually did know Aaron was coming, but what we didn’t know was that yesterday was his birthday!  Luckily, Nyel had baked chocolate chip cookies which actually made it easier because Aaron was back on the road with a bagful in nothing flat.  Or so it seemed.

He was here to pick up a keyboard and its various accoutrements which were donated to his charity by Charlotte and Joe Paliani last July.  At that time, Aaron was here for a House Concert and, though he gladly accepted the keyboard, when push came to shove the next morning… he couldn’t fit it into his rental car.  “You can store it all here,” I said.  “No problem.”

Aaron in East Africa

The charity, the International Music Project, had celebrated its fourth “birthday” shortly before Aaron’s appearance here.  According to his website:  In May 2015 I flew to East Africa with luggage full of donated instruments & the beginnings of a plan. Since that day, my charity has been able to support music programs for youth in orphanages, refugee camps, HIV/AIDS resource centers, & low-income communities in Uganda, Burma, Kenya & the U.S.A.  Thanks to all who have donated musical instruments to the programs, or funds for teachers’ salaries.

Charlotte and Joe’s donation was fabulous but, as the months went by, I wondered if that keyboard, its stand, the piano bench and big box of music would ever get to its intended destination or if it would all live in our back forty for good. I shouldn’t have worried…  It was great to see Aaron, hear about how his ‘new life’ in Nashville is going and about his two upcoming (return) European tours planned for 2020.  He, himself, is a keyboardist and, having wrestled with with “The Donation in The Back Room” for five months, I was more acutely aware of the logistics that might be involved in his European tours.

Aaron English In Concert“Actually, I don’t take an instrument with me,” was the reply.  “I have keyboards stashed in…” and he named at least four European cities where friends are storing instruments for him.  Who knew?  “It’s easier that way,” he said.  “And cheaper in the long run.”  Oh my!  And the rest of us think that we have luggage concerns when we travel??  No so much.

It was in passing that he mentioned it was his birthday.  The 46th.  I was sorry we hadn’t known.  Maybe we could have pulled off a small House Concert…  But, as it was, he was on the road shortly after loading up his car.  He had a concert at a church in Bremerton early this morning…  Wow!  As usual, I’m full of admiration for touring musicians!

I’m counting on you, Bill Svendsen!

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Bill Svendsen

Tomorrow, Bill Svendson (who, with his wife Sue, founded the Long Beach Peninsula Acoustic Music Foundation and operates the Peninsula Performing Arts Center) is going to talk at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  I am SO looking forward to it!  I’m hoping to fill in a lot of gaps in my musical education.  No pressure, Bill.

His subject is “How To Hear The Music of Our Fathers” and is a response to a question from Diane Buttrell.  Diane is organizer of the very popular  Oysterville Town Hall Lecture Series and this fall’s offerings focus on “The Stories and Songs of Our Fathers.”  The question she posed to Bill:  “How can I tell what genre I’m listening to?  Is it Country or Western, Blues or Slow Jazz?  Or maybe Fusion?”

In answer, Bill promises to take us on a tour of American music, beginning with the immigrant populations who brought their native music with them.  How it changed and merged and was labeled will be the subject of his talk tomorrow, beginning at 10 a.m.  At least, I hope so.

Which Genre?

Like Diane, I feel that my music education is sorely lacking.  I know far more about the visual arts than I do about musical genres.  Diane, at least, plays and sings.  I grew up in a family that almost prided itself on being musically inept.  (Truly!)  I remember going to the Boston Pops and to the New York Philharmonic Symphony when I was twelve.  And I saw a fair amount of musical theater in San Francisco when I was growing up.

But, except for forty-five minutes a week during the first semester of sixth grade when we all went to the auditorium for “Music Appreciation,” that was about it.  I’ve acquired more musical knowledge from the musicians at our House Concerts over the past twenty years than I ever learned elsewhere.  Even the much-touted History of Western Civilization course at Stanford had far more to say about visual art genres than about music.

Schoolhouse Clock

It’s not that I’m expecting Bill to fill in all the gaps.  But I do hope I have a better understanding of what I’m listening to after tomorrow.  Plus, did I say…  he’ll be illustrating some of his information by playing his guitar!  Yay!  See you there.

Easier Sung Than Done

Sunday, October 27th, 2019

Larry Murante

Larry Murante performed at the PAC (Peninsula Performing Arts Center) in Long Beach last night to a respectful, attentive audience.  Mostly he sang his own compositions, any one of which I could readily listen to over and over again — and have!

Larry’s songs aren’t exactly what I’d call ‘easy’ listening.  Not because of the music, mind you.  His melodies are catchy, his rhythms upbeat, his delivery a combination of cheerful, ironic, and always always always thought-provoking.  And they stick with you.  They cause you to think and to evaluate and to resolve.

