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Sunday, October 1, 2017

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come"

Emma choose her photos for the Yearbook today. At Barrington High School they get 1/6 of a page and have a larger photo of themselves as they look now, and then another smaller photo of themselves as a baby/toddler, as well as a favorite quotation.  My friend Cynthia Ragona, of Sea Green Photography took some lovely photos of Emma, and she choose one of those, plus one that was taken on her first Birthday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Belmont, MA.  This one has long been a favorite of mine.

She's not sure what quotation she wants to choose, but she mentioned this one and I really love it -- it's perfect for this time in her life.

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come"

 Proverbs 31:25

Yes -- it's more serious than some she could choose. Her second favorite is from the TV show Gilmore Girls "Oy with the Poodles already". However, I just love the the whole concept of laughing at the days to come. I certainly hope that she can and that she will be clothed in strength and dignity.  As our now former Rector Robert Marshall said this morning, she's not your typical teenager. No, indeed she is not. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ernest Evans, JFK and Memorial Day in Milton Massachusetts

While I drove back from spending the weekend with  my Mom and my sister's family in Baltimore -- Jim was giving Memorial Day remarks in Milton, MA.  This has become a tradition for him -- he's spoken at various Memorial Day observations over that past years including Mattapoisett, MA Newport, RI, Barrington, RI, and West Warwick, RI. I've gone with him to some of these and it is indeed a fitting way to remember those who have sacrificed for our freedom. The text of his remarks is below.

Thank you for letting me take part in the traditions of your town on this Memorial Day. Our republic is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Second World War. Over the past six months I’ve had the great good fortune to travel to Pearl Harbor to help remember the December 7, 1941 “day of infamy,” and again this month to observe the anniversary of the June 1942 Battle of Midway. Visiting the memorials to the fallen on board the battleships Arizona and Oklahoma is a moving experience for anyone who has done business in great waters. 

But I would be remiss not to mention the centennial of the birth of a local U.S. Navy hero, John F. Kennedy. In 1946 Kennedy gave a speech to Gold Star mothers in Charlestown in which he noted: “I think I know how you feel, because my mother is a Gold Star Mother.” John was speaking of the death of his brother, naval aviator Joseph Kennedy, in action. Such was the eloquence and grace John Kennedy brought to public life.

But today I want to pick up the story of the Pacific War in late 1944, in waters surrounding the Philippine Islands. Two thousand years ago the Greek historian Plutarch believed that men of action could learn how to conduct themselves virtuously by studying the lives of famous Greeks and Romans. We can do the same by studying the lives of our own forebears. 

Plutarch compared and contrasted among great figures from antiquityincluding Pericles, the first citizen of classical Athens; the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great; Julius Caesar, a figure so consequential that his very name came to mean emperor. In so doing Plutarch helped us learn what is worth thinking and doing. Just as important, he helped us learn what’s worth shunning because it is low, or base, or unbecoming. 

Now, I am no Plutarch. No one will read my works two thousand years from now. But I want to step onto that eminent Greek’s turf this Memorial Day, and tell you a story about one of my personal heroes: a U.S. Navy Medal of Honor recipient by the name of Ernest E. Evans. I believe Plutarch would find Evans a fit subject for one of his biographies.

And he’s not just my hero. So revered a figure is Commander Evans that a building at the Naval War College is named for him. Evans Hall stands directly across from the Surface Warfare Officers School, where each generation of American naval officersincluding myself in the late 1980sis groomed for seamanship and combat. 

They who go down to the sea in shipsgray-hulled U.S. Navy shipslive in Evans’s shadow while they’re with us in Newport. 

Who was Evans? No one has written a biography of him. He lived a short life, like many of those we remember on this day. Maybe we just don’t know enough about him to fill a book. But I’ll relate what we do know. It’s a parable of valor and derring-do that no one would believe if it came out of Hollywood. 

Commander Evans looked like a stockier Clark Gable, for those of you of an age to remember the actor of Run Silent, Run Deep and Gone with the Wind fame. And he was “a fighting Cherokee Indian...short, barrel-chested, loud of voice, a born leader,” according to Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison, the chronicler of U.S. naval operations in World War II. That meant his nickname at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis was, inevitably, “the Chief.”

