Monday, October 28, 2013

From Wedding Bells to Hand Bells

So, I hope that's an intriguing title. Yes! I attended a wedding this past Thursday in a little know place called Aquebogue, New York unless you're familiar with eastern Long Island. It's next to Riverhead and a hop, skip and a jump from the Hamptons of Long Island fame. It's a very pretty area of the country (as are so many others). No! It wasn't my wedding. That's never going to happen again. As the old saying goes, "been there, done that, got the T shirt, don't need to go back." It was the wedding of my grad school buddy's daughter, the buddy whose wife, who I did a post about two years ago, Sweet Caroline died two years ago in North Carolina. Kelly is probably the closest I ever came to having a daughter of my own. She's a professional entertainer, starting out at age 9.

The wedding was beautiful (that's pretty good coming from a guy who usually doesn't qualify weddings in that manner), totally unique from the Golden Gloves winner who officiated, the bridal party, the location, the setting (yes, the ceremony was outdoors and it wasn't particularly warm) and the food was phenomenal. But, how many weddings have any of you reading this been two that had not one band, but TWO bands. And, I'm not talking about your traditional small wedding combo (most people seem to use DJ's these days due to expense). I'm talking about a full "Big Band" like those of the Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Arte Shaw era - with both a male and female singer fronting the band. The second band was about a 12 or 13 piece rock/jazz/soul/funk/blues band, again, fronted by both male and female singers. When I say this party was a wall banger - I mean a WALL BANGER. There was so much excitement and electricity in that room that you couldn't really help but vibrate from all the great vibes.

Now, to be fair, the bride is one of the regular female vocalists who fronts both of these two bands and the groom, well, let me just say he can make a sax wail with the best of them and he also normally performs with both bands. Yes, each of them did do at least a couple numbers with each band. But, if I have my way, this will be the last wedding I attend - and I'm glad it was this kind of amazing experience. (I'm not much into weddings or funerals at this stage of life).

Catching Up With MORE Old Friends

Upon returning to New Jersey on Friday afternoon, I met up with my old college friend, Greg and his lovely and very patient and tolerant (of the two of us) wife Mary. We had a wonderful lunch that lasted from 2 PM until something after 6 PM. It was great seeing them again. I had met with them back in September and we did the same thing. Wonderful couple and it's a privilege having them for friends.

Yesterday (Saturday) I made a visit to an urgent care center to have an infection checked out that began several days before I left on this current trip. There just wasn't any time to stop and get it taken care of. The "Doc in the Box" checked me out, prescribed an antibiotic that had already kicked in by this morning and I'm feeling a lot better already.

Then last night an old high school buddy (you know one of those guys you used to get into a variety of mischief with drove a hundred miles from the New Jersey south shore and met me at Rutt's Hut. Yep! That's the home of the "Ripper" hot dogs in our hometown of Clifton, New Jersey. We met up at about 4:15 PM and left after a couple "Rippers" each, some onion rings, French fries and three glasses of birch beer - the really good stuff - each at 9:15 PM. We covered a lot of territory in those five hours including why he finally sold the family home he inherited from his parents and left Clifton to never return and moved to live by the ocean, far from the maddening crowds of North Jersey. He indicated that down where he was the local full-time residents were the old farmers, fisherman, oystermen and Red Necks all - a welcome change from his old neighborhood that had changed completely into what he termed a "Third World country." I had to admit, what I found of my hometown could easily fit his description. While it all looked much like it did when I left 46 years ago, culturally it wasn't even close to what it was when I grew up there . . . and I can't say, from my perspective, it's for the better.

Hand Bells

Now, let me talk about hand bells. Today I met and had lunch with my eldest nephew. Interestingly, one of his first comments was that he couldn't wait to finish off ten more years in his county job to earn his full pension. Then his plan is to leave New Jersey for anywhere there is no snow and a more "friendly" society. Of course, it's not that there aren't wonderful, pleasant, kind, generous and hard working people in the northern New Jersey region. It's simply that they are being displaced by multiple cultures moving in. Now, remember, this area was populated originally by immigrants, mainly from Europe, the U.K., Ireland, some with African and Hispanic ancestral origins. But, while there was a certain amount of maintaining their national identities, they assimilated into a common community. Things are just very different now. From his perspective, his home area has changed around him. From my perspective, it's much more impacting since I remember it all as I left it and now I visit and it's like night and day.

At any rate, we had a pleasant lunch and talked about lots of things. Since Brian is over 40 now, I feel like I can talk with him man to man, no child is he any longer. He's a taxpaying, hard working member of the mainstream society now. (What happened to all those years)?

My nephew is both an accomplished organist and a hand bell performer. He performs with both a hand bell choir, a community group of very talented people. He is also a hand bell soloist and is often contracted to perform at various venues in his solo role. Apparently, there are not very many solo hand bell performers.

Today the hand bell choir was recording a Christmas CD for their upcoming Christmas concert performances. So, I invited myself along. I'm sure I've recorded some hand bells some time during my diverse recording career, however, this sounded intriguing to me. And, as I suspected, it was.

I had planned to insert a segment of video right here of the choir during one of their recording takes, but I ran into some snags editing the piece on the road. So, maybe sometime in the future I'll put a piece up.

I sat and was mesmerized by the variety of instruments (bells, chimes, a variety of mallets and other devices. Additionally, I had never seen or heard many of the techniques they used in playing the various instruments. There were totally unique sounds and textures and nuances that just blew my mind. Boy, was I glad I invited myself along. I learned and experienced something new. I know my recording techniques for this kind of performance would have been very different than that used by the person recording the selections. But, he's him and I'm me, so I don't butt in. However, the experience left me with a new challenge for the future. I will hopefully find a hand bell choir equal to or better than this group (if there is better) to record.

Thanks for the opportunity and learning experience, Brian. See? The old can still learn from the young . . . and should.

Tomorrow is lunch with two of the people who were instrumental in putting the Montclair State College (University) WMSC on the air with me 46 years ago and then I meet up with a couple more college friends from our college major. Tuesday may actually be a "day of rest" more or less. Thursday I'll be at Montclair State University again meeting with more members of the faculty, staff, administration and radio station student body and then speaking to the radio station students at their station meeting. My intention and hope is to pop some bubbles, drop some realities on them and inspire them to take the awesome opportunity, power and responsibility in their hands with access to a direct voice to the ears of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people and really make a difference. I expect that one or two of them will pick up on the message and do something with it. The rest . . . well, they are just kids like I was at that age and don't really have a clue what the real world is like and will likely learn it like most of us . . . the hard way and probably reinventing the wheel.

That's my lot for the day - your humble nomadic, living free philosopher. 

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