This morning when the alarm woke me to the usual pitchy black of late October, his “Ready for the Dark” popped into my head and will no doubt be with me for a while.  When days are short and nights are longer, you gotta get ready for the dark…  

Larry Murante

Those long nights are already here.  But it’s bound to get worse — especially considering the added impact of returning to Standard Time a week from today.  Yep!  On Sunday, November 3rd we’ll get back that hour that we lost last March — a concept that I don’t think I’ve ever completely understood.

Time is time, no matter what the clocks say… isn’t it?  The best I can wrap my head around is that it will (presumably) get light earlier in the morning  and get dark earlier in the evening.  But when you get up at 5:00 a.m. and go to bed with the chickens… who cares?

I think I’m ready for the dark — I’ve got extra logs on the hearth and my honey is nearby.  It’s actually the cold and gloom of winter that I’m not ready for.  But, maybe I can segue my thoughts into another favorite by Larry,  “Point of Entry” —  …If you give the world outside a point of entry, it’ll give back to you…  

And, after all. if Daylight Savings Time is soon to be over, can the Winter Solstice and shorter days be far behind?  Thanks, Larry, for all that positive energy and for your compassionate observations about this tired old world!  You are the best!


Stop! Look! Listen! Saturday 10:00-4:00!

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

2019 Music in the Gardens Ticket

Saturday, July 13th is coming right up.  Do you have your Music in the Gardens tickets?  Have you planned your route?  They say that this year you must BE at a garden at the stroke of ten a.m. if you are to visit all seven gardens before the four p.m. closing.

It sounds simple enough.  Start at one end; go to the other.  But wait!  Don’t forget to factor in the musicians.  And if you have a favorite one (or two or six) that will take you some additional factoring.  And maybe a bit of calculus or even trigonometry.

For one thing, not all the musicians play all day.  And, in most cases, each garden hosts just one  musician (or group)..  But not always.  The schedule looks like this:

Garden One – Dave Drury 9:45 am. to 12:45 with two breaks on the half hour.
Tom Trudell will set up and begin “about” 12:45 until “at least” 3:30 — maybe
doing a couple of tunes with Dave.  And… student musician Tristan Trudell will be playing part of the time as well.

Garden Two — Two groups, Tanz (Judy Eron and Charlie Watkins) will play from 10 until 12.   Sea Strings (Bill and Janet Clark) will play from 12:30 or 1:00 to 2:30 or 3:00.  (Got that?)  In between (from 12 to 12:30 or 1:00) Janet and Judy will perform Beatles songs.
And later, guitarist Tim Bunney, a friend of the homeowner/gardener will play to round out the day.

Well… you see what I mean.  In those two gardens alone, it is a constantly changing, moveable, musical feast!  The other five gardens appear to be somewhat more straightforward:

Guitarist Brian O’Connor

Garden Three – Brian O’Connor, all day with breaks from time to time

Garden Four – Geoerge Coleman, 11:00 – 2:00

Garden Five – Tom Grant, 11:00 – 2:00

Garden Six – Terry Robb, 1:00 – 4:00

Garden Seven – Jean-Pierre and Al Perez, 1:00 – 4:00

Oh yes… the gardens!  If you have your tickets, you have a description and, most importantly, the location of each of the seven.  Super necessary to plan your day.  I can give you a bit of a hint — the names of the gardeners for each of the numbers above.  #1 – Diane and Fred Marshall; #2 – Dawna and Terry Hart; #3 – Shelley Pollock and Jeff Stevens; #4 – Barbara and Eugene Norcross-Renner;  #5 – Dave and Linda King; #6 – Deb Howard; #7 – John Stephens and Steve McCormick.

The Love Shack 

Only a few pieces are still missing — addresses and a map!  Both are available on your ticket which, if ordered online or by phone, can be picked up at the English Nursery in Seaview, the Basketcase Greenhouse in Long Beach, or the Bay Avenue Gallery in Ocean Park.  Each venue still has tickets available for sale, as well — a $20 bargain!






Coming Soon: Music in the Gardens!

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Perhaps you’ve noticed.  There’s a lot of fluffing and buffing going on in Peninsula gardens these days.  The gardener-owners of seven properties — from Stackpole Road in Oysterville to Sahalee Hill in Ilwaco — are giving ‘what-for’ to potential weeds or other pests and talking sweetly to buds about to burst forth.  They are, of course, all readying for Water Music Society’s 13th annual Music in the Gardens Tour!

