Posts Tagged ‘House Concerts’

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!

Ed’s Hat

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Scott with Ed’s hat (Photo by Tucker)

At the beginning of the second set at Sunday’s House Concert, a battered old fedora made its appearance atop pianist Scott Cossu’s head.  It was perfect!  So perfect, in fact, that Tucker (and I assume everyone else) thought it was Scott’s own hat.  And, in fact, many of his online photos show him wearing a similar “cover” ala the long tradition of  jazz musicians.

But I knew better.  I’ve known that very hat for more than fifty years.  For most of that time, it has hung on our hat rack (where Scott spied and snagged it) waiting for its owner, Edwin Espy.  My Uncle Ed was the elder of my mother’s two brothers, just two years older than Willard and three years older than Mom.  He was the athletic one, the hard worker and Papa’s ‘right hand man’ and it was Ed who famously said of his little brother Willard (whose nose was always in a book):  “He’ll grow up to be a preacher; he’s so lazy.)

Photographer Tucker’s Empty Chair

In fact, it was Edwin who grew up to get his doctorate in theology and who ultimately became General Secretary of the National Council of Churches.  “The Protestant Pope,” he was called.  He visited Oysterville at least once a year until his death in 1993 at age 84.  And, for as long as I can remember, he left that old fedora on the hat rack so it would be here when he needed it.  He was a man who always wore a hat and, presumably, at home in NYC he had several of them.  Here he had just the old and well-loved one and, in case it was stormy, Papa’s old sou’wester.

Ed Espy sans hat, 1975

Of course, no one (including Scott) knew the story of Ed’s Hat when he donned it Sunday night.  Only Nyel and I knew and we both (it turned out) silently mused about the differences in the two men – the pianist and the church man – and how the hat suited them both perfectly!  I think Ed would have been delighted that Scott felt at home enough here in the house to borrow his hat.  And the fedora, itself, looked absolutely beatific – in perfect harmony with its new experience!

Here you go — everything but the sound!

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Randal Bays

Thanks to Tucker’s good eye and fine camera, you too can see what last night’s concert-goers also heard.  It was grand!

John Coynw

There were jigs and reels, hornpipes and waltzes, and songs in Johns soft Irish accent.  (Thouh he’s lived in Boston many years, the sounds of Limerick  still dominate his singing and speaking voice.  Lovely!)

House Concert

Randal has been gracing us with Irish music for twenty years, now.  He’s often here with his family — wife Susan Waters and sons Willie and Owen Bays.  Together the four of them comprise the Bays Family Irish Band and we had hoped that they would also be here to add yet another element to our evening of Irish music.

John with Flat-back Bouzouki

But, alas!  Sunday evening concerts in Oysterville aren’t conducive to Monday morning work and school schedules in Olympia, so Randal and John were on their own.  Ours was the third (or maybe the fourth) concert they had done since John flew into PDX from Boston on Friday afternoon.

Tonight they are scheduled for another — this time in Olympia.  It will be professionally recorded, perhaps with an eye to a new CD.  In 2004 (OMG — fifteen years ago?) Randal and Roger Landes brought a sound engineer to Oysterville and recorded their album “House to House” which featured our house on the cover and (inadvertently!) our mantle clock chiming during one of their tunes.

Randal with Guitar

Another of Randal’s CDs, “Oyster Light” features Randal on the albumn cover, standing down at the end of our lane by the bay with an incredibly soft light reflecting from the water.  The picture was taken by Willie Bays who was then nine years old, so it must have been in 2010 or so.  Wow!

The Audience

Last night’s concert here was video-recorded — not professionally, but by Randal, himself.  Before tonight’s concert, he told me, he and John will take a look and listen to see what tweaks or changes they want to make for tonight’s recording session.  So, I guess you could say that we were a rehearsal for the next album.  Who knew!

Thanks Randal and John.  Come back soon and bring your families!  Maybe  summertime!

 

Aaron English and Another Near Miss!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

Aaron English

Musician Aaron English first contacted us in January 2015 about doing a House Concert here.  He was referred by two of our all-time favorite singer/songwriters, Larry Murante and James Hurley and we booked him up in ‘a fast hurry’ as they say.   We loved him.  Our audience loved him.  And he bonded with the Peninsula bigtime.

