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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

A Dark Welcome to York Beach

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

It was an unusual start to our vacation in York Beach, Maine this year.  We arrived on Saturday afternoon, earlier than usual.  Our efficient start had paid off and we found that there was ample time after unpacking to go to the beach.  As night settled in we noticed a strange absence…the Cape Neddick Lighthouse (Nubble Light) was dark!

I’ve been coming up to York Beach almost every summer for over 40 years.  This was the first time I had ever seen, or rather not seen, the light operating.  I did what anyone in 2010 does when something strange happens, I checked Google.  However after searching for news related to this “outage” I came up empty.  The Town of York website was silent on the issue as was a local news website.

The blackout continued on through Sunday and Monday.  On Tuesday morning we noticed that the light was back in operation.  Whether there was an electrical issue or a burned out light bulb, it was apparently resolved early Tuesday.  I sit here writing this particular paragraph on Tuesday evening with the light operating in its typical and (usually) reliable manner.  Maybe someday I’ll learn what happened.

Beyond the mystery of the lighthouse, it was an unusually warm week in York.  Upper 80s and lower 90s prevailed each day.  For several days there wasn’t much wind, at least not a cool wind, at the beach.  This is the first year in recent memory where Lisa hasn’t been on the beach wrapped in sweatshirts and towels to keep warm.  Complementing the hot weather, the water was about 63 degrees and provided a very refreshing respite from the heat!


Clam Festival 2010

Monday, July 19th, 2010

We made our annual trek to Yarmouth, Maine for this year’s Clam Festival.  We had signed up to participate in The Levity Project – Maine so we had to be there by 4:30 pm on Friday.  This was the first time we’ve had a fixed schedule when heading up and one of the only years we have been there in time for the parade.

After parking we rushed past the Food Circle in order to get to the North Yarmouth Academy Gymnasium and receive our instructions and umbrella hats for “Maine’s Longest Smile” being organized by The Levity Project.  Although temperatures as we drove through Massachussets and New Hampshire and up into Maine were in the 90s, by the time we got to Yarmouth it was about 75.  The gym was another story, hot and humid, but full of festivity!

Hippity-hop balls were being test driven by a variety of people while others were testing out the new hats.  We signed in, filled out a photo release and starting reviewing the instructions we had been given.  By 5pm we were being walked through the overall plan and were ready to head out to our assigned locations by 5:30.  Before getting into position I snuck by the First Parish Congregation Church for my annual lobster roll.  They make a perfect lobster roll – a bun and lots of lobster meat!  Nothing else to distract from the delicious lobster flavor.

For the smile project our family was assigned to group three, which had a great location right by the Memorial Green tent and Food Circle.  The street was lined with people prepared to watch the parade.  The levity event went off without a hitch and we had a blast!  Participating in the smile project was fun.  It was a chance to be a part of the festival and not just an out-of-town visitor watching everything from the sidelines.


Angels and Saints, Patience Please

Monday, May 31st, 2010

“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote has been running through my head a lot as I’ve been spending time alone in church.  Our church music director will be away for the first three Sundays in June and asked if I would be willing to take the reins during his absence.  This isn’t the first time I done this, but I believe it is the longest stint I’ve had.

My initial thinking, and usual approach, when playing the service is to use the piano to accompany everything.  This is where I feel safest.  I spend a lot of time at the piano, working with the Children’s Choir, rehearsing with the Brass Kickers and accompanying myself for a variety of solos and duets.

However, I’ve begun to feel compelled to use the organ.  Its variety of colors, range of tones and wide dynamic range cannot be approached by the piano.  Although I love the sound of a piano accompanying a solo voice, the organ adds significant sonic breadth, especially when accompanying hymns.

In fact, I believe that it is the flatness of verse after verse of a hymn played on the piano that has continually pushed me to move out of my personal comfort zone and explore the organ as a more versatile and ultimately more appropriate instrument for such situations.  To be sure, it is now taking me an inordinate amount of time to prepare for a service.

When using the piano, all I needed to do was learn to play the notes.  Now I need to worry about the voicings for each verse.  Looking at the text to suggest color and dynamics adds work.  Basic tasks such as figuring out which manual to use for each verse and configuring piston settings so that they are convenient to access while playing also adds complexity for someone that does not use the instrument often.

I have great respect for those that make such planning and preparation look easy.  I cannot imagine doing this week after week, at least not with a separate full time job.  I would guess that over time one would get to know the instrument and have a more organized approach to this process.  For me there is a great deal of experimentation, figuring out which ranks extend into which octaves and which timbres sound well together.