Tickets ($20 each) are already on sale.  If you haven’t yet ordered yours, they are available online through the Water Music Society’s Music Gardens Tour webpage at or by phone at 1(800) 838-3006. But, even if you have your tickets, the venues will remain a deep, dark secret until July 6th.  Not until then will the maps with garden locations be revealed!  Tickets purchased online or by phone must be presented at one of our three local outlets in order to receive the Official Garden Tour Map with the addresses of the gardens. This is also your ticket to the Gardens. Outlet locations will be posted the week before the Tour.

By now, most of us know that the gardens on these annual tours are full of surprises — unusual plants and plantings, imaginative solutions to common coastal garden problems, and eye-candy that goes far beyond the expected.  In addition each garden will feature an artist (in some cases, working at their craft) and musicians, both local and imported!

Musicians this year will include guitarist George Coleman; jazz pianist, Tom Grant; two music duos, “Tanz” and “Sea Strings”; guitarist Brian O’Connor; guitarist Terry Rob; Jean Pierre and Al Perez; guitarist Dave Drury; and pianist Tom Trudell and his son, saxophonist Tristan Trudell.  Wow!  And the line-up of artists is equally impressive — Susan Spence (basketry); Stan Reidesel (watercolors), Renee O’Connor (tile work), Nansen Malin (welding for topiary);  Jason Moore (Sculpture); and Somsri Hoffman (eclectic paintings on unusual objects!).

And did I mention that raffle tickets will be for sale for items yet to be revealed?  (I do know that a lovely floral by Marie Powell is among the items that a $5.00 raffle ticket could win.)  All-in-all, Saturday July 13th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. promises to be a feast for all the senses.  Oh!  I didn’t mention that most venues will also offer “small bites” — taste treats to keep you going in case you don’t want to take time out for lunch!  Pack a sandwich, I say.  You’ll have trouble tearing yourself away from each garden, as it is!

The best part of all, of course, is that Music in the Gardens is a fundraiser put on by the Water Music Society each year to raise money to support Ocean Beach School District’s music program.  It just doesn’t get better than that!






Double J and The Boys – Here Tomorrow!

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

Charlie, Janet, Judy — Double J and the Boys

I’ve decided to take the weekend off from my 14-day rant about the Discovery Coast article on Oysterville.  While I fume, there are too many other super things going on that I’d rather be talking about.  Like Vespers tomorrow!  Sunday, June 30th!

Double J and the Boys will take center stage over at the hour-long church service which begins at three-o’clock.  If you haven’t been to a Music Vespers Service at the church, you may want to know that it is mostly music — at least 40 minutes of the featured musicians so, if you are familiar with tomorrow’s group, you know that it will be 40 minutes of zany, thought provoking fun.

When asked what they were planning for this year’s program, the response was:  Double J and the Boys happily return to Vespers, still full of their cowboy spirit. This year they will take you fishing for sturgeon, sailing on Willapa Bay, and will musically transport you on a free trip to a Parisian café.  Several songs will surprise you with a new slant on aging.  Hmm, sounds cheery. . . Janet’s lively fiddle, Charlie ‘s happy accordion, and Judy’s western yodeling are sure to fill the space with fun and frolic.

An Old Favorite

I’m especially looking forward to that “free trip to a Parisian Cafe.”  I hope it’s one of our favorites — but any will do!  And I hope it’s upbeat and doesn’t make me too nostalgic.  Paris is  one of the few places in the world where I feel as truly “at home” as I do in Oysterville.  (I’ve tried to analyze that over the years and the closest I can come is that it’s something about the quality of the light.  Ditto San Francisco,)

Of course, the songs that resonate most with me are Judy’s whacky numbers on aging.  Her Social Security song should go viral in my opinion!  I have yet to hear her “mirror song” — one about seeing her grandmother in the looking glass, I think — but I’m sure it will also be full of familiar images.

Deacon Dick Wallace

Also, I’m hoping Charlie has a solo or two — maybe the one about his “sharp, snappy snake boots.”  And whatever Janet plays is a pleasure to listen to and to watch!  I can never get over that she is self-taught and didn’t begin until an age when most of us were getting serious about retirement.

Tucker Wachsmuth is on deck for the “Oysterville Moment” — that five minute welcome and (often) pithy story about the village.  Sandy Nielson, pump organist extraordinaire, will be playing the music to accompany the congregational hymn singing.  And, most importantly, Deacon Dick Wallace of St Mary’s parish in Seaview, will conduct the service. This is one of the few summer vesper services in which every participant has a familiar face.  All  are vespers veterans and all are favorites in the community!  Don’t miss it!



An Evening with Aaron Larget-Caplan

Monday, February 18th, 2019

Gobsmacked!  It seems as though I could come up with a better description of last night’s concert but, really, I can’t.  This is the third time Aaron Larget-Caplan has performed here in this very house and I still can’t believe that he comes to our little corner of the world – especially after all the other places he performs!