But, since his January 2016 concert here at our house, we’ve never been able to coordinate with him – not for another concert here.  We’ve been in touch.  He’s been on the Peninsula.  He’s even stayed here a couple of times while performing at the Kite Festival or at other venues.  But between Nyel’s many hospital stays in 2016 and 2017 and Aaron’s many comings and goings, we’ve not been able to book a second gig with him.

Aaron at the Shelburne

Not that we haven’t tried.  And not that we haven’t communicated!  Among other things, he writes occasionally that he has introduced Nyel’s salad dressing recipe to yet another community as he eats and tours his way hither and thither.  And just last week, he and his lady were scheduled to stay here for a night for a mini-reunion of sorts with Wes Weddell and Tucker and Carol and… he called to report car trouble.  Stuck in Raymond.  Bummer!

Finally, last night we caught up with him – learned online that he was doing a gig at the Shelburne.  We went there with our visiting California friends only to find out that the he had already done two sets and was eating dinner!  Bummer some more!

Aaron at Work

We ordered dessert and coffee, and had a wonderful in-person visit.  Since we had talked with him Thursday night, his car had been towed to Longview where the engine is being rebuilt ($$$$), Elizabeth had flown home to Utah ($$$$) (where her dog had been diagnosed with a fatal tumor around her heart) and Aaron was finishing up their tour on his own with the unstinting help of other Peninsula friends — help with housing, help with transportation and even to Portland this morning where he has a recording date.

And then (!) much to our delight, Aaron did another short set – just for us, although other people drifted in to listen.  How could they not!  So fabulous!  And even though Aaron and Elizabeth are moving to Nashville almost immediately, we talked about a House Concert in the Spring.  God willin’ and the creek don’t rise….

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 http://www.astoriarailroad.org/ 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.

Last night when the bathtub broke its leg…

Monday, February 26th, 2018

… we heard not a thing.  Not a bang or a whimper.  When you consider the weight of that old cast iron tub, you’d think we’d have heard SOMEthing.  Or that the house would have shifted just a bit on its foundation.  Or at the very least, the floor tiles in the bathroom would have cracked.

But… we noticed nothing at all until this morning.  The news was ‘delivered’ (more or less) by the duck and the frog.  And, also, by the fact that the soap holder was cattywampus.  That soap holder is also the usual resting place of the rubber duckie and the fat green frog.  They are always hopeful that the Red House cousins will come and play with them in the bath.  It has only happened once, a long time ago, and they are probably too big for a Bathtub Adventure these days.  (But don’t tell Duckie and Frog.)

I became alarmed when I saw that Duckie was pitching forward at a rather precarious angle and Frog had hopped right down to the bottom of the tub!  From my vantage point, everything else looked fairly normal.  It wasn’t until I bellied onto the floor and took a look under the tub that I saw the problem.  (And the dust!)  Her (the tub must be female with those substantial curves at the front and back ends…) right front foot was lying on its side.  Disconnected and useless!

Only the plumbing connections and the other three feet are holding her up.  And, as Frog and Duckie could tell you, not quite evenly, at that.  I’m not sure how we’ll get her ‘back on her feet’, so to speak.  And, the scary part is, the other three feet look a bit askew.  Torqued somehow.

My best guess is that those claw feet got to tapping to the music of the Skamokawa Swamp Opera last night.  (They were playing in the room just next door.)  Toe-tapping by a clawfoot tub can be dangerous!  Just ask Duckie and Frog!

When Things Are Perfect!

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Welcoming A Full House

I suppose it’s a fear of jinxing things to say right out loud while it’s happening, “This is perfect!”  In fact, isn’t there a saying we are all fond of that goes, “The best is yet to come.”  Well, I’m here to tell you that last night’s House Concert here was, indeed, perfect, and I don’t think it could possibly be topped.  The most we can all hope for in the future is parity – if that word can even be used in the context of musicians, performance, audience, food, wave-lengths and all the other nuances and subtleties of the evening.

The musicians were Larry Murante and Wes Weddell with a guest appearance by Nick Drozdowicz.  Plus, there was an audience participation opportunity, as well the ambiance added by a whole host of ‘connections’ among us all — connections that spanned the centuries. They ranged from Sarah Crouch, our resident ghost who lived here in 1892, to Tod Marshall, the current Poet Laureate of Washington State who we hosted for a Poetry Reading last September. (Actually, Nyel had a sudden hospital stay and we couldn’t be here as planned, so I guess we were ghost hosts!)