To be sure, it is an amazing experience to fiddle with such decisions and hear the difference in the feeling invoked by a given hymn.  Played with certain stops, the piece is upbeat.  Change the sounds and it is suddenly reflective or pensive.  In fact, my biggest risk is probably over-using the breadth of sounds and dynamics.

For instance the carillon seems like a great choice for bringing out a melody, perhaps to introduce a hymn.  However, it would probably be tiresome for the congregation if used every week.  Also, it is tempting to approach some hymns with a powerful accompaniment.  I enjoy hearing the reverberation at the end of the piece while practicing.  However, the congregation shouldn’t be in a shouting match with the organ, so I’ll need to tame my “Virgil Fox-ness”1.

This will be in interesting month of Sundays for me and the congregation.  I pray we will each find enjoyment and meaning during the worship time spent together.

At the least, I hope those worshiping don’t come away saying, “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than Dave’s organ playing.”


Our Odyssey of the Mind Concludes for the 2009-2010 Season

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

This was the first year that Sarah and Michael were on separate teams.  Sarah and her team chose to do this year’s classics problem, Discovered Treasures, while Michael and his team chose this year’s technical/performance problem, Return to The Gift of Flight.  The older team, being high-schoolers, competed in Division III.  Michael and his teammates were in Division II.

The  teams worked hard.  Lisa coached both teams so she had twice the fun from previous years.  The house also contained twice the cardboard and other assorted paraphernalia as usual.  As the year progressed it was clear that the two problems required very different strategies in terms of planning and execution.


Two Teams, Two Divisions, Two problems, One day

Friday, March 5th, 2010

It’s that time of year again – Odyssey of the Mind Regionals.  This year Sarah and Michael are on different teams and Lisa is coaching both!  The crunch to the deadline is twice as frantic.  In celebration I was motivated to take a few minutes to reflect on the relative peace that has descended on this competition eve.

Here is my poem to honor all the hard working teams and their incredible coaches:

Twas the night before regionals and all through our home
Not a creature was stirring from cellar to dome.
The sets were all folded and ready to pack,
Plus a few rolls of duct tape nearby in a sack.

The team mates were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Omers danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Were hunting for the elusive competition site map.

To move through our house was unequivocally tough,
As we hunted and searched through piles of stuff.
Every surface was covered no matter the place,
Like chairs and counters and a telephone base.


Brass Kickers and a Cello Shine at SUMC!

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The Brass Kickers and a Cello did a fantastic job with a lot of music this past Sunday!  For the first time when participating in a service they played the Prelude and Postlude as well as the Hymns and anthem piece.  They made a wonderful contribution to the service.

In addition to the instrumentalists, we had a core group of the children’s choir sing as well.  It is always fun having the children participate in the service.

I am blessed to have such a great group of instrumentalists and singers.  They all work very hard and take great pride in doing their best.  I thank all of them for their dedication and patience.

Christmas Eve will bring out some instruments and singers once again.  I love that service as it ranges from lively pieces with the brass, such as “Joy to the World” to the calm candle-lit sanctuary echoing the very peaceful “Silent Night.”  I will have an opportunity to sing a personal favorite, “O Holy Night,” for that service as well.

Below are links to the musical pieces from Sunday’s service.  The first three are my arrangements, which the group does a great job of bringing to life!

Brass, cello and children’s choir music from the Sunday, December 20, 2009 service at Scotia United Methodist Church:

Duet (trumpet and cello): In the Bleak Midwinter

Anthem (brass and cello): Good King Wenceslas

Postlude: We Three Kings

Children’s Choir: A Child Is Born in Bethlehem

Prelude: Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Hymn: O Come, All Ye Faithful

Hymn: Joy to the World

Brass Kickers… Jacob Shell Prayer Service… Godspell… Liturgist

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

It has been a busy week filled with church activities.  For the service on August 16th the Burnt Hills – Ballston Lake Brass Kickers performed.  Their ranks included the core quartet of Michael (trombone), Sarah (trombone), Sarah (trumpet) and Tiffany (trumpet).  For this service the group was joined by Eric (trombone)

They all did a great job, having worked hard on their anthem piece as well as accompaniments for three hymns.  The new music stands were also great to have and simplified rehearsals and Sunday set-up.  Previously for rehearsals we suspended a long wooden board across the living room to which they taped the music.  Of course the height was never right and I walked into that board more than once.

The congregation enjoyed the group and the players enjoyed the opportunity to perform as an ensemble.  Our goal is to have them play a couple more times this year (around Thanksgiving and Christmas).  Videos from the service are on YouTube (channel: Monead) and linked at the end of this posting.

