Hopi's son, Grant, participated in the annual musical celebration at his school, Kid's Harbor, last January
The theme was "A Year at Kid's Harbour". The mode was 4 groups (by age) of kids singing songs about activities emblematic of 3 months of the year
During the dress rehearsal, Grant observed various kids going to the mic to add their remark and, after several had done this, he asked when he would get his turn. The music teacher promptly invited him to sing a verse of a song which he did successfully and was then added to the program.
On performance evening, we were among a standing room only crowd of 650 parents, grandparents and kids. When the 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 year old crew was herded onto the stage to perform, we spotted Grant. While the teachers patiently tried to organize the group out of its chaos, his demeanour / manner changed from sublime confidence to squirming consternation, and it became clear he was looking for his mother. We were well placed in the third row with other families of these youngest kids, and Hopi promptly waived, caught his attention, and wiped the consternation from his brow.
When the time came for his solo, he strode out to the mic, faced the audience directly, and delivered his song with a hooded sideways glance riveted on his mommy.
Watch out Broadway.
What more can we say?
They just called (a year later) to say he just took his first steps.
Grandparent cheerleading is wonderful.
Gavin is a 4-year old with the attention span and focus of a 24 year old. He gets into a project, and can go forever. Over the Christmas holidays, we went out to throw snowballs for 5 or 10 minutes, and finished an hour and a half later. We picked a tree/target, threw them high, low, big, small, eventually entire shovel's full.
His little sister, Meriel, latched on to her grandmother and was most
frequently found in the kitchen, standing on a chair, helping stir,
shake, knead, pour, spill, taste, drop and lose. Things.
We had remodeled our home and added an addition of sleeping quarters in the seventies, and had lived very comforably as a family of 5 for over 20 years. As daughters got married and created their own homes, Ann and I found ourselves living in relative splendour with ample uses for the new spaces in the house.
11 of us in the house for a week became very cozy.
We repeated the process at Christmas, with one family camping out in
our new office next door, another in our guest house (good heat, but
no plumbing) and the third in the main house. Same cozy meals and lots
of energy from 2 and 4 year old cousins playing together, but welcome
opportunities to separate from the crowd and find a quiet corner.
She passed both tests.
After 3 similar calls, a date was set for Jon Frankel, a national correspondant, and a cameraman to visit. As the date was set, Ann asked if they would like to have someone present with their baby in a Weego.
"Oh, no! Nothing staged. If we happened to have a friend with their baby in a Weego, that would be nice."
The day before the interview, we had Mande fly in from Chicago with Meriel in a Weego on her back and Nicole fly in from Kansas City with Mac in a Weego on her chest, and the stage was set. Our agenda: WEEGO.
The CBS crew arrived at the appointed time for 1 1/2 hours. They stayed for 6. They were totally captivated by the Weego story, and Ann, Mande, Hopi and Nicole could do no wrong.
But we didn't get to meet the editor. His agenda was Ann Moore, a mother of invention, and Snugli, the original baby carrier invention.
The editor won. A 4 1/2 minute special appeared 2 weeks later with a wonderful story about Ann, her inspiration to create Snugli, and the beauty of carrying babies in soft baby carriers, but reference to Weego was only made in passing at the conclusion of the interview.
In fact, we have a huge marketing challenge with Weego: Ann and Snugli
are proving a big act to follow.
We started in London with three days visiting British friends and savouring evenings of theatre including King Lear at the recently rebuilt Globe Theatre. We then joined the tour for 3 intense days of rehearsing challenging works by Hindemuth and Verdi, lovely works by Parry, Handel and Beethoven, and hands-down crowd pleasers of American spirituals.
Our first performance was with the Kirov Symphony at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg - for us, all firsts. The Mariinsky is the theatre from which Nureyev and Barishnikov came, and continues to house one of the greatest ballet companies in the world. With a stage designed for ballet and opera, their method of coping with a large chorus was to superimpose a canted 45 degree slope. Performing was tough in that setting.
Tour busses of 50 or more of us gave us and all other visitors to the "Venice of the north" a remarkably sterile introduction to the city. Driving only on broad boulevards built by the Czars for easy movement of vast armies on parade, they give the impression of a drab, gray city with few people, no proportions of the architecture or the city streets that are pedestrian friendly, and a numbing sameness to the architecture of the various palaces and other public buildings that leaves one wondering if they had heard or read correctly about the city before coming. The public transportation system of minibuses, once discovered, happily introduced us to more inviting streets teaming with people and sidewalk life, but the initial introduction had taken its toll.
The art in the Hermitage Museum and other palaces of the Czars and the lavishness of these venues where even today substantial resources are being committed to their restoration and maintenance were tempered by an uneasy sense that they had originally been amassed at the expense of the wellbeing of the citizens, and the juxtaposition of such wealth with the meager means of today's average St Petersburger continues the play.