Nyel, Bear and Tater

Larry and Wes were fresh from a ten-day Singer/Songwriter Retreat co-sponsored by Sue and Bill Svendsen of the Performing Arts Center in Long Beach and by Cyndy Hayward of the Willapa Bay Artists in Residence here in Oysterville.  These accomplished musicians shared the stage, one song each, throughout the evening – some new, some old, and all heart-tugging in one way or another.  Of special note (but we hope not by You-Know-Who) was Larry’s “Ballad of Mrs. Crouch” written back in the early 2000s, after his first stay in this house.

And topping things off in a fabulous serendipity, Holly, one of Nyel’s favorite nurses at Emanuel Hospital came with her husband, Max AND with their two wonderful dogs, Bear and Tater.   When the concert was over, ‘the boys’ came in to visit.  Nyel, who has been saying “We need a dog” for months now, was in seventh heaven.  Shhh!  Don’t tell the chickens!

The Musician Connection

Thursday, October 27th, 2016
Carolyn Cruso

Carolyn Cruso

In the last twenty-four hours, I’ve had news of four musician friends – all Oysterville House Concert veterans.  The news comes from several disparate sources and was I reminded, once again, of how ‘connected’ we have all become.  Some of this ‘news’ was by direct contact, some through the magic of cyberspace. and all unexpected and gratefully received.

First was a phone call from Carolyn Cruso, singer-songwriter and “multi-instrumentalist” according to her website, though I think of her and the hammered dulcimer in one breath (if you can think in breaths.)  Carolyn was our very first House Concert musician, along with Randal Bays, back in 2001 and has been back a number of times.  She will be here again on November 20th, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and she was just checking in.

Larry Murante

Larry Murante

Hard on the heels of that call (if calls have heels) was a note on FaceBook from Larry Murante who was reporting on “the first official on-line review of his new album by Minor 7th, Acoustic Guitar Music Reviews which begins:  By using “Little Patch of Sky” as the title track and opener, Larry Murante makes it clear that that this is not your typical singer/songwriter… As one of Larry’s many FB fans wrote, “They really get him.”  And… interestingly, Larry was introduced to us by Carolyn Cruso in 2001.  He’s been coming to Oysterville ever since.

James Hurley

James Hurley

Then… late last night, I was looking at FB again, this time catching up with my son Charlie, when lo and behold I saw that one of our mutual FB friends is James Hurley!  Wow!  Talk about being connected!  James was introduced to us by… drumroll… Larry Murante(!) some years back and did his first House Concert here in 2012.  Both Charlie and James live in the L.A. area and both are in the entertainment biz… but, still.  I can’t wait to ask one or the other of them how their FB friendship happened to be.

Aaron Larget-Caplan

Aaron Larget-Caplan

And, finally, first thing this morning was an email from Aaron Larget-Caplan who says: “I want to personally invite you to my concerts this weekend on the Oregon coast. I’ll be at the Coaster Theatre (Saturday, 7 pm) and Grace Episcopal Church (Sunday at 3 pm). I’m also doing a house concert in Portland on Friday evening (public welcome).”  Aaron is a classical guitarist who lives in Boston and, truth to tell, I don’t really remember how we first “met.”  I think he reached out to me by email when he was planning a West Coast Tour several years ago.  Since then, he’s done several fabulous concerts here and we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know his mother, Laurie, who lives in Astoria.

All I can think to say about these marvelous communications is, “Lucky! Lucky! Lucky!” and “Small World, Small World, Small World!”

The Day After

Monday, October 17th, 2016
Scott Cossu and Lonnie Mardis

Scott Cossu and Lonnie Mardis

It’s dark outside – probably an hour or so before first light.  I hear rain on the roof but no stirring in the rooms upstairs.  Scott Cossu and Lonnie Mardis, last evening’s house concert musicians, are not yet stirring and, heaven knows, they have earned their rest!  What a fabulous concert it was!  Our old piano will never be the same!  (Of course, I’ve said that after each of Scott’s performances here and, somehow, he manages to coax it into more magical output with every visit.  This was his third.)