Nor was this nickname misplaced. As Morison notes, the Chief was the sort of leader all marinersindeed, all warriorsaspire to be. Evans was the sort of person who strides into a room and takes it over through force of character. You know the type. My first and best boss in the navy, a Filipino by the name of Ernesto Zambrano, stood just over five feet tall. Yet a roomful of people of all ranks would go quiet when Mister Zee walked in. He had presence. 

And so did Evans. Evans wasn’t a tyrant, but his officers and men feared him. Or, more precisely, he commanded such respect that they feared letting down the Old Man, as navy crews have called their skippers since time immemorial. Disappointing him was the worst failure they could imagine. 

Evans had a chip on his shoulder. He was ashamed of being forced to flee from the Battle of the Java Sea aboard the destroyer Alden in early 1942, when the Imperial Japanese Navy was rampaging through the South China Sea.

When Evans assumed command of the destroyer USS Johnston in 1943, he channeled John Paul Jones, who once made the Narragansett Bay his operating grounds. He told well-wishers at the ship’s commissioning ceremony: This is going to be a fighting ship. I intend to go in harm’s way....Now that I have a fighting ship, I will never retreat from an enemy force.” 

Nor did he. 

Evans made good on his vow never again to flee. He quickly earned a reputation for venturing into close quarters with the enemy to support ground troops ashore. Off Guam, for instance, Johnston’s gunners fired until the barrels glowed redand then Evans demanded, and got, more ammunition beyond the ship’s allotment. 

In October 1944 Johnston was part of Task Force 3, or “Taffy 3,” cruising the Philippine Sea, northeast of Leyte Gulf and due east of the island of Samar, in the Philippine Islands. Taffy 3 was Admiral Clifton Sprague’s flotilla of six light, “jeep” aircraft carriers, three destroyers, and four destroyer escorts. Its mission: to cover General Douglas MacArthur’s landing force on Samar.

Taffy 3 was not a battle fleet. It was a support force. And yet on the morning of October 25 it had to fight for its life against one of the most formidable armadas ever to sail Pacific Ocean watersa force built around the battleship Yamato, the biggest, most heavily gunned battleship ever built. 

What a mismatch! 

Johnston was a 2,700-ton destroyer, or “tin can,” festooned with five 5-inch guns and some torpedoes. That’s lightweight armament. Arrayed against Johnston and her consorts was an enemy force that was both superior in numbersboasting 23 vessels, every one of which equaled or exceeded the American tin cans in firepower and displacementand was headed by a 70,000-ton dreadnought. 

Each of Yamato’s three 18-inch gun turrets weighed as much as a destroyer like Johnston. Her nine main guns, each 69 feet long, could fling projectiles weighing as much as a Volkswagen over 25 miles. David had it lucky by contrast when he squared off against Goliath.

Admiral Takeo Kurita’s “Center Force” was part of a larger Japanese fleet converging on Leyte Gulf. Kurita’s mission was to sink or drive off the American fleet. That would strand U.S. Marine and Army forces ashorebereft of air cover, naval gunfire support, and shipborne supplies, and under the big guns of Japanese battleships and cruisers. 

If successful the Japanese assault would have set back, complicated, or perhaps even halted the American reconquest of the Philippinesand stymied MacArthur’s drive across the South Pacific. 

So what do you do when confronted by an enemy force that outnumbers and outclasses you by every measure? If you’re Ernest Evans, you attack

When Kurita’s fleet was sighted coming over the horizon that October morning, Commander Evans instantly ordered Johnston’s helm hard over. The destroyer turned, rang up flank speed, and charged the enemy before even receiving a signal from Sprague to do so. This was the first of two mad dashes she would make that day before meeting her fate.

Johnston zigzagged her way into firing range for her torpedoes, or “fish,” dodging enemy gunfire on her way. Gunnery officer Lieutenant Bob Hagen swore he could see Captain Evans’s heart “grinningas Johnston joined battle. She dueled the heavy cruiser Kumano with guns before disgorging her ten fish. Her torpedoes ran hot, straight, and normal,” scoring a hit on Kumano before she turned to rejoin Taffy 3. 