According to one of many websites about him, Aaron Larget-Caplan is a recording and touring guitarist. He performs solo and chamber music throughout Europe, Russia and the USA. A sought-after instrumentalist, he’s premiered over 80 compositions by a wide range of composers, arranged works by the likes of Bach, Schubert, Albéniz, Rodrigo and Reynaldo Hahn, and Edition Peters began publishing his arrangements of the music of John Cage in 2015. His recordings are available on Albany, Navona and Stone Records. He serves on faculty at the University of Massachusetts Boston and formerly the Boston Conservatory. And since this was written last September, Aaron has added Taiwan to his list of venues and is working on a trip to Japan.  Talk about Oysterville being on the world map!!

He billed his program a “Valentine’s & Album Release Concert” and the theme was love – “Ojos Brujos – Bewitching Eyes” by Leo Brouwer, “Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen, “A Room” by John Cage, “Granada (serenade)” by Isaac Albeniz, lots of Bach, and my favorite – España Cañi (paso doble) by Pascual Marquina.

Oh my!  What a program! And definitely a feast for the eyes as well as the ears and the soul!  As one guest pointed out later, Aaron’s hands not only work independently of one another, but totally differently – a right-brain/left-brain thing to do with precision and automation as contrasted with the lyricism and creativity.  Wow!  And here I was just being gobsmacked!

It was a stellar evening – good company, good food, spectacular music – all documented by our neighbor-of-many talents, Tucker-the-photographer.  Once again, we have been blessed!

An Evening with the Oyster Crackers

Monday, September 24th, 2018

The Oyster Crackers – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth 

Polished!  Professional!  Profound!  My thoughts about yesterday’s House Concert are brimming over with adjectives and superlatives.  And a deep feeling of peace.  I wish I could adequately describe their harmonies, their costume changes and choreography (right down to their music stands!), and their obvious enjoyment of their music and of one another.  It was probably one of those you-had-to-be-there things.

Rita Smith and Her Grandfather’s Button Accordion – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Three local women with disparate backgrounds and experiences:  Rita Smith, Bette Lu Krause, Christl Mack.  Together they are the Oyster Crackers.  Their voices gently glide and spiral around one another, carrying the listener to places of possibilities and contentment.  “What is it about them?” I found myself thinking.  Is it that they are the embodiment of grace and womanhood?  Are they what the suffragettes and feminists would like to be?

But… there was no pronouned (and certainly no strident) message here.  No aim to point out anything – at least not that was obvious or that came to me as I listened.  “Was it their sincerity?” I asked myself.  Perhaps their quiet commitment to the music and to the messages of the songs that came through loud and clear?  Or was it the songs, themselves?  Their choices spanned centuries and genres; some familiar, a few well-known, many obscure.  I wish I had taken notes or asked for their set list so I could think about those particular songs some more.

The Oyster Crackers in Red — Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

I came away feeling blessed – that we had heard them do one, single number at a Music Vesper Service in 2017 and that I had asked them if they’d consider a House Concert sometime.  Blessed that their commitment and dedication led them from “only two or three songs” of a year ago to their full-blown, two-hour presentation (with instruments!) yesterday.  Here!  In Oysterville!  Absolutely Fabulous!

And before I forget, we all have another opportunity to enjoy them on Wednesday, October 17th at 7:00 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center in Long Beach!  See you there!

I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

When it comes to trains, timing is everything.  So, when the announcement came this morning from the Astoria Railroad Preservation Association concerning their Open House on Sunday, I immediately went into my scheduling mode. On the face of it, it looks like we’d need to be in two places at once.  Again!  And as far as I know, Scotty has not yet perfected the beaming operation from Oysterville to Astoria and back.

We definitely must be in Oysterville by three to welcome musicians to a long-planned and eagerly-awaited House Concert here.  On the other hand, our friend Mark Clemmens has been working on the restoration of the 1925 Baldwin Engine #21 for almost as long as we’ve known him.  I think he joined the ARPA about the time he and Sandra moved here and he’s been trekking to the Locomotive Restoration Shop in Astoria at least once a week ever since.

When asked, Mark is always happy to answer the usual question, “How’s it going?”  His responses are mostly way too technical for me – engineer talk to the max.  The ARPA’s website at includes a photo journal and annotations back to 2001 for interested railroad buffs and for those (like me) who might be impressed by the sheer persistence and dedication of the folks working on the project.

Having heard bits and pieces of their progress over the years, I have a great desire to go to the Open House.  I’m thinking that if we are totally organized on Sunday, we might be able to leave home early enough to spend an hour or so at the Restoration Shop and get back in plenty of time…  I actually have my great-grandfather’s railroad watch to assist with our timing.  But that’s another story.