Our Year in Photos – 2011

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I’ve continued my tradition of the past few years and posted family photos from throughout 2011 on More to Come… 

In this year of transitions, where the children graduated from high school and began their college careers, we have so much to be thankful for as a family. We all enjoyed the wrap-up of their senior years in high school and family and friends joined us to help celebrate their accomplishments.   Andrew and Claire have both found colleges that fit their personalities and goals.  We’ve had health issues this year, but  approach 2012 with a great deal of optimism for the future.

These pictures give a glimpse of what we’ve experienced in 2011.  To read the caption, simply place your cursor over the picture and it will magically appear.  At the top of the post is a photo of the four of us following Andrew’s graduation from high school.

Thanksgiving blessings to you.  I hope you enjoy the photographs.

More to come…


Moving Heaven and Earth

When she was in the fourth grade, my daughter Claire – in response to the question “What Does Your Father Do?” – told her class that I “signed papers and went to meetings.”

Today was not that kind of day.

With two colleagues from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I joined officials from the Washington National Cathedral on a glorious fall morning to see first hand the extent of the damage from the August 23, 2011 earthquake that hit the east coast.  We were visiting the cathedral as part of ongoing conversations about the restoration and preservation needs of this national landmark.

The cathedral’s website has a gallery of amazing photographs that document the damage – from just after the quake until the present.  I encourage you to view it and more importantly make a donation to help rebuild this unique place.

On our tour, we viewed the damage from outside the building (including the cracks in the flying buttresses at the historic end of the cathedral), and then traveled up to the very top of the central tower.  There we were at the center of the worst damage to the building, where the beautiful pinnacles – weighing several thousand pounds each – had shifted and in one instance fell during the quake.  We saw how the engineers and stone masons have secured the stonework in preparation for the reopening of the building this weekend for the consecration of a new bishop of Washington, The Rev. Dr. Mariann Edgar Budde.

The best description I have heard as to why the damage occurred at the towers is to think of the quake’s impact like the snapping of a whip.  The end of the whip – or the top of the tower – is where the greatest movement takes place.

For readers interested in earthquakes and why one would happen in the eastern United States, I recommend Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World.  Winchester’s account of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake contains a chapter entitled From Plate to Shining Plate that describes the magnitude 7.0 Charleston quake of 1886, explaining why cities in the middle of the North American Plate are still susceptible to the movement of the earth.  It is a fascinating tale (made all the more so as I head out to Charleston tomorrow morning).

So without further ado, here’s my photo update of the ongoing stabilization of the Washington National Cathedral some two months and a few days after that moment in August when the earth moved – and so did a bit of heaven.

More to come…


Acoustic Music Old and New

Airline travel has its occasional benefits.

Earlier this week I had a trip to Boston booked on Jet Blue Airlines.  When I sat down in the seat, I glanced at the arm rest and thought, “Hot dog – Jet Blue is the airline with free XM radio!”  I whipped out my ear buds and settled in for 90 minutes of the XM station Bluegrass Junction.

I love to listen to my own iPod playlist, but it also great fun to settle in to an airline seat or a rental car to catch XM radio’s bluegrass station.  Every time that happens I always end up hearing some great new music, and my Boston trip was no exception.

On one leg of the trip, the station was featuring one of its staples:  a program entitled Track By Track where the DJ plays a full album by a featured artist who provides commentary along the way.  This week’s show featured the new Compass Records album Somewhere South of Crazy by the Southern songbird Dale Ann Bradley.

Now I’ve heard Dale Ann Bradley off and on through the years, but to be able to sit and listen to a full album – especially one that features the wonderful banjo playing of Compass Records CEO Alison Brown – was eye (or ear) opening.  What a wonderful bluegrass voice.

That led me to check out the Compass Records web site, which is chock full of music by a treasure trove of acoustic musicians.  I immediately downloaded several Bradley tunes (including the wonderful live solo version of Old Southern Porches).  I also sampled the new work by Bearfoot – a band I’ve loved live and in the studio – and ended up downloading the entire American Story album, which is highly recommended.

Then my eye wandered over to the new Noam Pikelny album Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail on Compass, which I’d seen previewed on the Bluegrass Today blog.  In fact, I’d read the interview with Pikelny in the online version of The Fretboard Journalmy favorite magazine – just the day before.  Pikelny is the banjoist with the Punch Brothers and won the inaugural, $50,000 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, an award he was given on the David Letterman show.  Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail is a terrific showcase for Pikelny’s technical prowess and musicianship.  Naturally, I downloaded the entire album!

My bank account (and the fact that I have two children in college) put the brakes on further purchases for the day, but I loved sampling more on the Compass site.  John Doyle – my choice for the best rhythm guitarist in roots music today – has a new record out, and I recently purchased the release from his former Solas band mates Mick McAuley and Winifred Horan.  I continue to believe that the Nashville-based Compass Records has taken over the spot as the best roots music independent label on the scene today.

Besides Alison Brown and the Compass staff, the other person who deserves a great deal of credit for helping to promote and support roots music is none other than comedian – and banjo player – Steve Martin.  Along with his own bluegrass records with The Steep Canyon Rangers (named “Entertainer of the Year” at the 2011 International Bluegrass Music Association awards) and the aforementioned prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, Martin has worked tirelessly to showcase the tremendous musicians playing bluegrass and acoustic music today.  Just go to You Tube and search for “Steve Martin Banjo” and you’ll see great videos with greats such as Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, and Tony Trischka.

There’s so much good acoustic music being played at the moment, and I just want to say thanks to Alison Brown and Steve Martin for following their vision in bringing it to us.

Martin awarded his prize on David Letterman…and did it with his usual wit.  Check out the video below of Dueling Banjos with Martin and Pikelny…great banjo and pretty damn funny comedy as well.

More to come…