At that point the tin can’s luck ran out. She took three hits from 14-inch battleship guns, losing one of her two engineering plants and half her speed. She lost fire control and steering. Evans lost his shirt and two fingers in one of the blasts, yet oversaw repairs that restored partial control of the guns, and rudder control from the fantail. 

The ship looked like a wreck. 

Then the destroyer escorts started their torpedo run. When Johnston passed them, Evans ordered the rudder hard about so she could provide them with gunfire support. Thus began the second charge of the tin-can sailors.

Johnston engaged the battleship Kongo, and took on a five-ship destroyer squadron all by herselfbadgering the Japanese ships into muffing a torpedo attack on Ziggy Sprague’s flattops. Ultimately, though, an avalanche of shells crashed into the shipdepriving her of propulsion and compelling the crew to abandon ship. 

Commander Evans made it into the water alive but was never recovered. How he met his maker remains unknown. What we do know is this: Johnston and her sisters threw the Japanese fleet into disarray, preventing it from striking effectively at the carriers. Their audacity left Kurita dazed and confused. He lost all taste for battlecalling off the Center Force’s advance short of its goal. The ground campaign in the Philippines went on. 

Taffy 3 wrote a remarkable chapter in the annals of naval warfare. Evans and his shipmates charged a crushingly superior force and won.

So what would a Plutarch take away from the story of Ernest Evans, the Chief? That Evans was decisive. He had swagger. He inspired his men to be their best selves, and empowered them to do their duty. And, most importantly for our purposes today, he was prepared to give the last full measure of devotion for the cause of liberty. That gives anyone who wears the uniform of the United States an example to strive toward. 

This is an example we need in an increasingly competitive world. 

Can we live up to the standard set by Ernest Evans? I believe so. People of valor live today. Some of them wear military uniforms. I have the pleasure to work with them every day. 

But gallantry is not exclusively a martial thing. Just read the daily news. How often do we hear about Americansregular people like usrunning into burning buildings, or performing other feats demanding what looks like superhuman courage?

We need not look far away, or into the age of Plutarch or Evans, to find such examples. I used to fight fires in the navy, so let me use that as an example: thirty- one firefighters have given their lives in the line of duty this year. Just last month New Yorkers honored firefighter William Tolley, who fell to his death while battling a blaze in Queens. In 2014 a nine-alarm fire engulfed a four-story building on Beacon Street, not far from here in Back Bay. Fire Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy went into dangerrescuing the people trapped in the building before succumbing to flames, heat, and smoke. 

They did their dutyand then some. Like Evans, Walsh and Kennedy gave the last full measure of devotion for the common good. I believe the fallen from Leyte Gulf would welcome them into a fellowship of honor, alongside military heroes of old. And I believe John Kennedy would also be there to greet them. 

Let me close by departing from my nautical theme and quoting an army general, George S. Patton. Shortly after World War II, at a gathering not unlike this one, Patton pronounced it “foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” Indeed. I would add only that such people walk among us todaystill.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Ēriks Ešenvalds where have you been all my life?

I have a new favorite choral composer -- Ēriks Ešenvalds. Our next Providence Singers concerts, May 13th and 14th feature all Scandinavian or Baltic composers. Ešenvalds is a contemporary Latvian composer and his work is like nothing I've sung before. We are doing two pieces by him, Northern Lights and In Paradisum -- and first I thought Northern Lights was my favorite, but now I am also falling in love with In Paradisum.  Both pieces are both ancient and modern. Northern Lights is a musical depiction of the experience of seeing the Northern Lights for the first time and uses a traditional Latvian folk song to start and end the piece. The tune of this folk song calls out to my soul in a way that some tunes -- and for me bagpipes -- do. Maybe I was Latvian in another life? The rest of the text for the song is from a 19th century poem written by a sailor experiencing the Northern Lights for the first time. Some of us are playing water tuned glasses in this piece -- the sound they make is eerie and evocative. You can listen to the piece here and read more about it here. I enjoyed the composers TEDx talk seeing the Northern Lights and being inspired to composing this piece. If you watch until the end (or skip to the end) you can see him singing the Latvian folk song and playing a water tuned glass! 

In Paradisum is a quite different experience to listen to. I'm so in love with and moved by it right now that I'm putting it on a list of music I'd love played or performed at my funeral. Parts of it are gorgeous and other parts are jarring -- but that's okay -- it works for me. The cello part is amazing. Its a capella with as many as 8 vocal parts at once and we get no help from the string instruments. It's a challenge, but so worth it. I'm off to practice it now. You can listen to it here, and read more about it here. 

Have a great weekend, and if you are in Rhode Island or nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut please come to one of our concerts! 


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Saying Happy Easter with "Ubi Caritas III | Sacred Heart" by Ola Gjeilo

Today is Easter, The day Christians celebrate that Christ is Risen from the day. It's a day of resurrection and of hope & joy and promise.

In celebration I'd like to share this gorgeous Ola Gjeillo piece which is just one of several Gjeillo pieces we are singing at our next Providence Singers concert in May. I am really loving learning and rehearsing this music which is both challenging and so beautiful.

Happy Easter to you and enjoy the music and text. We are singing this in Latin, the English translation is below. For the Latin and more information on other musical settings of Ubi Caritas check out this article. There are also terrific program notes on the Providence Singers website here.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice in Him and be glad.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love one.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time, therefore, are gathered into one:
Lest we be divided in mind, let us beware.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time we see that with the saints also,
Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good, Unto the
World without end. Amen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Invisible Work Load That Drags Women Down

So I've been trying to explain this very concept for awhile now and this author has nailed it. This is exactly it -- read the whole article. No wonder I have felt so overwhelmed since I went back to work 40 hours a week over two years ago -- with a 50 minute commute each way tacked on. I'm not sure what the solution is besides giving up work and running the household full-time -- or alternatively going on strike. Don't get me wrong -- I have a terrific husband and daughter and they both pitch in a lot -- but I'm still managing most of the nitty gritty and doing the remembering.

The article begins with referencing Ellen Seidman's blog post on this topic which is in the form of a poem for Mother's Day.  Here's how it continues:

More of the Mental Work

Walzer found that women do more of the intellectual, mental, and emotional work of childcare and household maintenance. They do more of the learning and information processing (like researching pediatricians).

They do more worrying (like wondering if their child is hitting his developmental milestones). And they do more organizing and delegating (like deciding when the mattress needs to be flipped or what to cook for dinner).

Even when their male partners “helped out” by doing their fair share of chores and errands, it was the women who noticed what needed to be done. She described, in other words, exactly the kind of work that Seidman’s poem captures so well.
Seidman isn’t complaining. Her poem is funny and sweet and clearly driven by a love for her family, husband included. And, to be fair, while women who are married to or cohabiting with men do more domestic work than their partners, husbands spend proportionally more time on paid work. Today the amount of sheer hours that men and women spend in combined paid and unpaid work is pretty close to equal.

But that doesn’t count the thinking.
Husbands may do more housework and childcare than before, but women still delegate:
Honey, I’m going to be out of town for the weekend. Remember that the pediatrician’s number is on the fridge, we’re expecting a package on Saturday and you should intercept it if you can, Susan has a sleepover at Amy’s later that night and I wrote the address in your calendar, Scotty has a piano lesson on Sunday at 10 so don’t let him sleep in, the number for Mikey’s Pizza is programmed into your phone, and the flower bed out back could really use some weeding if you’re up to it.

No wonder wives have the reputations of being nags. Even a person who was perfectly happy to do household work might get tired of being wrangled by a half-frantic taskmaster.
Like much of the feminized work done more often by women than men, thinking, worrying, paying attention, and delegating is work that is largely invisible, gets almost no recognition, and involves no pay or benefits.

'Superpower' or No?
Seidman suggested she had a “seeing superpower” that her husband and children did not. But she doesn’t, of course. It’s just that her willingness to do it allows everyone else the freedom not to. If she were gone, you bet her husband would start noticing when the fridge went empty and the diapers disappeared. Thinking isn’t a superpower; it’s work. And it all too often seems only natural that women do the hard work of running a household.
We have come a long way toward giving women the freedom to build a life outside the home, but the last step may be an invisible one, happening mostly in our heads.
It’s about housework, yes, but it extends to having to consider what neckline, hemline, height of heel, and lipstick shade is appropriate for that job interview, afternoon wedding, or somber funeral, instead of relying on an all-purpose suit; it’s about thinking carefully about how to ask for a raise in a way that sounds both assertive and nice; it’s about worrying whether it’s safe at night and how to get home; for some of us, it involves feeling compelled to learn feminist theory so as to understand our own lives and, then, to spend mental energy explaining to others that the revolution is unfinished.

