MY EIGHTY TRIPS AROUND THE SUN*,***
Updated: Nov 25
What could be better than music -- and a magician -- and a belly dancer -- to celebrate my Armistice's Day 80tieth birthday party -- other than 25 happy guests who are each very special, kind, loving, intelligent, creative, and supportive friends: one for over 44 years, three coming to celebrate from nine hours away, and four plus my partner Ron helping as my invaluable "production crew." Thank you one and all!
In the year-long planning stage, I got to calling my upcoming party "Ann and Ron's Broadway production of 'Never Enough!' " (inspired of course, by my hero, Mae West who famously said that "too much of a good thing is never enough!" Spot on Ms. Mae!).
I was so honored on that party evening by the love and support I felt, and of course, I shall never forget my celebration of my "eighty trips around the sun!"
Back to music...and dance...and art! But first, a picture of my adorable and lucious piano buttercookie art favor by Melzee Cookie Co.
And who could forget that disgustingly gorgeous (no, not that~ beyond delicious, that!) St. Honore's Italian Cake from famed Dianda's bakery in San Francisco (being prepped for cutting; which inscription said "Music is Love")?
Below pictured is Alejo Cordero, the first party performer on guitar, and his lovely wife Julieth. They moved from Colombia, SA, to the Bay Area some two years ago for Alejo to pursue his dream of a concertizing (and teaching) career to promote in this country his grand passion for and love of a special genre of Latin American folk music, joropo or musica lanera.
I hope to assist Alejo become one of the fabulous panel of professional musicians who play at small, intimate local Groupmuse settings such as the one we will sponsor on December 16 in our home, and the Cordero's will attend!
Julieth is now pursuing a dream of becoming an entrepreneur baker of a delicious, typical Colombian banana treat, but she's an accomplished journalist, fashion designer and seamstress, and has a keen interest in promoting and advancing the role of women in public and private life. I so love young feminists!
I am exceedingly happy I chose Alejo to share his great passion and performance skills with my guests and me, and hope you will also love learning about and listening to this genre which is quite popular and well known throughout South America.
To my chagrin, I was unfamiliar with joropo, the national music of Venezuela and popular in the eastern plains of Colombia. It's a particular lively or slower genre of folk music typically played on a four-string bandera llanera guitar (in a pear shape and pictured above, and in a few different versions here), or in a group with various instruments including a harp. Alejo is an expert in joropo music and the bandera, and has been enchanted with them since age ten when he began to teach himself how to play.
There is a crazy wild dance (with many stylistic versions just like jazz, Alejo explained) done to this music (and a more sedate version for older folks). However, if I were you, I would let the youthful "professionals" dance it. Don't worry about a bit of just-past politization of it in Venezuela -- but definitely worry about this, and do not try this at home (lol). You won't believe how young the dance "professionals" start!
I soon enough learned that Alejo has a keen sense of humor; he once explained a day's delay in answering my email in that he was not able to "adult that day." I have a related sign on my office wall that says "most stress comes from taking oneself too seriously," and since we both appear to agree, this tshirt seemed a fitting gift after his wonderful performance for my guests and me!
And how fun it was to sit next to Julieth, chat a bit in my semi-Spanish and her semi-English, and get to know this kind-hearted and creative young woman! (I'm pictured wearing a rather irreverent sweatshirt and my high school ring and sr. prom tiara from Clayton Valley in Concord, CA.)
After picking up a bandera llanera at age 10, Alejo is by now some 17 years later, credentialed by the Berklee School of Music in Boston and is a former member for four years of the famed Coco Rojas' Cimarron band** with which he toured throughout South America. In addition he played his guitar in the ensemble presenting a piece that was nominated for a Latin Grammy! He has many other accolades you can read about in his bio, and has expanded his repertoire to now include compositions from South America and Spain.
He's a busy man, also dedicating part of his time to passing on the skills of bandera playing to the young via zoom classes. He especially reaches out to youth who might not love music theory or be destined for Julliard (if Julliard professors even know what joropo is?!). Considering that he does not focus his practical and performance-oriented classes on oft-dreary music theory, he might just be a perfect guitar teacher for me, too!