However, our guests are on notice.  Breakfast – Jayne Bailey’s scones and Nyel’s granola – in the dining room at seven.  We are out of here at eight ayem sharp and on our way to Portland for the first of Nyel’s post-op cardiac appointments.  He is feeling fine and we are looking forward to a good report.

Usually on the day after a house concert or other event we’ve hosted here in the house, there is a bit of a let-down.  Not so this time.  I think that feeling is tempered by the relief that the ‘big storm’ is over.  Or is it that the anticipation is over?  As our concert guests discussed their weather experiences of the last few days, the opinions varied greatly as to what exactly had happened here on the Peninsula as we prepared for ‘the biggest storm yet recorded.’  Those predicted 150 mph winds were more like 35 mph.  Thank goodness!

"Safe in Your Arms"

“Safe in Your Arms”

Most people felt we had dodged a bullet and were happy that we had been forewarned.  They had felt prepared and expressed gratitude that they are now better prepared for the inevitably storms ahead of us this winter. The few people who talked about tree branches that had fallen near their houses were, understandably, more inclined to think the weather forecasters were close to the mark when they predicted “typhoon.”  A few worried that the wolf-wolf effect will take hold and people will blow off the next dire warnings.  And almost everybody turned their thoughts toward North Carolina and said “there but for the grace of God…”

Scott’s latest recording, “Safe in Your Arms” will be our accompaniment on the road today.  Wonderful music!  Wonderful sentiment!  Perfect for this day and this place.

Coffee: Priorities, Protocols, Prerequisites

Monday, September 12th, 2016
Morning Coffee with Pickles and Peppers

Morning Coffee with Pickles and Peppers

Since 1971 when Starbucks began roasting coffee beans and brewing what has been called “second wave” coffee in Seattle, the Northwest has become known world-wide for its coffee, plain and fancy.  In my mind, “second wave” means that ordering has become complicated.  First, there’s the size – no longer will ‘a cup’ do.  Eight, twelve, sixteen twenty, or twenty-four ounce?   Then, what kind?  Latte, Mocha, with or without whipped cream?  Decaf, hot, iced, espresso?  And on it goes.

I, too, associate coffee with the Northwest.  Specifically, with Oysterville, for this is where I learned how to drink coffee.  Little did we know it was “first wave.”  I think it must have been about 1954 – just after my freshman year in college that I was here for a week before my job at the Cliff House gift shop in San Francisco was to begin.  I remember that I had already ‘come out’ as smoker – (Pall Malls, as I remember) and, of all my family, only my Aunt Mona smoked.  She was here, looking after my grandfather and she and I became smoking companions, so to speak.

Morning Coffee with Pickles and Peppers

Morning Coffee with Pickles and Peppers

For Mona coffee and cigarettes went together — right along with the most important activity of all: visiting.  Cigarettes only came one way in her mind: unfiltered.  There were no compromises on coffee either.  “Black,” she told me.  “Don’t fool around with cream or sugar; they just complicate matters. If you learn to drink it black, you will find it much easier.”

So I did and I have.  Now that my body is beginning to betray me with things like rapid heartbeat and insomnia and other caffeine related issues, I have switched to decaffeinated coffee.  Except, of course, for that first cup of the day.  In that case, decaf just won’t do it.  And, for the record, I gave up the cigarette habit thirty-five years ago.  Learning to drink coffee without cigarettes was one of the most difficult parts of becoming a non-smoker.

Helen and Harry Espy, 1947 Painting by Hilda Cole Espy

Helen and Harry Espy, 1947 Painting by Hilda Cole Espy

I thought about all of these coffee matters this morning as we prepared coffee and scones (from Bailey’s Café!!) for our overnight guests, the Pickles and Peppers Clarinet Quartet.  Their House Concert yesterday had been spectacular and I was hopeful that their final memory of Oysterville would be up to the mark.  So it was that we made available both coffee and decaf (and tea for the non-coffee drinker) plus cream (well, actually Silk) and sugar.  I didn’t have any fake sugar, though, but hasn’t someone decided that it’s not good for you?

And, I thought about my grandfather who always had his old coffee pot on the woodstove in the nursery.  The contents have been described by many old-timers and family members as a “watery brew” – apparently a pre-cursor to “First Wave” coffee.  But it was always available and always offered to a visitor.  Coffee and conversation.  After all, isn’t that the point?