A more somber evening of music and prayers was held on Tuesday.  An inspiring group of youth organized a prayer service for Jacob Shell.  Jacob is a third-grader who was diagnosed with a neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer, last year.  He has been through 5 of 6 scheduled chemotherapy treatments and has a difficult road ahead.  This hits close to home since Sarah was diagnosed with the same condition years ago.  We are very grateful that she is among the survivors of this devastating disease.


OotM Wraps Up for 2009

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Tiffany and the TikiAnother year of Odyssey of the Mind has wrapped up here at the Read household.  I’ll start off congratulating all three Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake teams.  They each finished in second place for their respective problems and divisions.  This is a great achievement and the teams should be proud that their hard work was recognized by the judges.

Zooming into the team with which I am most familiar, principally since both of my children are on the team and my wife is their coach, it has been a great experience for them.  Last year they were the seasoned veterans of division II.  This year they moved to division III where the competition includes teams with significantly more experience.Dylan and His Fans

Their problem, Superstitions, offered a lot of latitude to explore their creativity.  The major solution aspects formed quickly, but the details took a lot of time to gel.  There was a rewrite of the ending as recently as a couple of weeks before the competition.

The main push during the last month was finializing the set.  They had sketched aspects of the layout but as it came together they were continually inspired to push the envelope.  Dylan formed a strong attachment to the Tiki and made many engineering improvements to it.  That focus paid off and it was one of the highlights of the performance.

Ready to PerformThe team has also matured.  They all do a fine job of acting and projecting clearly.  The members also seem to have fun playing off of one another.  Timing of humor was spot-on, drawing laughter from the spectators and judges throughout the performance.

I hope that the team comes together again next year.  It is a lot of fun to see the increasing camaraderie as they become more-and-more a team rather than a group of individuals.Awards Ceremony

For now I look forward to reclaiming the house and garage as cardboard, paint, bags, duck tape, and myriad small pieces of “artistic” junk are recycled or placed in storage.  It will be nice to be able to run the Roomba without worrying about it sucking up an important part of a costume or prop!

I’ll upload the video of their performance one the World’s competition is concluded in the spring.

2008 Winds Down and Christmas Approaches Quickly

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

It has been a busy November and December both at work and home.  End of year work projects took a fair amount of effort, including a project to design and implement a data extraction utility for a business process management environment.  I’ll write specifically about that soon as its design allows it to be used to export information regardless of the underlying processes and data structures by producing XML.  The final target data structures will be created using XSLT.Tiffany and Sarah

MichaelAnother fun opportunity has been working with the youth at church.  The intrepid group of brass players that accompanied me on the Jenkins’ Benedictus over the summer agreed to add a brass flair to our worship services around Christmas.  They decided to name themselves the Brass Kickers based on an expression that they enjoy, specifically that “Trumpet (or trombone) players kick brass!”  :)

I created a couple of hymn arrangements (Joy to the World and O Come All Ye Faithful) so that they could accompany the congregation.  Joy to the World was my son’s choice since it is his favorite hymn.  I chose O Come All Ye Faithful since it is one that I enjoy and is a little more challenging for the players.Burnt Hills Brass Kickers

SarahI also had the opportunity to work with a broader set of youth preparing to sing for our Christmas Eve service.  They will be singing There Are Angels Hovering ‘Round based on the traditional tune and the updated words from Garrison Keillor.  It is always fun being able to work with the young children as they grow in confidence with each rehearsal.

I have uploaded videos of the brass players from today’s service.  I will add the Christmas Eve videos when they are edited and rendered late this week.  The videos are listed at the end of this post.


The SkyCoaster Rocks!

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Blue Slate Solutions has an annual family day and for the past couple of years it has been held at our local Six Flags (The Great Escape) in Lake George, NY.  This year it was held on September 14.  The weather looked suspicious in the morning but brightened up and cooperated throughout the afternoon and evening.

One ride that my family has considered on previous visits is The SkyCoaster.  If you are not familiar with the ride you can read about it at skycoaster.com.  The version at The Great Escape is 175 feet tall.

This year we went beyond the consideration stage and took flight!  We had a couple of coupons that allowed us to purchase two groups of three for one-third off.  Lisa did not think that she wanted to ride it so the plan was for Sarah and me to ride a couple of times with others that had made the trek.

Lisa took a video of our first ride.  She also decided that it looked like fun, so she took my place on the second ride.  Lisa tends to scream on rides, and this one was no exception!  I took over the video responsibilities and watched with Michael and a friend of his.  The two boys have decided that they want to give it a try next year.

All of us who took the plunge highly recommend this attraction.  Videos of our two rides are on YouTube: