it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading? I am on a roll with the women authors this year. I finished two fantastic books, The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (audio) and The First Collection of Criticism by a Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper, this week. Just excellent books, the first on gender and family and the second on music—reviews coming this week. Yesterday I started My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, which I won in a Goodreads giveaway back in October. I’m sorry to say I haven’t gotten around to it until now because it’s great, I’m already a quarter through!

Last week I enjoyed my usual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with Irish music and Irish food—shepherd’s pie (with ground lamb), soda bread, and this year (new) I made Guinness stout chocolate-chocolate chip cookies with Bailey’s buttercream frosting and sparkly green sprinkles. The recipe I went by yielded more than double what I was expecting so we have a ton leftover!! I also didn’t get around to making colcannon, even though I have the ingredients, and I picked up bangers at the Local Pig on Thursday with the ground lamb, so I guess I’ll be extending my St. Patrick’s celebrating into next week as well. We watched Brooklyn and Boondock Saints too.

I downloaded a couple of audiobooks for a Wisconsin trip next weekend: Get In Trouble by Kelly Link and The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg.

What are you reading this week?

st. patrick’s day

st pats imageHappy St. Patrick’s Day! I’ve never been one to go all-out and get crazy drunk on this holiday, rather I like to celebrate my heritage and family and the music and food of Ireland.

The last couple of days I’ve been listening to my Irish music playlist which includes Van Morrison, the Chieftains, and Danú, among others. I had a great time at Hozier‘s concert last month at Liberty Hall, and though he doesn’t play traditional Irish music he is from Bray, County Wicklow! But recently I’ve been revisiting Danú a lot because they just played a concert in Wisconsin last Friday, which my parents attended. I really enjoyed its concert here in Kansas City a few years ago: read my review at KCMetropolis.org. If you have a chance today, check it out on youtube!

I also like to reflect on Irish history, either by watching a film or documentary or reading some articles. Last year I was captivated by the “Potato” chapter in Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, which outlined the Potato Famine in Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, resulting in the tidal wave of Irish immigration to the United States. Here’s a great (fairly short) article from Common Dreams about the famine, bringing up some thought-provoking questions and touching on how it compares today globally and economically.

Kansas City is rich with Irish ancestry an we like to celebrate it well beyond March 17! I highly recommend stopping by the Kansas City Irish Center in Union Station, open year-round, and spending Labor Day weekend at the Kansas City Irish Fest. Both are great fun, and full of culture and history. The festival hosts several bands and of course has Irish food and drink on tap! We also have a pretty epic parade for St. Patrick’s Day, but I just can’t bring myself to take a vacation day off work to go see it. It’ll fall on a weekend, eventually!

Speaking of food, on Sunday I made my annual “Irish Feast”: shepherd’s pie and soda bread. I used freshly ground lamb from Local Pig for the pie, and (because I’m from Wisconsin) I did add cheese (not authentic, I know) but it was Kerrygold cheddar and Dubliner, at least! I also have Kerrygold butter for the soda bread 🙂 Maybe later I’ll dip into the store to pick out one of these Irish beers listed on Thrillist.

irish food

Lastly, I’m currently reading a book set (mostly) in Ireland, by an Irish author: TransAtlantic by Colum McCann. I’ve had my eye on Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín since it came out last fall, he’s been on my radar ever since I read his Brooklyn a few years ago.

I hope you are enjoying a fine St. Patrick’s Day! Sláinte!

top ten tuesday: holiday wishlist books 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

December 23: Top ten books I wouldn’t mind Santa bringing me

Happy holidays, everyone, whatever holiday it might be that you celebrate! I celebrate Christmas, and though I do go with as many local, handmade, and consumable gifts as possible, almost nothing beats books. Here is my books wishlist, no expectations, and in no particular order:

  • Power Politics: Poems … Margaret Atwood
  • All the Light We Cannot See … Anthony Doerr
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers … Katherine Boo
  • The Secret History … Donna Tartt
  • Americanah … Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • All That is Solid Melts Into Air … Darragh McKeon
  • Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy … Jeff VanderMeer
  • An Untamed State … Roxane Gay
  • No Country … Kalyan Ray
  • Find Me … Laura van den Berg

What books are on your holiday wishlist this season?

hmc + mafb

KCMetropolis.orgI can’t believe we’re halfway through December already! I’ve been wrapped up in holiday concerts for a couple weeks now, with two of my own via the orchestras I’m in and reviewing two for KCMetropolis.org. It just so happens that I ended up covering two of Kansas City’s major LGBT arts groups, Heartland Men’s Chorus and the Mid America Freedom Band. HMC is one of my favorite choirs in town—its shows are so much fun, with a lot of humor, heart, and awesome production value. MAFB is growing by leaps and bounds itself, adding shows and break-out factions of the group all the time. What I appreciate the most about these two shows I saw, though, is that while they were holiday concerts, the programming was adventurous and creative enough to warm even my semi-grinchy heart. As a musician, the performing arts offerings can become mind-numbingly repetitive this time of year—the same carols, the same arrangements, the same Handel’s Messiah, the same the same the same—so to hear some interesting, uncommon arrangements and programming themes that stray from the usual was the best, and these two groups didn’t disappoint on that front.