We were also struck with the lack of joy or happiness in the faces of the citizens. It was as if the drab grayness of the city were a reflection of the lives and souls of the inhabitants. Pretty eerie.
During one of our mini-bus excursions, a young couple got on. The girl was remarkably refreshing in her appearance and spirit. Upon overhearing us speaking English, she introduced herself as a St Petersburger whose family had emigrated to Chicago 20 years ago, and she had returned to visit her relatives. The impact that 20 years of growing up in Chicago had had on her was striking.
We were surprised to find no seafood on menues of any restaurants that we visited, and we learned that the Gulf of Finland on which the city is built is so contaminated that no fish are caught or eaten. The contamination was brought home more strongly when we walked from the hotel out to the beach to find it littered with garbage, and a huge land fill nearby that appeared to be pushing the solid waste into the gulf.
On the brighter side, we performed as part of the White Nights Festival, an annual celebration celebrating the midsummer nights when the sun shines until midnight, and barely drops below the horizon for a few hours in the middle of the night. On our free night, we went to the ballet and saw Swan Lake as one would expect Russian ballet to be. Spectacular.
We then traveled from St Petersburg to Moscow by train in which there was no air conditioning, windows wouldn't open, and compartments were like saunas. Moscow, by contrast, was vibrant, energetic, and teaming with traffic and people. The trip really jelled for us there with a performance that moved our audience and ourselves to tears and cheers. We performed with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra in Tchaikovsky Hall at the Moscow Conservatory of Music. (We later performed with them in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.)
Another night of ballet at the Bolshoi introduced us to an exciting contemporary choreographer whose blending of classical ballet and modern dance produced powerful images and moods.
Russia's paradoxes were striking in their range from the ridiculous to the sublime. The Kremlin was recognized as the seat of power of the communist party, and came to connote in one word all of the worst and most frighting aspects of that nation as our foe, yet it was also (and is still today) the original walled city from the 6th century with proportionately more square feet devoted to churches than probably any comparable piece of real estate in the world.
Friendships, new and renewed were a significant aspect of the trip. Beginning with a core of 4 others with whom Mike sang in the Whiffenpoofs, and expanding to a collection of 18 Whiffenpoofs from the sixties and then to the larger group from which friends with similar interests emerged, there were wonderful opportunities to share all that we were experiencing and learning.
Elihu Yale had come from Wales, and a visit to his home was a highlight of the tour. We flew from Moscow to Manchester, England, and then bussed to Llangolland and the International Eisteddfod Festival in Wales. The Eisteddfod Festival is an annual performing arts festival to which groups from throughout the world come to perform and compete. Our Chorus of 300 opened the festival.
Llangollon was a picturesque village from which we were able to do great hiking. We were entertained our first night there by a gathering of singers ranging from childrens choirs and individual performers with celtic harps to wonderful men's voice choirs.
From Wales we returned to London for our closing nights. The Whiffs of the sixties performed at a party our first night there. The setting could have been Brooklyn Heights: 3 story row house with a postage stamp back yard; over 100 guests jammed in wall-to-wall; a reggae trio from St. Tropez energizing the whole; and drinks and hors d'oeuvres flowing freely.
I thought I was back in my element as a Whiff. All those young, slender women gazing adoringly. My reverie knew no bounds, until, visiting with a Belgian guest, I mentioned that I had lived in Brussels in 1958 and he paused, reflected, glazed over a bit, and observed that he was born in 1958,
So much for reverie of youth.
Our final chorus concert was in St Paul's Catherdral with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - a thrilling experience for the performers, and a disappointing experience for our audience. The accoustics in the cathedral are such that any sound echoes and re-echoes 3 and 4 times. As a consequence, music is a jumble at best, and any effort at vocal music completely swallowed up by orchestral or organ accompaniment.
A noticeable contradiction in London: we found the most wonderful mix
of people as we walked around London - every color, size, shape, dress,
etc. that you could imagine. When we performed in St. Paul's Cathedral,
we noticed no people of color among the members of the Royal Philharmonic,
and none in the audience. Britain's challenge at truly integrating the
races of its far flung empire is clearly as great, maybe even greater,
than America's melting pot.
Last summer our daughters expressed an interest in making a CD of some
of the songs that we used to sing as a family when they were young.
They want their children to grow up knowing these same songs. We rented
a recording studio in Denver, and did it. Liner notes appear at the
end of this letter. We have some extra copies, if you're interested.
$10 includes postage.
We send you our best wishes for the New Year, and our dearest hopes for peace and prosperity for all mankind.