My guests enjoyed background music during dinner and then after dinner we focused on a mini-concert by Alejo of four pieces. The final selection was a gift to me since I had earlier requested "Historia de Amor" (part of the melody is used in the pop song "Autumn Leaves," and was originally a song about a man's old love, written by Panamanian songwriter Carlos Eleta Almarán).
Not only did we love Alejo's music, but later and shortly after cake was served and as a concluding performer with no advance notice to the guests, we were treated to Egyptian music -- and dance! Our vibrant, on-firebelly dancer, Andrea Sendek, entered dancing:
Soon enough the smiles and clapping (and occasional tucking of bills into her sexy chain waistband) turned a number of us into dancin' fools jumping up individually to partner with Andrea in the happiest of dances, ending in an Egypian-style group daisy chain through the restaurant!
I was so glad I chose her from among several Bay Area professionals and teachers, and of course -- I had to be first to dance with her! Once our eyes locked, I was captured by her mesmerizing smile, spirit, and enthusiasm. (Her eyes are unbelievable!)
Now three of my guests and I are considering taking belly dance lessons from her, perhaps in the coming New Year. Quite seductive, that belly dance...and Andrea!
I don't think my guests expected one more musical "performance," but to conclude the festivities I read three of my poems plus a blessing, then my "wing man" Ron hit the music button. I sang to each guest in turn, choreographed to "You've Got a Friend" (from the movie Toy Story; recording by composer Randy Newman with Lyle Lovett). Seems that Ron enjoyed the feathers!
It was a perfect night filled with music, dance,
and most of all, love on this night celebrating my eighty trips around the sun!
However, I think I must now get back and practice scales on The Duchess so I can make Maestro Alejo proud. And if Belly Dance lessons are truly coming up next, I need to start getting in shape!
The fabulous title of this blog was inspired by my fine artist friend Jordan Hines' summation of my birthday party which he drove nine hours to attend. He had written the most wonderful "blurb" in support of Vol II of "Poetical Musings," and he goes deep in conversations with me about art and life on the rare occasions we meet (since he now lives at the northern border of California); when he visits we lose time and talk for hours. My floral headpiece was part of my pink tulle ballet costume during a recital when I was in grammar school!
**See also, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Cuco_Rojas. This video was filmed before Alejo joined the band, and the title of the piece is "San Rafael"; he was not performing in the California city by the same name!
***Photos courtesy of my loving guests in the order submitted: Jeff Harris, Allie & Pete Jung, Lida, Jeanette Vonier, Grace Huenemann (and from Alejo's website; others from Amanda & Roy will be featured in a later blog.)
* * *
Since this was truly a milestone birthday for me, these poems seem fitting (from Vol II "Poetical Musings"):
As we move along our musical way, keep room for more to come. There’s no end to rewards that us await and the journey’s never done.
Just when we think a piece is learned and we’ve reached our single goal, what we’ve accomplished can be much more than just a single mile pole.
There’s reward enough to one’s soul to reach the end of effort and cement the progress in one’s memory and then just remain alert.
But then there comes another thought, the recognition there’s more to playing the piano and making music than judging by just one score.
There’s the friend who listens in and we brighten up her day, or a frustrated mom who scoops a child up, sits down, and a duet plays,
And those who weep may find solace with sad songs in a minor key, or celebrate a success in sport, with a parade as destiny.
For romance, the music of Barry White, for calm, the plaintive violin, express conflict with twelve-tone technique or crashing chords of Beethoven.
Music is the universal language
that needs no words or spin. You’ll always find the perfect piece to suit what mood you’re in!
To those who allow me to draw quite close to my essential being, see the force within that drives me now to be just who I dream, who show me the foundation of a soul connected to my song expressed without, who hold up a mirror to reflect right back what I aspire to be at heart– to those valued friends, without one doubt, you have my love in full. May your life be long and happy, too, same for those whom you love, for sure!
MY MUSICAL FRIENDS
I have some friends whom I love to meet every now and then, because I feel such respect for kindness shown without neglect. They note the best that they see, especially my musicality. So thank I them each, my erstwhile friends who share my song without an end and blend their lives with mine sometimes in lovely musical pastimes.
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