Read my full reviews at KCMetropolis.org:

virtual advent tour: holiday concerts

Virtual Advent TourWelcome to Day 19 of the 2013 Virtual Advent Tour! I’m pleased to be a part of the tour this year. Special thank you to hosts Kelly and Marg for including me (visit their blog for all the posts, and my fellow Day 19 poster Heather @ Capricious Reader today).

For my advent post, I’d like to talk about holiday concerts. Confession: I’m not too much of a “Christmas person.” My favorite holidays are by far St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Super Bowl Sunday (what? 🙂 ). But one aspect of the holiday season I do have a lot of fun with is participating in holiday concerts around the Kansas City metro.

For the past seven or eight years I have been a member of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra (currently as principal bassist), and we always have a holiday concert titled Sounds of the Season. This one has grown and grown every year, so much that now it’s a two-concert series (Friday and Saturday). We typically play a wide variety of holiday favorites:

  • Leontovych: Carol of the Bells
  • Traditional: The First Noel
  • Anderson: A Christmas Festival
  • Anderson: Sleigh Ride
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a
  • Holcombe: Festive Sounds of Hanukkah
  • Reed: Russian Christmas Music

I always liked Russian Christmas Music because it has a great bass part, and I appreciate our music director’s acknowledgement of other religious holidays as well (Festive Sounds of Hanukkah). This year, we only played Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite—trading off movements with our guest the Washburn University Jazz Band playing Duke Ellington’s arrangement of Nutcracker. It was really great to experience two strikingly different versions and the crowd loved it!

Kansas City Civic Orchestra

(That’s me—the bassist in front, wearing yellow.)

I’m also in two more local orchestras, Heritage Philharmonic and Kinnor Philharmonic. Heritage’s holiday concerts usually include a children’s choir, and we’ve also played familiar classics (Silent NightO Come All Ye Faithful, etc.), even ranging into medleys of holiday movie music (Home Alone theme, A Charlie Brown Christmas, etc.).

Kinnor Philharmonic is the premier Kansas City Jewish orchestra, now in its third year. Kinnor has an annual New Year’s Day concert to start of the year with inspiring, hopeful music. This time around we’re playing Strauss waltzes and marches (The Blue Danube, Kaiser Waltz, Egyptian March), Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Weber’s Oberon Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, and the Allegretto (last movement) of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (which you’d recognize from Disney’s Fantasia film).

Outside of these orchestras, I’ve taken gigs playing bass for various churches around the holidays, most recently for Handel’s Messiah (on my birthday, December 8!) and I’ve played Fauré’s Requiem around this time of year in the past, too.

In addition to playing concerts myself, I also end up reviewing holiday performing arts offerings in the Kansas City area for my online arts journal, KCMetropolis.org. Here are a few favorites over the years:

I have found so many great, fresh twists on holiday standards every year attending local arts organizations’ holiday events, and I urge you to do the same in your town!

Happy holidays and a merry musical new year! 🙂

heartland men’s chorus: baby, it’s cold outside

KCMetropolis.orgThe holiday season is in full swing here in Kansas City! In this week’s issue of KCMetropolis.org I have a new review:

On Friday after work I ventured into the frigid temperatures for a night out. First, I had drinks and snacks at chef Celina Tio’s Collection downtown with my friend Karen before we went to our respective shows. It was great and I’ll definitely be back! I had a signature cocktail and the mac n’ cheese. MMMM.

Heartland Men's Chorus

After that I headed over to the Folly Theater to review the Heartland Men’s Chorus‘s annual holiday production, this year titled Baby, It’s Cold Outside. I always enjoy HMC’s concerts because they are usually so uplifting, high energy, and silly, not too saccharine, and with just the right amount of heartstring-pulling. This one was bittersweet in particular though due to it being artistic director Joe Nadeau’s final production with HMC (he accepted the post of AD at the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles recently). The touching tributes and looks on the faces of the HMC members made it clear he will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.

Read my full review at KCMetropolis.org:

(Photo credit: Heartland Men’s Chorus courtesy of Susan McSpadden Photography, provided by HMC)