To truly be free, we need to free women’s minds. Of course, someone will always have to remember to buy toilet paper, but if that work were shared, women’s extra burdens would be lifted. Only then will women have as much lightness of mind as men.
And when they do, I expect to be inspired by what they put their minds to.

Read all of the Time.com article by Lisa Wade here:

Friday, March 3, 2017

Some people suck -- but others write incredibly beautiful poetry and music

So I'm in a mood -- a bad one. We just got a letter from the Division of Taxation in RI that someone filed a tax return using our information, but they suspect it's not use because of our past pattern of filing. Of course I opened the letter on Friday evening and can't do a darned thing about this until they open on Monday at 8:30am.  Oh, and they noted that I should check with the IRS in case they also filed a federal tax return -- oh Goodie.

This coming week is insanely busy. Work is super busy so not much time there to handle any of this identity theft hassle there. It's concert week with Providence Singers where we have two extra rehearsals -- for a total of three weeknights of rehearsals -- for our two concerts on March 11 and 12, "Music For Chorus and Percussion".  Good thing the music we are singing for this concert is filled with some of the most gorgeous poetry, and while some of the music is a bit too modern for my taste, much of it is simply glorious. So, I shall concentrate on the better aspects of humanity as I practice and live with this music for the next week. I honestly feel sorry for those people who spend their lives engaged in fraud and crime and the search for easy money.

One of my favorite poems and pieces from this concert is Abide by Dan Forrest, composed just last year in 2016. The music is set to this poem by Adam York (1972-2012)
Forgive me if I forget
with the birdsong and the day’s
last glow folding into the hands
of the trees, forgive me the few
syllables of the autumn crickets,
the year’s last firefly winking
like a penny in the shoulder’s weeds,
if I forget the hour, if I forget
the day as the evening star
pours out its whiskey over the gravel
and asphalt I’ve walked
for years alone, if I startle
when you put your hand in mine,
if I wonder how long your light
has taken to reach me here.

Here's what the Providence Singers program notes say about this piece:

Poet Jake Adam York is known for verse that elegizes martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement. His poem “Abide” was inspired by Thelonius Monk’s recording of the classic funereal hymn “Abide With Me.” About his setting of York’s poem, Forrest has written:

“My setting hints at that hymn and seeks to evoke a sense of Americana on a warm late-summer evening. Inspired by York’s own direct manner of reading his own poetry, I chose to set most of his text in a rather homophonic and syllabic style, surrounding it with richer textures which envelop and embrace his own honest voice. ... York’s poem is worth pondering deeply on many levels, and I hope this musical setting enables repeated and ever-deeper reflection on the work of this gifted poet.

You should come to our concert to hear us, but if you can't wait that long, listen to this YouTube recording. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Digital Scrapbooking and other weekend pursuits

So, yes I really need to be wrapping Christmas gifts, or food shopping, or something, but I just finished up a digital scrapbook page that I started yesterday. It's been a while since I made one and I've been missing it. Most of my non-work time is taken up with singing in Providence Singers or church choir, or being a Mom and wife, but I'm glad I made time for this today. The page I made is for Emma's Confirmation back in October.

I spent a lot of yesterday working selling tickets at dress rehearsal for Emma's dance studio's Holiday Show, and then attending the show. As usual the Ballet Center put on a terrific, fun and professional performance. Emma was in several numbers. I didn't take any photos because I was working, but here  are some that other people took. The costumes and music were so festive that it really put me in the mood. Plus I got to sit with my Goddaughter and her family and cousins and they really enjoyed the show too. So many things are more festive with younger kids -- especially during the Holidays. My Goddaughter was wearing some fun Christmas jewelry that reminded me of my Grandmother Barley. She hasn't been with us since 1998, but she always wore special Christmas jewelry. It turns out my Goddaughter's belonged to her great-grandmother -- so same vintage as I remembered. So, I sent up a little prayer for my Grandmother yesterday too.